Our local utility is offering a $350 energy audit' for $50. I've done some reading on here and already have fixed some issues with my 1600 sq ft house built in 2000. Combined gas/electric bill currently averages about $150/mo for a family of 4. I do not own a thermal imaging gun or a blower door, would it be worth the $50 to have them come do the blower door/thermal imaging?

http://www.ogepet.com/programs/home-energy-efficiency-program.aspx

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$50 for a partial diagnostic audit is a great deal for the homeowner. Hopefully you are compensated well enough to spend the time it really takes to do a complete workup and issue a report that contractors can easily follow.

Locally, the electric co-op offers $25 non-diagnostic "snapshot" audits, some of which I perform, which include top-to-bottom inspection of the home for potential upgrades and problems, and free CFL installation. The majority of these are in homes where there are significant insulation and heating equipment issues, obvious air leakage problems, and even the occasional life-safety issue. I usually do a bit of an IR inspection, but no blower door or CAZ. 

After doing many dozens of these inspections, I'm convinced that plenty of homes don't need a comprehensive audit. You don't need a blower door test, a duct test, or anything else if the attic has ratty R-11 insulation, uninsulated and/or damaged ducts outside the envelope, an electric furnace with (2) 60A breakers, occupant complaints of drafts and cold areas, and so on. 

No, I am compensated well, it is just the utility is covering the rest of the cost.  And our appointments are 4 hours long and we do a full comprehensive audit including CAZ testing.  And after doing hundreds of audits I disagree, a blower door and CAZ testing is a minimum requirement for an audit because I am continually surprised by what I see in terms of blower door reading and CAZ results.  Both of those tests tell you so much more about a house than just a visual. 

Plus how can you recommend any type of air sealing work when you don't know where you are starting from.  I have tested homes that had no wall insulation and little attic insulation, yet the home was already below the BAS.

Josh, I'm with you buddy! You need to know where you are starting from, and "bad" is not a measurement. Like going on a diet ans starting with "fat" rather then stepping on a scale.

Like it'd be hard to describe flying a plane to someone in the 18th century, it's often like that explaining the critical importance of baseline testing to people with little or no understanding of building science. Before I got into this, "yeah, I know my house leaks some" was my ignorant perspective, so it's completely understandable others think that way.

One disconnect is lack of understanding of how identical looking jobs can perform completely differently, without measuring before you can't set goals or have any idea how well you did.

Any recommendation I make for air sealing is going to be blower door-guided, and any house that has open combustion appliances in the conditioned space is going to need CAZ testing. I agree that these procedures are important, and I am certainly not ignoring them, but I don't always think it's necessary to do diagnostic work up front. I do a fair amount of blower door but a careful visual inspection is equally important and tells quite a bit about where the potential improvements are. Besides, how many full audits could you sell at market rate? You're doing them now at a consumer cost of $50, but I think your customer base would drop off if you raised that to $400 or whatever it really costs to do it. Also, how much of the actual work do you do? If your only role is the testing, then naturally you test, if your main role is to hands-on improve houses, you will soon learn to bring your tools and materials with you, not just test gear.

Absolutely.  You'd be charged at least $150 for just the Blower door test around here.  It will help you pin point any air leakage spots that may cause problems later, too.

Bob:   Contact Steve at OGE. He has many years of experience in home performance and performance science. He will take care of you in a professional manner.  Allan Hurst

Do you have a direct contact number for Steve?

Steve Sullivan is with OG+E  in OKC. 405-553-3393.  Allan Hurst

Bob, sorry your free audit didn't work out! Perhaps someone you know in the industry might do a walk through for you?

I work for an electric cooperative and perform audits that include blower door and thermal imaging for our members for $150.  I'm not sure why you are skeptical.  For decades most utilities have had someone on staff who is certified in auditing.  I know in our case, as with every cooperative I know of, we provide a detailed report and go over problems and fixes with the homeowner.  We also perform a post-audit when the fixes have been implemented to show the improved measurements..  Just because it is your utility does not mean you shouldn't trust them.

In a walk-though free audit by our local utility, tracking down the source of a pool of standing water in a crawlspace, I discovered a source of carbon monoxide pouring into a home in Anne Arundel County. I found water dripping from the trunk of the air distribution system that had disintegrated the ducts and allowed a substantial amount of conditioned air to blow into the crawl space through the major leaks.

In discussions with the homeowner, I had found two other corroborating facts: low flow of conditioned air into the living room and the telltale human response - headaches. As the A/C fan forced conditioned air out of the house through the leaks in the system, an equal of amount of outside air came piling down the flue from the gas-fired water heater and brought the poisonous gas into the home. This back-drafting of combustion by-products often occurs on an ongoing basis, filling the home with low-levels of the toxin which builds up inside the blood system and can cause headaches, vomiting, memory loss, violent mood swings, nausea and even death.

The simple fix is to first catch the condensation from the A/C and run it carefully outside. Then reattach ducts and seal them tightly to prevent the loss of conditioned air, the expensive discomfort and the health impacts. Finally, a carbon monoxide detector installed in the living space provides a warning in the event of any further issues from combustion appliances.

Very few people spend much time crawling around in their crawlspaces looking for drips. Sometimes a trained set of eyes willing to snoop for free can discover anomalies that impact our wallets, our comfort and our health.

As a building science professional performing numerous audits as well as energy modeling, I would say a cautious yes; it is worth it.  However, most utility companies that offer the discounted audit are still or should be using a professionally trained/qualified energy auditor with the certifications to back it up.  Usually, this person would be a BPI trained auditor who may also be a contractor who would make any improvements as well.  But, not always. 

 

At first, this looks like a great deal, but; from my perspective, a company who is performing an audit should be a 3rd party with no stake in the outcome, such as anticipated revenue from following improvements.  IMO this is not ethical.  After all, what is the definition of an audit.  A second point is that the utility is underwriting the difference in the cost to you vs the true cost of the service.  You just don't see that end of the transaction, and; you still end up paying in some way the true cost...either through tax revenues morphed into some grant to the utility, or; an ever so slight increase in some tariff buried in your utility bill.  It may only be $0.0001 added in.  Nonetheless, you still pay for it. 

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