Determining Whether A Home Energy Audit Is Worth It
Most homeowners today appreciate the need for making a home more energy efficient. Heating and cooling bills can be quite a hit to the budget, depending on the size of your home and how energy efficient it is. It only makes sense to want to improve energy efficiency if possible. One of the questions I often get as a Northbridge MA Real Estate agent is whether a home energy audit is worth it.
The energy efficiency of a home is measured by what is known as the HERS Index or home energy rating system.
A certified Home Energy Rater will determine the energy efficiency of a home, assigning it a relative performance score. The lower the HERS rating number, the more energy efficient the home.
The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that a typical resale home has a score of 130 on the HERS Index while a standard new home has a rating of 100.
- A property that has a HERS Index Score of 70 is 30% more energy efficient than a standard new home.
- A property that has a HERS Index Score of 130 is 30% less energy efficient than a standard new home.
You can see a complete energy rating score card to see how the HERS index will grade your home. This will give you a good indication how your home stacks up with others of similar size and characteristics.
A home energy audit is one of the most surefire ways to get insight into what parts of your home are inefficient. With an audit, a professional with specialized tools will come to your home and examine all the key areas that define energy efficiency. At the end of the audit you will have a list of where your problems are. However, there is often times a cost to getting a home energy audit – sometimes between $200-$500, depending on your area and whether you can get assistance from any local programs or your utility company.
Luckily for me and others that live in Massachusetts a home energy audit is free! Mass Save will come out to your home and provide a complete home energy assessment. You can visit their website to schedule an appointment, as well as, get some very helpful energy saving information.
So, is a home energy audit worth the money? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, all related to your individual circumstances. The following questions will help you get a better idea of whether an energy audit is a good idea for you and your home.
1. Do You Want Your Home to be as Energy Efficient as Possible?
Some homeowners are looking for a little bit of improvement in their heating and cooling bill, maybe a little more comfort in the home. Others, either for energy cost savings, environmental concerns or for comfort, are highly motivated to perfect their home’s energy use. There are a number of small fixes that you can do pretty easily yourself to improve home energy efficiency – sealing windows, sealing doors, etc.. These fixes can help somewhat. But there are probably a number of hidden issues that you have no way of detecting on your own. A home energy audit is the best way to uncover everything.
With the information you get from your audit, you should have the basic map for fixing all energy issues throughout the entire home. If you are willing to pay for the necessary work to fix all the issues, you can expect to have a home that is as energy efficient as it can possibly be.
2. What Does a Home Energy Audit Cost in Your Area?
Some local utility companies offer incentives or will perform basic home energy audits for you, for a reduced cost or even at no charge. To know what an audit will cost, you need to call around and verify what the price will be after taking advantage of any incentives. Keep in mind that the bargain audits usually do not cover every little detail, like a blower door test and an infrared test. If you want the works make sure you ask about the cost for everything.
Once you know the real cost for your area, you can weigh it against your financial situation. Some homeowners do not have $500 to spare for anything but essentials, while others are happy to spend the money for even minor improvements.
3. What Are You Going to do With The Information From Your Home Energy Audit?
After the audit has been conducted all the report has been delivered, you will still have to make repairs/renovations to your home to actually see any energy efficiency improvement. Some of the work you may be able to do yourself, like adding insulation in the attic or sealing up your windows and doors. But other work, like adding insulation to the interior of walls or HVAC work, will probably need to be done by a professional contractor.
Making improvements like adding insulation to an attic can not only help with energy efficiency but can also help prevent ice dams which can be a major headache to deal with. If you live in a cold weather climate you probably know exactly what I am talking about.
Just as you need to weigh the cost of the audit, you will also need to make decisions on where to spend your available money to improve energy efficiency. With the audit you will have the advantage of working with a professional auditor who can give you some direction about which projects will yield the most benefit.
Even if you do not have the money right now to make all the repairs, having the audit can still be really useful for planning purposes. You will know what projects you need to tackle over the coming year or more to achieve the energy efficiency you are looking for.
4. Are You Going to be Moving Anytime Soon?
If you are planning on staying in your home for 10 years or more and you have the money for the audit, then it makes sense to get one. The benefits of improving energy efficiency, at least the financial benefits, are usually only realized over an extended period of time.
If you spend $10,000 on improvements, it may take a while to recoup the investment in energy costs. But comfort is also a major consideration as well. Being able to enjoy your home more comfortably over the coming years is also important.
However, if you are considering selling your home in the next few years, making major improvements may not be smart from a financial standpoint. Many homeowners are given a rude surprise when they spend money on renovations and then fail to get that money back when they sell the home. The market is not always kind to owners who have made recent renovations.
To get an accurate picture of what any improvements will mean to your home sale, you will need to talk with a reputable real estate agent in your area – one who knows the local markets. A good Realtor can give you an idea of what homes similar to yours have sold for, homes that have both been renovated and homes that have not.
5. Are You Strong Enough to Resist a Sales Pitch?
A reputable home energy auditor will be extremely thorough when examining your home. It may take 2 hours or more for him or her to test everything. When the report is delivered, you should feel like you got more than your money’s worth with all the information now at your fingertips – but there may also be a catch.
Most auditing companies do not only audit, they make improvements as well. So there is a good chance that the auditor will try to sell you on a lot of different improvements, some of which you may not even need. And the cost for those improvements may not be competitive, either. On the other hand you may find the local utility company is offering a great deal – in fact far better than you could ever get by hiring your own outside contractor. If this is the case it may be worth it to get these discounted home energy improvements.
If you want to do your own work to possible save money, or if you want to work with a contractor that you know and trust, be prepared to resist the sales pitch.
6. How Can You Prepare For a Home Energy Audit?
Before the auditor arrives at your home make a list of all the areas of concern in your home. Maybe you have felt areas that are drafty or you are wondering if your attic has adequate insulation. Make sure you have your yearly energy bills available for the auditor. This information will be used to help determine what can be improved in your home. The auditor is going to evaluate the size, number and size of your windows, wall space, etc. Expect the auditor to also ask you some relevant questions including:
- How many people are living in the home?
- Is anyone home during working hours?
- What is the average thermostat setting for both heating and cooling seasons?
- Are all of the rooms in the home being used?
- Are there any rooms in the home where the thermostats are lowered?
These are all helpful questions the auditor can use to ultimately help in making your home more energy efficient.
Interesting fact: The average HERS index score for a home built in 2016 is 62 which is 32% more efficient than a home that was built in 2006.
If you are considering getting a home energy assessment, Energy Star offers some excellent information including a list of contractors who perform energy audits if your local utility company does not offer one for free. Hopefully you now understand whether an energy audit is worth doing for your particular situation!
Additional Helpful Energy and Home Improvement Related Resources
- How do home improvement affect value via Kyle Hiscock at Behance.
- 52 ways to go green at home via She Knows.
- Small home improvements with big return via Frederick Real Estate Online.
- Easy improvements that help sell homes via Selling Warner Robbins.
Use these additional helpful resources to make smart decisions when it comes to home energy savings as well as smart home improvements that make an impact when selling.
About the author: The above Real Estate information on is a home energy audit worth it was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 29+ Years.
Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.