Jan 17

What is an Energy Audit? ....the Basics

The Basics of a Good BPI Energy Audit
An energy audit is a top to bottom assessment of a building's current energy usage and potential for energy savings. It should be the first step to making a property more efficient and reducing energy consumption. An energy audit is like a physical for your home. Since not all properties are the same the energy audit steps back and looks at the big picture of energy use and waste in this property. The national standard for a complete and proper energy audit is a Building Performance Institute (BPI) energy audit. It is an unbiased, product independent look at what the house really needs to be more efficient.
What is an Energy Audit? The in depth review includes not only all the heating and cooling systems but the thermal and pressure boundaries. In other words the buildings insulation and draftiness. The audit will also look at the buildings consumption; of fossil fuels like propane, natural gas or oil, and of electricity and water. A BPI energy audit must include a blower door test. The blower door test is quite possibly the single most important test in an energy auditor’s arsenal. The blower door test evaluates the buildings pressure boundary, those components that keep the conditioned air in the building. Remember the conditioned air is the air you just paid to heat or cool. In other words, the blower door tests how leaky or drafty the home is. A BPI energy audit must also include combustion safety testing. The efficiency of the fossil fuel fired water heater, boiler and/or furnace will be tested. That current operational efficiency is compared to efficiency of today’s units to find potential savings. These systems are not only tested for efficiency but checked for potential life safety issues as well. A BPI energy audit must also include evaluation of the buildings insulation or thermal barriers. That barrier helps keep the heat inside in the winter and the heat outside in the summer. To be effective the buildings insulation or thermal barrier must be continuous on all six sides of the building (top, bottom, right, left, front, back). The auditor will evaluate the quantity of insulation and effectiveness of the installation selected. There are different types of heat transfer and all insulation handle these differently. That assessment will be compared to BPI standards and Department of Energy (DOE) recommendations.

What is a Building Analyst - Tech?

After the on-site assessment is complete the auditor will have a list of measures that could be completed, but which energy efficiency measures are best? Which energy efficiency measures should I do first? To answer that question an energy audit must also include energy modeling. This modeling evaluates the effectiveness of all the proposed improvements and calculates an annual energy savings based on those improvements. It is not a guess or a broad claim like “most homeowner’s might save 30%”, but actual computer based modeling based on your home’s potential to-do list. With those modeled annual savings and along with the costs of the measures a BPI Certified Building Analyst-Tech can prioritize what energy efficiency measures have the highest return on investment (ROI). Some measures may pay for themselves in months and should be your first choice. Others will take decades to pay for themselves and are poor choices from an energy efficiency prospective.
The national standard for a complete and proper energy audit is a Building Performance Institute (BPI) energy audit. On the east coast we have trained and tested well over 8500 BPI certified energy auditors as part of our EnergyScore® BPI Training Classes. These BPI Certified Energy Auditors are not selling a product but are selling their knowledge. They first evaluate what the property needs in order to be more efficient. The auditors who have achieved the level of a BPI certification have been trained and tested on a wide depth of Building Science Principles. This is important since there are at least a dozen inspections and tests to be performed. Therefore a certified BPI auditor must have a background in many areas including building science, heating and cooling systems, thermal barriers, pressure barriers, combustion safety and energy modeling to evaluate a property properly.