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Do You Need An Energy Audit Before Installing A Solar Panel System?

Jul 26, 2022

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When planning your home’s new solar panel system, you’ll want to make sure you’re maximizing your investment. A big part of this is determining the right number of solar panels and where to place them on your home. Having an energy audit conducted prior to purchasing a solar system can boost your overall energy savings significantly during the planning process.

Let’s take a look at what solar customers need to know about energy audits and whether one is necessary before installing solar panels.

What Is An Energy Audit?

An energy audit is a comprehensive analysis of your home’s energy consumption and efficiency. This inspection will closely examine multiple aspects of your home to see where inefficiencies may exist or where efficiencies can be improved. These recommendations can help you identify and correct important issues, hopefully resulting in lower electricity costs.

Who Performs An Energy Assessment?

An energy audit, or assessment, is typically performed by a professional home energy auditor, but you can complete one on your own. While a professional assessment will likely provide you the most detailed information, a self-assessment can help you identify some of the immediate areas in need of an efficiency improvement.

Where To Find An Energy Auditor

You can research and contact a certified energy auditor by reaching to one or more of the following:

●      Your local utility provider (who may also conduct energy audits)

●      Your local or state government energy office

●      The U.S. Department of Energy‘s Home Energy Score program

●     The Residential Energy Services Network

●      A private energy-auditing business

What Happens During An Energy Audit?

The energy-audit process is typically broken down into the steps described below.

●      Property walkthrough: During the first part of their evaluation, the professional energy assessor will walk through both the interior and exterior of your property. They’ll be looking at your windows, doors, roofs, heating and cooling systems, electrical wiring and insulation levels to identify any inefficiencies in energy use or other problem areas.

●      Airtightness test: Next, the professional auditor will conduct what’s known as an airtightness test or blower door test of your home’s envelope (mainly made up of the walls, windows, doors and roof). This will help reveal any areas where air is leaking into the home.

When conducting this test, all windows and doors are closed in the home and a door blower machine removes all the pressure from inside. Using an infrared camera, the assessor can then see cold-air spots. Any such spots will indicate an air leak. 

●      Review of previous electrical bills: Next, the auditor will ask to review some of your electrical bills over the past few years before presenting you with their findings and recommendations for energy conservation improvements.

Preparing For An Energy Audit

Before the professional comes to your home, it’s best to be prepared. First, make sure to have copies of your yearly energy bills on hand, along with a list of any areas in your home where you’ve noticed drafts, condensation or similar problems. Write down any questions that you might have for the auditor, too.

How To Conduct An Energy Audit On Your Own

If you want to conduct a baseline energy audit of your own home but aren’t ready to call in a professional just yet, here are a few questions to check off the list as you are going through your home. Just keep in mind that a professional audit will provide you with a certified home performance inspection that’s more complete.

●      Are there any drafty areas that may indicate an air leak exists?

●      Is there proper ventilation for gas and propane systems?

●      Is the insulation in the attic and around heating and cooling systems adequate?

●      Do any light bulbs need to be replaced with LED lights or other energy-saving light bulbs?

●      Are there any outdated appliances that can be replaced with Energy Star appliances?

Do I Need An Energy Audit Before Installing Solar Panels On My Home?

For solar customers planning their solar system, an energy audit can prove worthwhile. In fact, many experts will strongly advise you to have one completed before installing any renewable energy system.

An energy audit can help you better prepare for a solar panel installation. By implementing the recommendations of the auditor beforehand, your home and systems will already be functioning more efficiently, so the addition of a solar system on top of this will only save energy and lower your energy bills even more. This audit will also help you better understand how many solar panels you’ll need for your home. If you need fewer panels than you originally thought, you can save on upfront costs.

As you’re calculating your expected upfront costs, be sure to consider several federal tax rebates and incentives.

Are Home Energy Audits Worth It After Installation?

For current solar customers, an energy audit can still be beneficial post-installation. As your solar panels start to age, they may produce less energy. An energy audit can help you identify ways to maximize the amount of energy that your existing system is producing without having to buy a new system. For example, it’s possible that you’re missing some routine weatherization opportunities or regular solar panel cleaning to maintain optimal cell production.

The Bottom Line: A Home Energy Audit May Be Worth It

Whether you’re a current solar customer or you’re in the midst of planning a solar panel installation, an energy audit is likely worth conducting. This process identifies key areas of your home where energy efficiency can be improved. With an auditor’s recommendations in hand, you’ll have a plan to decrease your energy load before installing solar panels, helping save even more money on your energy bills each year.

Considering solar panels for your home? Find out how much you could save with an installation.

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