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New Year's Resolution: Get Advanced Energy Audit
Minnesota Ag Connection - 01/11/2018

A New Year's resolution for you: finally get that advanced home energy audit and identify several energy-saving measures to save on your utility bills.

Many people assume there is little they can do to significantly reduce their energy use and increase the efficiency of their homes. In reality, there are many things that typical residents can do themselves and many other things they can hire others to do. The Minnesota Department of Commerce strongly recommends having an advanced home energy assessment, or home energy audit, before embarking on home energy improvements or remodeling.

An assessment of how your house is functioning can help you decide what needs fixing, upgrading, or replacing. It will identify some simple low-cost measures you can take, such as weather-stripping doors or installing high efficiency light bulbs, and it will determine more expensive but cost-effective measures, such as adding insulation to attics or walls and replacing inefficient furnaces, water heaters, and appliances.

Energy audits will vary by price and the level of detail and types of tests provided. At minimum, several things should be included in a home energy audit:

- A review of energy bills to help assess home performance and identify opportunities for savings.

- A blower-door test to determine air leakage.

- Infrared scans of walls, attic, and foundation to assess insulation levels and locate sources of air leaks.

- Efficiency and safety testing for combustion appliances (furnaces, boilers, gas fireplaces, and water heaters) to ensure they are operating properly and not contributing to indoor air concerns.

- A visual inspection for attic, wall, crawlspace, foundation, basement, window, door, and roof problems.

Contact your gas or electric utility to arrange an energy assessment. For instance, Xcel Energy offers a $60 Standard Audit that includes the bulleted items above. More comprehensive assessments (for new construction or major remodeling) are available from private contractors specializing in home performance reviews.

Neighborhood energy groups often partner with utilities to deliver audit services. For instance, the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) partners with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy to deliver a service called the Home Energy Squad, which includes installing energy-saving products such as LED bulbs, weather-stripping, and programmable thermostats.

For more information on home energy assessments and energy-saving improvements, check out the Minnesota Department of Commerce's Home Energy Guide.

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