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Perhaps you’ve heard us talk about whole house energy audits in the past and have wondered what they are.

Well, an energy or home performance audit is a series of tests that will look at conditions in your heating and cooling system and diagnose problems – like leaky or poorly sized air ducts; inadequate insulation; leaks around doors and windows; or poor performance by an air conditioner or furnace. A technician who does the audit can pinpoint improvements to solve those problems, and perhaps make your home more comfortable and your energy bills smaller.

The concept of the audits became nationally popular about 15 years ago, and generally, these tests could cost from $300 to $500. But in Arizona, the state’s two major electric utilities, Salt River Project (SRP) and Arizona Public Service (APS), subsidize the audits for homeowners so that they cost $99. The tests must be done by contractors who are on approved lists put out by the utilities. These tests also involve the use of highly complex equipment.

As one of our Rosie on the House Certified Partners, REEis in Phoenix, likes to say: “It’s the best $99 you can spend on your home.”
Generally, the testing will take about four to six hours to do depending on the size of your house. Here is a very simplified description of three of the main tests done during a whole house audit and what they can tell you about your home. There will be other tests as well, but these three identify problems that are most common in Arizona homes:

The Whole House Blower Door Test

First, a special covering with a powerful fan in it is installed over an exterior doorway. The fan starts blowing, and in the process removes all air from the interior of the house. In effect, it temporarily depressurizes the house. All the air that’s removed is then replaced by air coming in through leaks in the building envelope. A technician can then walk through your house and use a special device to pinpoint exactly where air is leaking in. In this way, you find all the small cracks and crevices that need sealing.

The Thermal Imaging Camera

This camera can help identify insulation and thermal envelope failures in your home or attic. It’s kind of like an X-ray machine for a house. It can spot temperature differences on the sheetrock, for example, and reveal areas in walls and ceilings where insulation was improperly installed. It can spot leaky areas around windows and doors where you are losing cooled air.

The Pressure Pan or Duct Blaster Test

This test is based on the principle that if the air duct system in a house is properly installed, there should be no leaks of cooled or heated air outside the ducts.

While the blower door is operating again, technicians put special pressure pans over each register and vent in the house. These pans will measure any difference in pressure between the duct system and the home’s interior. If the duct system is perfectly sealed, there will be no pressure difference in the pans over the registers. The ducts will be at the same pressure as the rest of the house. But if there are leaks, there will be a pressure difference.

If you are concerned that your heating and cooling system is not operating properly, you may be interested in a home performance audit that could run these tests on your home.

Wherever you live in Arizona, be sure to check with your utility company before calling a contractor to schedule an appointment because of various requirements involved.


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