Energy audits: Your guide to saving green via being green

May 7, 2013 | Personal

Our utility bill$ have reflected what has been an unseasonably cool spring so far. And there may be no sign of relief (from Mother Nature) as an unseasonably balmy summer may be around the corner.
But relief from these costly bills is closer than you think … and you don’t even have to wait for the finicky weather to cooperate.
Weatherization services.
It’s estimated that identifying and fixing the leaks and holes that make for an inefficient system (and costly bills) saves homeowners anywhere from 10 percent on their heating bills in newer homes to a whopping 30 to 40 percent in older homes, which unchecked are more apt to having serious problems with air leaks and insulation.
In real dollars and cents terms, the U.S. Department of Energy which provides funding for states, territories and tribes to operate weatherization programs, reports families who receive weatherization services save on average almost $440 each year on their energy bills.
Energy audit.
Typically, these services include the installation of insulation in the attic, walls and floors. Holes and cracks are also sealed with caulking, weather-stripping and other materials.
But every home and situation is different. To know what your home needs, you might consider investing in an energy audit.
Worth its weight in gold, professionals note that the 3- to 4-hour audit assesses how well your home uses energy from basement to attic.
As a result of this assessment, improvements are also suggested.
For example, a blower test may be conducted to identify whole-house cracks or gaps that are causing warm air to escape. Imagine, as auditors have reported, that your home’s collective cracks and gaps are the equivalent of a 3 foot-wide window left open constantly. No wonder the energy bills are out of control!
Before any work is conducted, the auditor or service provider will meet with you to explain all the improvements you’ll need and why you need them.
Importantly, after the service is completed, the company or agency will follow up to make sure everything is working properly and that you’re getting the most out of the improvements.
Paying for it.
Providers estimate that these services pay for themselves in two to three years. And these improvements continue to pay off year in and year out for decades.
But there are also many state programs, including loans, for those who qualify to help with the upfront costs.
In fact, according to U.S. Census and Nebraska Department of Energy data, more than 7 percent of state households qualify for completely free weatherization assistance. See if you qualify.
Additional programs are also available if you don’t qualify or don’t want to stand in line for your number to be called up if you are placed on a waiting list — a real possibility considering that government budgets fluctuate.
Other benefits. 
Sure, it’s great to save money. But these services also enable you to be a more responsible citizen of the earth, by reducing your home’s impact on the environment. Another benefit is you’ll be doing your part to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
Doesn’t it feel good to both be green and save green?