After my last article on having a successful professional home energy audit, a reader sent me an e-mail wanting more details about what kind of money he could expect to save if he paid for an audit. Would it really be worth spending a few hundred dollars for it?
It’s a good question, and one that’s not easy to answer–simply because every home and its energy efficiency situation is different.
First I’d like to point out that often times a home energy audit is free. For example, Washington, D.C. provides a free home energy audit from a RESNET-certified auditor. Some power companies do the same. By all means you should avail yourself of these free opportunities if you can.
Another point is that whether the audit itself is free or not, many cities now offer residents tax credits for upgrading their home energy efficiency. The Obama stimulus package has also dedicated a large amount of money to this effort. You should check with your local government to see what incentives are available for you.
Still, at the end of the day it comes down to dollars and cents. Just how much money could you save by performing an audit and following its recommendations? Isn’t there some way to calculate this despite the differences in individual households?
I did some Internet research and discovered the Home Energy Saver tool. It tries to do the impossible by actually assigning dollar values to the kinds of savings you might see if you implement specific energy efficiency improvements. It calculates your savings using methods for estimating home energy use developed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the US Department of Energy.
I entered sample information to get a feel for what the tool would say for an average house (I currently live in a small apartment so I couldn’t use real values.) I put in my address so the tool could calculate my climate conditions. I otherwise left all the default answers provided–I wanted a payback measurement period of ten years, for a house built in 1972 with 1800 square feet, and so on. It also asked questions about what kind of appliances I have, how many windows, how much I pay for electricity, etc…and again I left the default answers. I just wanted to see what the results summary looked like!
After some number crunching, the results were ready. It calculated my energy use at about $3100 a year and even threw in my carbon emissions, almost 34,000 lbs. (Ouch!) By implementing their suggested improvements and upgrades my bill would go down to about $1500 a year. That’s some substantial savings!
You can select or de-select their suggestions and re-calculate results. Once you’re satisfied with your upgrade selections you get a full upgrade report. The report was fantastically detailed. For example, it advised me that if I implemented one of its suggestions, a programmable thermostat, I could realizing the following savings:
- Estimated annual bill savings: $127
- Estimated savings over the lifetime of the new thermostat: $1905
- Upgrade cost from a regular thermostat: $70
- Return on investment: 182%
- Pays for itself in: 1 year.
You get the same summary for each proposed upgrade. It also adds up the total cost of all the proposed upgrades, compares that with your energy savings, and crunches your total return on investment along with how long it takes for your energy savings to pay back your investment.
Bottom line, it’s an incredible tool! It’s about as close as anything will come to telling you, down to the dollars and cents, how much money you would save by implementing the fixes proposed by a home energy audit.