DIY Energy Conservation: Home Energy Assessments
We began our do-it-yourself series on energy efficient heating improvements, with our post on the Top 10 Energy Efficiency Improvements you can employ in your own home. Today, we will continue discussing Energy Assessments, which could potentially save you 5-30% on your energy bills.

I personally scheduled my first energy assessment while living in a historic Victorian home in New England and spending over $600 one month on heating costs alone. After taking advantage of a free Home Energy Survey, we were able to implement many of the recommended efficiency improvements, and decrease our heating costs by more than 50%! Unfortunately, after moving to a historic house in Pennsylvania, we are faced with the same situation, and eagerly anticipate our next Survey!

Where Do I Start?
The first step to scheduling an assessment is to find out if your utility company offers rebates, or free assessments. In our area, PPL Electric has an Energy Audit and Weatherization Program, and you can get more information by calling 877-486-9204. They offer two types of services: Home Energy Surveys and Home Energy Audits.

Home Energy Survey:
This involves a walk-through evaluation of your home, installation of free energy-saving features, such as CFLs, smart power strips, and faucet aerators. They will create a prioritized list of tips for further ways to increase efficiency in your home, some of which are eligible for additional rebates. This type of assessment will cost you $50 through PPL Electric.

Home Energy Audit:
Energy audits with infrared thermal imagingThis diagnostic audit by a Building Performance Institute (BPI) Certified Building Analyst will reveal what areas of your house use the most energy and suggest ways to cut energy costs. The Auditor will examine how much air is leaking into and out of your home, the condition of your heating and cooling system, and the home’s air quality, including carbon monoxide and moisture conditions. They will also assess health and safety issues in your home. PPL offers customers with electric heat and central air a $250 rebate, and customers with electric heat or central air a $125 rebate toward their audit, but these audits tend to run $300-$600, according to a PPL customer service representative.

Before the auditor visits your home, make a list of any existing problems, such as condensation or uncomfortable rooms, and have copies of your energy bills available. The auditor will help you to evaluate and prioritize your options in improving the energy efficiency of your home. If you decide to take some of these recommendations on your own, ask yourself:

Where are your greatest energy losses?
How long will it take an investment to pay for itself in cost savings?
Do these measures provide additional benefits, such as increased comfort of aesthetics?
How long do you plan to own your home?
What is your budget?

Financial Assistance
Once you decide which improvements make sense for your home, you may need some help paying for those improvements. Luckily, there are several loans and rebates that you may be able to take advantage of, depending on your state and utility company. You can find rebates for refrigerators, water heaters, lighting, heat pumps, central air conditioners, building insulation, pool pumps, ductless heat pumps, and weatherization measures on PPL’s website.

Keystone HELP (Home Energy Loan Program) offers low-interest loans to help homeowners pay for energy-efficient home improvements. Find more information on their website.

The improvements I talked about last week were pertaining to heating (maybe because I’m feeling particularly cold lately!), but most homes could use an efficiency upgrade in other areas, too, including lighting and water efficiency. Look for more recommendations in the weeks to come!