The Home Evaluation Process

Audit – Repair – Commission

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Article Summary

We recommend that before you make any major energy improvements to your home, be it a new heating and air conditioning system, solar system or windows that you consider investing in a home evaluation. This could be a basic visual audit or a more comprehensive audit where we utilize state of the art diagnostic tools. It’s logical to evaluate a house and diagnose any potential problems before one starts making major home improvements.

Investing the time to learn more about your home, HVAC system, duct system, insulation, windows, etc. can help you make informed decisions that will impact your comfort, long-term utility bills and indoor air quality. Good decisions arise from knowing what construction defects are causing the problems you may be experiencing. Without quality information, you have a limited basis to make informed decisions. Without good information you are at the mercy of the marketplace.

Our auditors routinely identify a host of problems that are relatively inexpensive to repair when compared to many other major energy improvements. Repairing these problems improves the comfort of your home and reduces your utility bills. Another added long-term benefit is that by repairing these issues now they don’t bounce back at you when it is time to sell your home. Home inspectors are paid to find problems in homes they are inspecting. Home inspectors are also learning to look for energy related items during their inspection process. We often get calls from people who want prices for repairs because they are trying to negotiate a lower price for the home they want to purchase. When you make repairs to your HVAC system and insulation today, they don’t become potential negotiating points when you try to sell your home in the future.

What the experts say

Here is what the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy says on their Smarter House web site:

Before making major efficiency improvements to your house, find out from a pro where and why energy is being wasted and what you should do about it. Today’s home energy specialists — sometimes called house doctors, energy auditors, raters, or home performance contractors — go beyond simple checklist audits. They study the building as a system, performing full checkups that are designed to address overall safety, comfort, energy efficiency and indoor air quality. http://smarterhouse.org/building-envelope/energy-auditing

Auditor Qualifications

There are some good audit companies in the state of Arizona, but there are many more average ones. Do not be convinced that simply because someone who has a BPI certification (Building Performance Institute) that they are a legitimate auditor. BPI certification is an early step in the process of becoming a competent auditor. In our opinion a great auditor has HVAC experience and many don’t. At Advantage Home Performance our auditors have direct experience with both HVAC and insulation because we are licensed to do both types of work. We perform HVAC installs, duct modifications, duct sealing and insulation year around.

There is more than one type of audit to choose from

We offer three different types of audits: visual, comprehensive and utility. Although we will define each type of audit in a moment, the important thing to know is that you do have a choice and that the audits are at different price points. The size of a home, the simplicity or complexity of the home’s architecture, type of problem that has initiated a call to us … will factor into our recommendation as to what type of audit is best for you. Our intention is not to persuade you to select one type of an audit over another, but simply let you know the options and we can discuss the type of audit that is the best fit for you and your home.

The visual audit

At Advantage Home Performance we created the visual audit as an intermediary step before you commit to more comprehensive audit or utility audit. Having literally performed thousands of audits over the past decades we have created a very efficient process that places a value on both our customer’s time and ours. A visual audit is an inspection of the mechanical system, duct system, air barrier, insulation, etc. The difference is it is just a visual inspection and we are not utilizing our testing equipment. Presently, we do not charge for visual audits, although this may change in the near future. Our visual audit does not include a written audit report. We will provide a proposal for repairs.

The comprehensive audit

During a comprehensive audit we bring out approximately ten thousand dollars’ worth of diagnostic tools to test your home. This equipment includes blower doors, digital manometers, infrared cameras, combustion analyzers, flow hoods, etc. A comprehensive audit takes a least a half a day and longer on larger houses with multiple mechanical systems. It is a very through process that yields more specific information than a visual audit or what a home inspector will provide you with. After the audit is completed we provide a basic report and a quote for repairs.

We charge a fee for comprehensive audits because we place a value on both our time and expertise. A comprehensive audit is time consuming. We also have in house HVAC experts which we draw upon during our comprehensive audits. Our fee for a comprehensive audit starts at $600. This is for a home up to 2500 square feet with one mechanical system. The fee increases for larger homes with multiple HVAC systems. Our auditors are very thorough. The comprehensive audit is a very involved and time consuming process when done well and it is a valuable investment.

Why invest in a comprehensive audit?

We only encourage people to invest in a comprehensive audit if they see the value. If you are considering making big investments in an addition to your home, window replacement, upgrading your heating and air conditioning system or converting your home to a foam attic a comprehensive audit will be a great first step. If you live in a home that has a history of comfort problems, high utility bills and indoor air quality problems a comprehensive audit may be a prudent first step. In both instances you will probably arrive at better decisions if you have good information to base these decisions on. A comprehensive audit yields valuable information and allows us to have an informed discussion about where your money is best spent.

There are some homes that have such complex architecture and problems that we require a customer to have a comprehensive audit. We do this for our benefit of the homeowners. We don’t want to recommend solutions for problems when we do not fully understand what the dynamics of the problems are. We would rather walk away from a job that we have doubts about then have a customer invest thousands of dollars on a repair that does not solve the problem

The utility audit

Advantage Home Performance occasionally participates in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR energy audit program. This program is being sponsored in Arizona by APS and SRP. The audit only costs you $99 because it is being subsidized by your utility. The utility company pays us an additional $100 to perform the audit. If you perform energy conservation work the utility company pays us an additional $100. We think the utility programs are raising awareness which is a great thing.

We only will participate in the utility audit program if we have a signed contract to perform repairs. In this case we move from visual audit to utility audit. Fortunately the most attractive rebate available in the market place is the APS Duct Seal Rebate for $400 and this rebate requires testing, but not an audit.

Think audit & repairs, not just audit

At Advantage Home Performance we are much more interested in making repairs then performing audits. An audit is a means to and end and not an end itself. The audit is the easy part of this job. We recommend to homeowners that if they are just curious about their home to start with a visual audit. We also tell home owners that if they are going to make major repairs it may be in their best interest to have a comprehensive audit performed so they can make informed decisions regarding their home.

Repairs and the importance of in-house crews

Many audit companies subcontract out HVAC and insulation repairs and we believe this is a mistake. Our crews are supervised by the person who performed the audit. They are paid on an hourly rate and not a piece rate which rewards quality and not quantity. Everyone is on the same page as to what the problems are and what level of quality must be achieved. Our customers deal with one company, one auditor, one job coordinator and one company culture. This is a great recipe to get the work done correctly.

How to select contracting company?

Any well respected HVAC or home performance contracting company is going to have a strong set of core values and a great company culture. You hire an HVAC contractor or home performance contractor based on the fact that you think you can trust them to do the job correctly. If you spend enough time on this website we believe you’ll come away with a strong sense that Advantage Home Performance cares about our customers and performing quality work.

Advantage Home Performance has been recognized as an industry leader. We have been featured on Dateline NBC as both and industry expert and a consumer advocate. You can see a small clip of this interview on our home page. We also wrote an article in Home Energy Magazine titled “Cheating – The Insulation Industry’s Dirty Secret.” At Advantage Home Performance we have an intense resolve to perform the best work in our industry. If you watch the short video on our home page titled “Our Customer’s Say it Best,” you will see that our customers have a great deal of confidence in our ability to deliver on our commitments.

What third party home evaluation standards do we recommend?

You don’t have to take Advantage Home Performances word. There is a lot of great information available if you know where to find it.

1. This is the American Council for Energy Efficient Economy The Smarter House website is well done http://smarterhouse.org/

2. ACCA – The Indoor Environment & Energy Efficiency Association The Air condition Contractors Association of America has a series of short videos for home owners as well as ACCA Standard 5: HVAC Quality Installation Specification. Installation http://www.acca.org/homes

3. Energy Star A guide to Energy Efficient Heating & Cooling https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/HeatingCoolingGuide%20FINAL_9-4-09.pdf?ded8-36a8

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