What Do Home Inspectors Need to Know About Home Energy Audits?

May 21, 2021 | 
home inspector performing a home energy audit

Did you know that up to 35% of energy used in residential homes is wasted?

Whether due to leaky single-pane windows, a lack of insulation, or appliances that use trace amounts of electricity even when not in use, energy loss costs homeowners in a big way — and the environmental costs can’t be ignored, either. That’s why home energy audits have become more popular than ever as people look for ways to make their houses more eco-friendly. 

Home energy audits actually have a lot in common with home inspections, and smart home inspectors should know all about them. That way you’ll be able to answer homeowner and Realtor questions about this popular service — and perhaps even decide to offer it yourself.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is a home energy audit?

A home energy audit — also known as a home energy assessment — is actually a lot like a home inspection, but with just one purpose: to find out where in a home energy might be wasted. Like a home inspector, an energy auditor has a specific tool kit in hand as they look over each area of a house to seek out any problems. In the case of a home energy audit, the problems are ones that would cause wasted energy, whether via heat loss or other inefficiencies.

So what does a home energy audit consist of? In general, an energy auditor will:

  • Examine each room, including the attic and basement, to check for energy inefficiencies.
  • Review energy bills to check for patterns in usage that could indicate seasonal energy loss.
  • Check the interior and exterior for obvious cracks or leaks where heat loss can occur.
  • Review light bulbs to see if the most efficient ones are in use.
  • Look over appliances and recommend ways to upgrade and improve efficiency.
  • Check the attic for insulation levels.
  • Examine HVAC equipment such as the furnace, water heater, and air conditioners to make recommendations for improvements.
  • Conduct a blower door test, which creates negative air pressure in the house to force outside air in through any leaks. A smoke pencil will reveal air movement in any leaky areas.
  • Use an infrared scanner to check for hot spots on the home’s exterior walls, which can indicate areas with little to no insulation. 
  • Write a report explaining any problem areas, discussing test results, and making recommendations for improvements.

Why are home energy audits popular?

According to the latest Gallup survey, a full 75% of American worry a “great deal” or a “fair amount” about the state of the environment, and only 9% say they are “not at all” concerned. There’s a lot of anxiety about the future of the planet, and many people want to be part of the solution — including the 68% of homebuyers who say they want a greener home.  

The average household in the United States spends about $2,000 each year on energy costs. If you could button up that wasted 35% of energy, you’d save $700 each year. That’s a lot of money back in homeowners’ pockets, so an energy audit can be a great investment if it leads to cost-efficient fixes. 

Finally, many communities fully or partially subsidize home energy audits for residents. This can be an initiative through state and local governments or regional energy companies, such as the electric or natural gas utility. These entities often use home energy audits to encourage people to make improvements that will help lower the overall carbon footprint of the community to reach environmental goals.

What skills do you need to become a home energy auditor?

As a home inspector, you probably already have many of the skills needed to become a successful home energy auditor. For example:

  • A solid understanding of home construction and techniques
  • A good grasp of proper insulation levels and air sealing
  • An understanding of window and exterior door installation
  • Experience with HVAC equipment
  • A keen eye for detail
  • The ability to explain basic home construction to non-experts
  • Experience writing clear, thorough inspection reports

Home energy auditors also have specific skills in the following areas, which you may need additional training in:

  • Estimating annual home energy costs
  • The latest recommendations for improving efficiency
  • Use of thermographic inspection devices
  • Use of door blowers and other specialized equipment

Most states do not require a special license for home energy auditors, but the federal government has worked to develop certification standards that revolve around specialized training and an examination, just as you’d find with many other ancillary home inspection services. InterNACHI offers a program specifically designed to get more home inspectors to offer home energy audits. 

Does it make sense to add home energy audits to your home inspection business?

Home energy audits can be an excellent addition to your business model, especially if you work in an area with significant seasonal lows in the real estate market. For example, a slow winter season for house sales is the ideal time to conduct home energy audits, particularly as people living in drafty houses are looking for ways to save on their home heating.

If you live in a highly competitive real estate market, local Realtors may be a good target audience for this service as well. Home energy audits can lead sellers to make changes with great ROI, and an energy audit report can, in turn, help agents market a listing as an eco-friendly home that will sell for a higher price. 

Still, you’ll need to consider the costs of ramping up a home energy audit program, which mainly lies in specialty tools and equipment. You probably already own many of the things you’ll need, but do research the cost of infrared cameras and a door blower setup before you commit.

Where can you learn more to add to your home inspection skillset?

Energy.gov has loads of useful information about home energy audits and the specific tests involved in them. You can also explore certification options and training courses from InterNACHI if you’re interested in becoming a home energy auditor.  

And for information about marketing your new energy auditing service, check out the HomeGauge Learning Center. It’s packed with information about running a successful home inspection business, with tips on adding services, working with real estate agents, and more.