Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Energy Surveys

Energy Surveys differ from home inspections in a variety of ways. The energy survey is done after the home is purchased and is not used by anyone except the homeowner. The most common energy survey is done by your local utility. These surveys were done as part of a federal program to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Over the years since the energy crisis in the 70?s, energy conservation programs like the Home Energy Survey Program (HESP), have evolved and in some cases been terminated. This does not mean that the average homeowner or energy bill payer is not looking for ways and ideas to conserve energy. What it does mean is that public awareness concerning energy conservation has exceeded those program objectives. For years everyone in this industry agreed that HESP out lived its life. This is true because HESP stop evolving over ten years ago. Instead of making HESP more viable, everyone was looking for alternatives. There are many of us in this industry that view HESP as viable and at the same time acknowledge government participation is not.

This is why many companies will start offering energy surveys to energy bill payers for a fee. The energy surveys that were done by your local utility in today's market are inadequate. Consumer awareness today concerning energy conservation is a hundred times greater than it was two decades ago. You do not have to tell the average energy bill payer that a programmable thermostat will save them money on their energy bill. What the average energy bill payer wants from an energy survey are explanations on how energy is used in their home, what they can do to save and how it can be done.

They do not want the survey to sell them something. The energy bill payer wants the survey to give them the information so they can make good choices concerning energy conservation in their home. In the near future the vast majority of homes will pay to have an energy survey done in their home. The most likely candidate to provide this service will be the home inspector. They will offer this survey as a service to the perspective buyer if they buy the home.

In other words the home inspection is before the purchase of the home and the energy survey is done after the home is purchased. This is not an expansion of the home inspection industry; it is in fact a creation of an industry. The public awareness created by HESP and its termination will cause this industry of energy surveys to explode.

The concern with the void created by the termination of HESP is that many home inspectors may provide the energy survey due to demand and may not be qualified to do so. There are even fewer companies that can provide this training for energy surveyors. As a consumer you should ask the energy surveyor to see a mock copy of an energy survey to see if it is worth pursuing. Some Utilities are providing energy analysis over the web and through the mail for their customers.

The customer is asked some questions and based on those questions a report is generated. The two factors that determine the figures on these reports are the answers given by the customer and default tables the program uses. If the answers given by the customer are wrong, then the report is based on faulty information. The default tables used in these programs usually come from the Division of Energy in the States that you live. You might be able to get these statistics from your State agency.

For illustration purposes only, let's assume based on data collected for the past twenty years on weather patterns, housing stock, number of occupants and fuel prices in the area where you live, a default equation is developed. In most cases this equation is used as a benchmark to measure and verify initiatives taken by the State and assists in developing other initiatives. Let?s assume that the average size of a home in your State is 1600 square feet and it uses $735. a year to heat that home with gas. Let's say your home is actually 2400 sq. ft.

To apply this equation to your home is to divide 1600 into 2400 = 1.5 then multiply this by $735. = $1,102.50. What this figure means to you is that the average 2400 sq. ft. home in the area where you live uses $1,102.50 a year in gas to heat this home.

The answers that you give will adjust this figure either up or down depending upon its implications. In other words if you had thermal windows put in your home and the average home in the area where you live does not have them, your answer will reduce that figure. Let's say all the answers you give are correct, but you?re an above or below average energy user, the estimated yearly use is wrong. Since the estimated energy use is the basis for determining the savings from a recommended action, if the estimate is wrong, so are the savings.

Clearly there are too many variables that can distort these estimates and the most important variable is the customer who inputs the answers.

When it comes to energy analysis on the web or through the mail you have to reduce the number of variables that effect the outcome. In other words the more simply it is the better. It is better to give an estimate that states if you were to change your present heating system which is estimated to be 67% efficient to a 90% efficient one, the estimated annual saving is 25% on you fuel bill. The same can be said about water heaters, window, doors, insulation, etc. This is a far more useful and accurate estimate for the average energy bill payer.

The figures that were used for the default equation are wrong. It was used for illustration purposes only. Those figures will not apply to your home.


  1. Great info! I can see that taking an energy survey is going to help homeowners to understand their monthly electricity usage and save their utility bills.

  2. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting.Many thanks

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