SC Community Loan Fund in Charleston, SCWe’re all trying to stretch dollars these days and one of the best ways to get more for your money is to have an energy audit performed on your home.

In very basic terms, a home energy audit is a way to first figure out how much energy your home uses. Second, it determines what improvements are necessary to increase energy efficiency. It’s important to understand that homeowners must follow through with the improvements to achieve efficiency and save money.

Anyone can perform a simple energy audit and there are plenty of resources online to guide you through the process. You may begin by taking a few minutes to walk around your home and inspect all areas for issues regarding: insulation, air leaks, moisture, HVAC duct work and ventilation, lighting and appliances.

ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to help us save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. ENERGY STAR offers an online tool called the Home Energy Yardstick to help you determine your energy usage, as well as areas where you might be able to save.

All you need to get started is your last 12 months of bills or a 12-month summary from your utility company. Answer a few additional questions and the Yardstick will compare your home’s energy use to similar homes across the country, and see how your home measures up. You can then use the Home Energy Advisor to get recommendations for energy-saving home improvements for typical homes in your area.

The Sustainability Institute is also a good Charleston-area resource. We often use them for energy audits on redevelopment properties that we finance. They have a variety of energy audit programs for home and businesses. Contact them at 843.529.3421 or visit their website at http://www.sustainabilityinstitutesc.org.

You can always hire a professional home energy auditor to perform a detailed inspection and then provide specific recommendations for improving the efficiency of your home. A professional auditor often uses equipment such as blower doors, which measure the extent of leaks in the building, as well as infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation. Plus, how cool would it be for someone to use an infrared camera on your home?

If you decide to do an audit, let us know how the results pan out and if you were able to make some changes to save both energy and money.