Green Industry Articles

The Value of Energy Audits

Shocked.

That's how Andrea Galloup reacted to the results of an energy audit conducted on her house.

A thermal imaging camera indicated a steady flow of heat exiting the leaky house through windows, door and walls.

Galloup, a Traverse City, Michigan practitioner with Real Estate One, received the NAR's Green Designation last year and was inspired to hire an auditor to assess her 1970s ranch after learning about audits during her GREEN courses.

The audit (for information on energy audits, see the Energy Star site) was done on a cold November day last year. "The naked eye could never see it, but the thermal imaging camera photos showed heat escaping everywhere. It was almost alarming," she recalls. After all, given northern Michigan's tough winter climate, heating an inefficient house can prove expensive.

Her aim was both to improve her home's efficiency and to be able to speak intelligently to clients about the importance and benefits of conducting such audits. "We always recommend home inspections to clients, yet never energy audits," she says. "But the cost of owning a home also involves utilities."

The auditor delivered a detailed report about her property's shortcomings and made recommendations for gaining greater energy efficiency. He also tipped her off to a $250 rebate available from the gas company for doing an audit and making improvements.

Galloup says the suggestions were both small and large. The biggest entailed replacing the heating and boiler system, which Galloup opted not to do immediately.

Yet other suggestions were easily implemented. The effect of tremendously leaky single-pane windows, for example, was offset by installing insulated cellular blinds.

An abandoned stovepipe was venting warm air to the garage. The problem was remedied by installing blue board and caulk.

And a bathroom skylight not only served as a conduit for Galloup's expensive heat, but also produced a second problem. Warm air melted snow and the moisture leaked in and created mold.

She eventually opted to eliminate the skylight entirely.

Galloup also replaced an aging washing machine with an Energy Star®-qualified model. "It uses half the water of my old machine and the wringing is more efficient, which reduces drying time," she comments.

Though she has not experienced a full winter with all the improvements in place, Galloup is expecting to see an effect on her energy bills this winter.

The audit also armed her with greater knowledge about construction and energy efficiency that she now shares with clients. "I'm able to make observations and recommendations based on what I learned," she says. Such knowledge gives her greater credibility among clients and fellow practitioners, she believes.

Though price, condition and location still remain homebuyers' priorities, Galloup anticipates that energy efficiency eventually will become a greater factor in their decision making. When that happens, she's prepared.

And the time for energy efficiency becoming a priority for consumers seems imminent.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2007 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences, a significant majority of new home buyers – 65 percent – think their home’s energy efficiency is a very important consideration.

And to skeptics, she points out that it's not necessary to be a green fanatic to have a positive impact on the environment. "Being green doesn't mean you have to wear hemp clothes," she jokes. "It's important to get that knowledge. When I got it, it opened my eyes to things I wasn't aware of before."

Source: Green REsource Newsletter, September 2009