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Home Inspections and Energy Audits, the Perfect Pair

Feb 15, 2013

Buying a home is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in your life, so doesn’t it make sense to get all the information possible about the house you’re going to buy? I mean, think about it…this is where you’re going to raise your family, celebrate important milestones in your kids’ lives, create memories. Aside from the purely financial aspect, there’s also a lot of emotion that will be invested into this place. Therefore, when you do decide to buy, it’s essential to make an informed decision. One of the best ways to do that is by getting a combination of a home inspection and energy audit.

What Are Home Inspections and Energy Audits?

First of all, it’s important to understand what home inspections and home energy audits are. A home inspection is a full-scale visual examination of a house that will give you a good idea of what you can expect in terms of future repairs, improvements and maintenance should you choose to purchase that house. Experienced inspectors can pick up on certain clues that could uncover hidden issues. For example:

  • A fresh coat of paint could be hiding something underneath
  • Ceiling stains could be indicative of roof leakage problems

Energy audits partner perfectly with home inspections to provide you with an even deeper look at the inner workings of a home. An energy audit is an in-depth analysis of a home’s energy performance. Why is this important? Because through diagnostic testing, an energy audit will reveal where and how a home is losing energy. Losing energy can result from any number of issues, including:

  • Poor insulation
  • Air leakage
  • Inefficient appliances

All of which lead to the same place: an uncomfortable home that’s expensive to maintain.
So How Do Home Inspections and Energy Audits Work?
Let’s start with the home inspection. Remember, this is a complete visual inspection of the home, from top to bottom. At the end of it, you’ll receive a written report, including the inspector’s notes about such things as:

  • Grounds:
    • Grade relative to drainage, yard drains, walks, driveways, landscaping, patio/slabs
    • Outside lighting, dangerous trees or limbs, fences and gates
    • Outside faucets and retaining walls
  • Exterior:
    • Siding, shutters, trim rot, paint and caulking
    • Eaves, porch, porch rails, stoop, stoop rails, deck, deck rails
    • Doors, sliding doors, garage, garage door openers and windows
  • Roof:
    • Material type, roof style, flashing and roof penetrations
    • Skylights, gutters, downspouts, splash blocks, rafters and other upper framing elements
    • Ceiling joists, roof decking, water penetration
  • Electrical:
    • Grounding equipment, main panel, sub panels
    • Over current protection, ground fault protection
    • 110 volts and 220 volt circuits, receptacles, light fixtures, switches and safety concerns
  • Appliances:
    • Unit manufacturers
    • Dishwasher, oven and energy source, range and energy source, refrigerator, trash compactor and microwave
  • Plumbing:
    • Water supply, water shut offs, water pressure, water pipes, water heater, waste water disposal, waste and vent pipes, plumbing fixtures, laundry connections, bathrooms

These are some of the areas that home inspectors look at and while at first glance even this partial list seems pretty wide-ranging, would you be surprised to learn that an energy audit can tell you even more?

Certified RESNET Home Energy Auditors are highly skilled specialists in energy efficiency. They understand how a house functions as a set of inter-related systems, and how an issue or change in one area can impact on another area of the home.

Through diagnostic testing with specialized equipment, an energy audit (also known as a comprehensive HERS® Rating) pinpoints those parts of your home where energy is being lost. Typically, a HERS® Rating will include:

  • A visual inspection (without use of diagnostic testing equipment) to assess:
    • Building envelope features (windows, doors, insulation, ducts) and ages
    • Heating, cooling and ventilation equipment types, characteristics and ages
    • Appliance and lighting characteristics
    • Comfort complaints
    • Visible moisture issues
    • Visible health and safety issues
  • Diagnostic testing using specialized equipment such as a blower door test, duct leakage tester, combustion analyzer and infrared camera to determine:
    • The amount and location of air leaks in the building envelope
    • The amount of leakage from HVAC distribution ducts
    • The effectiveness of insulation inside walls and ceilings
    • Any existing or potential combustion safety issues
  • Provides a computerized simulation analysis utilizing RESNET Accredited Rating Software to calculate a rating score on the HERS® Index. This report will also contain a cost/benefit analysis for the recommended improvements and expected return on investment.

Ask for an Energy Audit with Your Home Inspection!

RESNET has entered into agreements with two of the largest home inspection networks in the U.S. to offer low-cost energy audits as add-ons to home inspections. There is a growing awareness of the value of adding an energy audit to a home inspection. Not only can it play a decisive role when buying a home, it also:

  • Provides cost-effective solutions to energy-related issues
  • Adds to the resale value of a home
  • Helps lead to a healthier living environment

So when it comes time to book that home inspection for your new home, do yourself a favor and add on an energy audit as well. It’s the best way to make an informed decision about the house where you’ll be raising your family!