Home Energy Audit from Guardian Energy Auditors

I received an energy audit from Guardian Energy Auditors on President’s Day.  The inspection had been scheduled during a period of lower temperatures to make it easier to locate drafts and leaks, and I was asked to slightly elevate the temperature in my home prior to the audit to further increase the temperature difference. 

Our inspector, Todd, was punctual and friendly. As scientists and new home owners who want to learn everything about our house, our interrogations and oversight can be annoying for contractors. Todd, however, did not mind in the least as we followed him around all morning, asking questions and taking pictures. He was patient, gracious and attentive, and seemed to enjoy sharing his knowledge with us. 

The first thing that happened was a blower door test. This depressurizes the home to help identify how well air does (or does not) get from the outside to the inside – we could watch the numbers bounce around as the wind blew! In addition, it can also test the air flow between rooms when doors are open or shut. (Helpful because optimal air flow between rooms will create more efficient heating and cooling) We have a pretty old house… I tried to pressure-mount something against joist several months ago and gave up when it kept causing the ceiling to flex and push out nails in different rooms. Todd did a walkthrough to ensure the depressurization caused no damage, and even in our old house, there was none, so these things must be pretty dang safe. 

The second step was to walk around with a thermal imaging camera, which I found fascinating. I had developed some expectations of where my leaky areas would be and I was far off. Would you expect doors and windows to leak? I did, but our doors and windows were fine. We had leaks from places I did not know could leak, such as corners and baseboards, as well as sockets, plumbing, and almost anywhere two pieces of material touched each other. Even more impressive was that he could point his camera at my wall and show me where my insulation was lacking – it was so obvious with blue squares of cold around the warm colors of the framing inside my walls and ceiling. We joked about finding ghosts on the camera, and he even humored us by letting us use the camera to look at our dogs, explaining as we did so how thermal imaging can be used for medical diagnosis.

He measured the refrigerator wattage with a Kill-a-Watt meter and we followed him into the attic while he inspected our insulation and duct work. He tested for carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks with even more nifty gadgets that go beep, and concluded with an exterior inspection and interview process.

The entire process took about four hours, and all the while he was giving us pointers and explaining how we could make various improvements, and even giving us recommendations and ball park price estimates for different products. We received a 30-page audit report two days later, complete with pretty pictures and charts, categorized monetary savings, and prioritized action items. I was pretty shocked to read that, compared to similar houses, our home was in the bottom 20% for energy efficiency!  I had been under the impression our efficiency was decent to average for a 60-year-old home… but apparently our house is abnormally leaky and drafty as well as being poorly insulated.  According to our report, making suggested improvements can save us $700 per year, the majority of which comes from savings in air conditioning. We’re really going to appreciate our Green Home Loan! (Which is another post for another time)

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