What happens during an energy audit?
Well, first the contractor (for lack of anything better to call him) took a tour around the house and asked about any problems or concerns I had. Were any of the rooms hotter or colder than the others, etc. Then he started the safety check. This was the part of the program I wasn't expecting, but I find it comforting to know that my gas appliance are drafting properly and not leaking. He checked the hot water heater, furnace, stove and dryer; all were working properly. While everything was running, he checked for carbon monoxide, and again all was well.
Then came the part I was most excited about: the blower door test. With all the windows and doors shut, a fan was placed in the front door to create negative pressure. Then we walked around, the contractor armed with an infrared camera, in search of air leaks.
Surprisingly, my little old house is pretty well sealed, especially considering its age. There are two big areas which could be improved: sealing around the rim joist in the basement, and sealing the attic and adding insulation to the attic floor. The contractor also pointed out some smaller fixes, most of which I can handle myself with just a tube of caulking.
One area which wasn't on the upgrade list is my original, single-pane wood windows. I was delighted to hear the contractor say that the need to replace old windows tends to be majorly over-hyped when it comes to energy efficiency. Now, I do have--and use--the original storm windows that came with the house, which makes a big difference.
"Many people spend thousands to upgrade the efficiency of 5% of their house, when it would be way more cost-effective to spend hundreds to seal and insulate the other 95% of their home."
Plus I hate the idea of replacing old, repairable wood windows with new, cheap toxic PVC ones. Not to mention the cost factor. So my time spent painting and repairing my windows hasn't gone to waste -- they're staying!
If you happen to be a Columbia Gas customer, you should check out the Home Performance Solutions program and see if it's offered in your area. Many other utilities offer similar programs as well. The best part is that if you end up getting the recommended work done, you can be eligible for major rebates.