Checklist of things to consider before scheduling a home-energy audit

With temperatures flirting with their annual summer highs, Tempe and west Chandler residents once again are pondering ways to make sure that cooling costs don’t go through the roof.
Enter the popular home-energy audit.
Home-energy evaluations, assessments and consultations are popular solutions, but they can be confusing because of the many options offered, says Felicia Thompson, whose organization specializes in consumer issues.
Thompson, vice president of communications for the Better Business Bureau, encourages area residents to educate themselves before considering an offer from a company that claims to be eligible for big energy savings.
“Energy audit” is a rather loose term undefined by most companies in the solar industry. Nonetheless, says Thompson, government agencies and local utility companies—SRP in the east Valley—refer to an energy audit as a comprehensive evaluation of how a home uses energy.
According to Thompson, home energy audits should be performed by a Building Performance Institute- credentialed contractor or Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) Home Energy professional.
The cost of an energy audit can vary based on the size of the home and whether local utilities sponsor specific programs, but it’s usually not free.
The audit can take several hours to perform and provides consumers with a customized assessment report of the energy usage in the home. A BPI-certified contractor or RESNET Home Energy professional could identify areas of energy waste and recommend energy efficiency improvements tailored specifically to the home.
To help consumers avoid scams, BBB provides this list of items that should be included in a home energy audit:
A homeowner interview to identify primary concerns and goals regarding the home’s energy use and comfort levels;
Test for leaks in walls and ceilings by using diagnostic equipment (blower door testing);
Check for leaks in the AC duct system;
Evaluation of insulation levels in the attic;
Combustion safety tests;
HVAC testing;
General survey of lighting and appliances; and
Customized assessment report of the energy use in the home and recommendations specific to the need of the home.
Thompson says BBB offers these tips for consumers considering a home energy audit:
Consumers should ask the company to provide a copy of their BPI certification or RESNET information prior to their arrival;
Be aware of “bundled services.” After reviewing the recommendations with the contractor, a proposal should be presented. Make sure the proposal is broken down in labor and material costs for the work that is expected to be completed;
Confirm with SRP that rebates offered are valid and contact a tax adviser regarding federal or state tax credits. Be aware that tax credits only apply to specific technologies. Visit www.dsire.org or www.energystar.gov for more information on energy tax credits.
Know the difference between home energy consultations and home energy audits. Home energy consultations are essentially a sales consultation. The company may ask questions regarding general comfort, but usually does not inspect the home or provide any comprehensive report of the home’s energy usage.
Consumers should use the consultation as an opening to an energy audit, and it is recommended not to consider the purchase of solar upgrades without doing a full energy audit first.
Home energy audits can help a homeowner make an informed decision by offering comparative costs and benefits of upgrading to a higher efficiency air conditioning unit versus investing in a solar hot water.
Beware of energy saving claims such as “will lower your utility bill by 40 percent” or “savings up to 50 percent on your electric and gas.”
For more information on an SRP Energy Audit, contractor referrals or general questions, contact SRP at 602-889-2656 or go to www.savewithsrp.com.
For more information on Southwest Gas efficiency rebates, contact Southwest Gas at 1-800-654-2765 or visit www.swgasliving.com/efficiency/az.

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