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Energy audits: Tips for homeowners

by: Paul Kando

As independent energy auditors, we also field requests for help, and hear the occasional complaint about energy auditors who turned out to be contractors using a home-energy audit as a marketing tool to sell the homeowner a fix-it job they could not really afford.

Other complaints have included homeowners who pay too much for energy upgrades, including work that could have been done gradually on a do-it-yourself basis, and home energy audits that had to be paid for, but ended up leading nowhere when the home owner refused to hire the auditor-contractor.

Outcomes like these are not welcome news, especially not when there were taxpayer-funded incentives involved. Those who complain can often be helped. But I shudder to think about how many others may just get "turned off" to the idea of an energy audit and miss an opportunity to reduce their heating costs.

By all means do arrange for an energy audit. It is the best way to get educated about how to improve your home's energy performance and reduce your heating bill significantly. But be careful. An energy audit is supposed to be a diagnosis of your home, giving you an unbiased picture of how your home performs, and what you can do to improve that performance. For this reason, the energy auditor should not in any way benefit financially form his/her recommendations. He/she is an independent professional: Pay the fee for his/her service, then use the audit report as you see fit.

Don't fall for a discounted fee in return for hiring the auditor as your contractor. If it looks like a conflict of interest when an auditor bids on a contract to implement his/her own recommendations, it probably is. For this reason, the energy audit report should be thorough enough, and provide enough technical information that you, the homeowner, or any competent contractor you may hire, could implement its recommendations. If you have questions, your energy auditor owes you a speedy, honest, and clear response, free of charge.

Before you schedule one, bone up on energy audits at And don't be bashful: Ask a lot of questions.