This summer, keep your air conditioning inside

With tax season well behind us, an audit is probably the last thing you want to think about.

But here’s one that deserves serious consideration: a home energy audit. Unlike the IRS version, a home energy audit will help you go green while saving you green.

During a home energy audit, a series of tests are conducted to identify places where money (and energy) is being wasted: inefficient appliances; poor or nonexistent insulation; air leaks; drafty windows and more. The auditor then makes repair recommendations based on the results, so your air conditioner or heater doesn’t need to work overtime.

Sometimes, fixing the problem is as simple as adding another layer of insulation or touching up caulking. In some cases, more drastic measures may be called for, like a new furnace or water heater.

A home energy audit can also be used to find older, energy-wasting appliances or devices that create “vampire loads” by continuing to drain power when they’re turned off. Cable and satellite boxes, computers, cell phones, video game consoles and a host of other electronic devices are common culprits. If the audit also includes a comprehensive energy analysis with energy modeling, the auditor will conduct a utility bill analysis, in which 12 months of bills are analyzed to determine how much electric, oil, gas or wood is used in a year.

An energy audit’s results can be a shock, even for someone who knows what to expect. “When I had an energy audit done it was a big surprise,” says W. David Wallace, owner and president of East Penn Energy Solutions. “I knew our house was an energy hog, but I did not know how bad. After having air sealing and insulation added, we decreased our airflow through the house by 20 percent. We are much more comfortable, and have reduced our fuel bill.”

State and federal tax incentives and loan programs make now a great time to get an audit. The Keystone Home Energy Loan Program means some homeowners may even qualify for super low interest rates — 0.99% for up to $15,000. Homeowners can receive up to $500 in Federal rebates for energy related upgrades, and utility providers such as FirstEnergy (Met-Ed, Penelec, and Penn Power) and PPL are offering rebates for audits and energy-saving improvements such as air sealing, insulation, windows and doors.

Even without the generous state, federal, and utility company rebates, the total cost of a home energy audit is well worth the savings it can provide on heating and cooling bills.

In the meantime, Wallace has some suggestions: “Protect what you have, don’t be an energy hog, get an audit to reduce your bills, get a programmable thermostat, increase your comfort and above all help the environment.”