With all the emphasis on going green these days, home energy audits have significantly increased in popularity. A home energy audit is often the first step to make a home more energy efficient. There are billions of dollars of stimulus money provided to state and local governments to help reduce home energy use. With more and more states implementing home energy laws, now is the best time for homeowners to invest in a home energy audit. Home energy audits are said to improve a home’s energy consumption by 30% on average, and depending upon the upgrades made, homeowners may be eligible for certain federal tax credits. The result is a home that is comfortable, safe, durable, more energy proficient and may even have a greater resale value.

What is a professional energy auditor?

A certified energy auditor can help evaluate how much energy a home uses and recommend measures homeowners can take to improve the home’s energy efficiency. Hiring a skilled energy auditor is the best way to obtain exact recommendations for improving the efficiency of a home. The auditor can use a range of techniques and equipment to determine the energy effectiveness of a home. Thorough audits often use equipment such as blower doors, which measure the degree of leaks in the building envelope, and infrared cameras, which reveal hard to detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation. Once an energy audit is conducted,  the professional energy auditor provides homeowners with a report that includes information on all areas that could seek improvement in their home. An energy audit itself does not save energy;  the recommended improvements must be implemented to obtain the desired level of energy efficiency.

What’s in a name?

Home energy audits may be performed by home performance contractors, building analysts, energy inspectors or home energy raters. All of these titles are used to define qualified persons who can proficiently perform an energy audit. There are several areas where homeowners can locate professional energy auditing services. State or local government energy or weatherization offices may help identify a local company or organization that performs professional home energy audits.

Here are some common qualifications of an energy auditor:

The Building Performance Institute (BPI):  An energy auditor professional as a Building Analyst has passed a two-hour, 100-question written exam with a score of at least 70% and an additional field exam. The BPI does not mandate strict training prior to the exam, but a classroom or online course is highly suggested. A usual prep course for the BPI certification exams is about a week of full-time training. A BPI Building Analyst is professional to perform blower-door tests (which should be done both before and after upgrades), combustion appliance inspection and repair, air quality testing including carbon monoxide detection, duct testing and airflow testing.  A BPI analyst must be recertified every three years, either by retaking the exams or by providing proof of continuing education from a BPI affiliate. BPI training may seem short — a week’s worth of classes — but most contractors seeking BPI certification already have extensive experience in the building industry. For this reason, most businesses with BPI professional contractors will market themselves as home performance contractors rather than energy auditors.

The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET):  A RESNET professional auditor, or a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Rater, has passed a two-hour, 50-question written exam with a score of 80% or better. RESNET trained auditors have performed two ratings proctored by a RESNET education provider and three more “probationary” ratings within 1 year of passing the written exam. All ratings done by a HERS Rater are presented to a RESNET affiliate for quality control and approval. A HERS rater also takes approved continuing education courses throughout the year, totaling at least 12 hours of classroom instruction. Like BPI, RESNET does not offer or mandate training as a requirement for taking their certification exam, but it is highly recommended. A typical RESNET preparation course is about a week’s worth of 8 hour days in the classroom and the field.

Why become an energy auditor?

Here are a few current examples of why energy auditing is becoming more popular:

  • $11 billion was provided to state and local governments in the recent stimulus package to help reduce home energy use
  • It is estimated that an energy audit can improve a home’s energy consumption by 30% on average. Given that residential and commercial buildings make up 73% of electricity consumption in the U.S., there are huge savings.
  • A Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies paper reports that more than half of the more than 66 million single-family homes in the U.S. were constructed before modern energy codes existed.
  • The Department of Energy and the EPA have stated a goal of eventually improving 1 million homes per year through weatherization and home energy improvements.
  • The city of Austin, Texas requires all homes older than 10 years to have an energy audit before being sold.
  • Durham region Ontario has passed a bill that makes home energy audits mandatory for home sellers.
  • Oregon’s governor wants to require any owner selling or renting a home to obtain a certificate disclosing the property’s energy use.
  • Ontario has passed an Act that requires an energy audit when selling a home unless the buyer waivers their right.

The income potential for professional energy auditors is set by the auditor. A typical home energy audit can easily range from $250-500. An organized and motivated energy auditor can fit in 10 audits per week, suggesting an income in the range of  $10,000-$20,000 per month. Some energy auditors charge by the square footage of the home, and others hourly. It depends on the size of the home, length of consultation with the homeowner, and if the auditor is charging for any follow-up inspection after the homeowner decides to make improvements.