Working with a professional auditor and respected contractor can be one of the best ways to save energy at your home. A knowledgeable team can find hidden leaks in your home, recommend upgrades to appliances and HVAC systems, and provide calculations on cost savings and payback periods to help you make informed decisions on home improvements.
An unqualified auditor or contractor, however, can not only overstate potential energy savings, but can make recommendations that do more harm than good. It's important to verify the qualifications of your auditing firm or contractor before getting any work done on your home. Below are a few tips for ferreting out potential scams:
Be wary of auditors or contractors that promise miraculous-sounding energy savings. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), most houses built before 1940 can expect 25%-35% savings from an energy retrofit, while houses built in the 90s and after can expect to see 12%. Auditors or contractors that promise to cut your bills in half immediately may be overstating their claims.
If possible, work with an organization that can refer contractors, such as the Community Alliance for Energy Efficiency.
Make sure you use a certified auditor with proof of certification – either BPI or RESNET preferably.
If the firm claims to use BPI-certified workers, ask for names and BPI numbers. You can verify BPI certification by contacting Lynn Griffith, Manager of Certifications, at BPI.org. This Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy website also contains a list of BPI-certified professionals in Virgina.
An auditor should be able to document experience if asked. And the consumer should ask.
Assessment costs are variable, but generally average between $300 and $500. Be wary of assessments much outside of this price range.
If the auditor shows up with nothing but a clip board do not let them in your house. A professional audit based on approved best practice involves sophisticated diagnostic testing and at a minimum will involve a blower door, infrared scanner/camera, heating system safety and combustion safety testing equipment, and a duct blaster.
An audit cannot be done in a short amount of time. Length of the audit will vary but will require, in general, at least 2 hours.