1: Get a professional home-energy audit
By Diane Veto Parham | Illustrations by David Clark
Cost: About $250–$650 for a certified professional, but see what resources your electric co-op offers before hiring on your own.
Benefit: Making recommended improvements can cut energy use 10 to 40 percent.
DIY potential: Best to use a certified professional, although do-it-yourself audits can provide basic information.
The first step — and the best investment — in any home-improvement project is a professional energy audit. A whole-house energy audit will take a few hours, and evaluate household energy use, how the heating-and-air system is functioning and whether there’s adequate insulation. Using diagnostic tools like a blower door and a thermal imaging camera, an auditor tests for leaks in ductwork and around windows and doors, plus other problems with the home’s “envelope” — essentially, the parts of the house that separate its insulated, air-conditioned interior from unconditioned spaces like attics and crawlspaces.
According to the Building Performance Institute (BPI), a nationwide nonprofit that certifies professional energy auditors, the report you get back can include estimates of what return you might expect on any investments in efficiency upgrades.
Need help finding a professional? Start by asking your electric cooperative for recommended energy auditors — many have their own on staff or can provide handy tools to start your own evaluation. Information also is available from BPI’s website for homeowners at bpihomeowner.org.