Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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Does My Home Need A Home Energy Audit?

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Building performance evaluations, home energy audits, and green home consultants are growing trends. You may be wondering if you should put your home through such a stress test.

I was at a friends house for dinner when we began discussing the room that was built onto the back of his home. His home was built in the sixties, and the addition was added in the eighties. A couple of years ago, his home sustained damage during a hurricane, so he needed to have walls repaired. When the sheetrock came off, he realized that he had no insulation or barrier on his building envelope, so he insisted that this be added to the walls. Why did he insist? He had become more knowledgeable about energy efficiency. If you listen to the news, you have probably heard that green home sales are strong. There are tips being offered from newspapers to news shows about improving your home to save money. Moreover, there are television shows dedicated to this idea, and now we are becoming aware of the home energy audit.
    Actually, you may not know that the home consulting field is becoming crowded. You have home inspectors, like me, but you also have contractors who evaluate your building’s performance, who conduct home energy audits, or who consult on green features for your home. Home inspectors may touch upon energy efficiency and green features, but these newer consultants go into more depth. In fact, many home inspectors take on these other certifications to expand their business. It is a natural fit. A home energy audit examines problems which effect your energy usage. Said to go beyond the energy efficiency exam is the building performance evaluator. The two consultants are similar, but evaluating your building performance goes more in depth. The green home consultant may or may not perform the tests that these other contractors apply to your home. It depends upon their background. A green home consultant will delve into health issues as well as the safety issues.  They will go into features that create a sustainable home.
    Do I need a home energy audit? Or should I hire one of these other contractors? If you are not sure what is happening with your home, and you want to understand where you are at, and how you can improve the home, then hiring any one of these contractors could be for you. However, you should understand that they, like a home inspector, will be evaluating your home to current standards. Those home standards are always evolving. In fact, the field of building science is growing, as more groups add data for researchers to evaluate.
    New homes are being built to a higher standard. Our knowledge about constructing a sustainable home is increasing. Four years ago home inspectors may not have thought much about green homes, but the consumer is now asking about those features, so they had to learn. Appliances are designed better. Building envelopes are tighter. Green products are becoming the norm. For our older homes to do well under such a stress test, we need to be incorporating these ideas, and that can be expensive. Simply having the evaluation can be a cost that many homeowners cannot afford. To improve our homes, we need to look at the home as a system with a series of subcomponents which work together to produce an optimal living environment. When we begin to change one feature, insulation, we have to consider the impact on other parts of the home, air conditioning. My point is that the older your home is, the more work you will have to meet these new standards.
    What if I do not hire an energy efficiency contractor? Then you do need a bit of a roadmap. First, newspaper articles and television programs are great starting points, but finding books on the subject is the solution. There are many books touching upon the subject, which allow you to understand your house as a system, and what are the best components to add to your home. The category on this blog “green home conversions” will also take your through steps to improving your home.  To be really serious about updating your house will mean demolishing and remodeling, but this blog and books can take your through simple steps that achieve close to the same goal as a major overhaul, but so can a home consultant. The advantage to a home energy audit is that they can pinpoint problem areas for you. Give you advice on how to cost effectively deal with a solution.
    Green homes is a buzzword. Energy efficiency is also a buzzword. The concepts have been around a long time, but we are focusing more on quality, which sustainable home standards address. I noticed in the last few weeks that gas prices have gone up $.20 a gallon. I imagine that our utility bills are going up as well for the same reason: the cost to produce energy is rising. You may not be concerned about the quality of the environment, but you will be concerned about your expenses. Eventually, you will also come to understand that your health can be effected by your home, so you do become concerned with the environment around you. This all leads to the fact that home energy audits are here to stay.

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States

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