Home Energy Audit: facilitate your sale and save money on utility bills

by Dan Krell

If you are planning to sell your home, you may want to begin to search for your last twelve months of utility (gas, electric, and/or oil) bills. As of January 1, 2008, the county will require a home seller to provide home energy efficiency information, which includes utility costs and any efficiency improvements or opportunities for energy efficiency improvements.

According to Montgomery County Bill 31-07, enacted into Montgomery County Code Real Property 40-13b earlier this year, a home seller must provide potential home buyers the last twelve months of utility bills and information approved by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about home efficiency improvements including the “benefit of conducting a home energy audit” before entering into a sales contract. If you have a rental property, however, you must provide the information only if you have lived in the home anytime during those twelve months.

The law was actually scaled down from an additional requirement of conducting a home energy audit as part of a home inspection. Although the home energy audit is not required, it may be a good idea for a home owner to have one anyway. Information about conducting a home energy audit can be obtained form the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (montgomerycountymd.gov) and The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET; natresnet.org).

According to the DEP, a home energy audit will help identify inefficient energy consumption by appliances and systems as well as drains on heating and air systems created by holes and leaks. Addressing home energy efficiency issues can help you reduce utility costs, create a more comfortable home environment and help the environment.

According to the DEP, a home energy audit can be conducted by a professional or on your own. A professional energy audit can vary in scope and depth as well as price (estimated between $300 and $700). Programs offering certified energy auditors include the Maryland Home performance program with Energy Star (mdhomeperformance.org) and RESNET (resnet.us).

The Maryland Home Performance program is sponsored by the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) and is part of Governor O’Malley’s EmPOWER Maryland initiative, which has a goal to reduce Maryland’s electricity consumption by 2015. The program offers MEA trained contractors to perform energy audits, as well as inspections on any improvements completed by the contractors.

The RESNET program is a non-profit organization that has created national standards for energy efficiency ratings. The program is recognized by the Federal Government, the mortgage industry, and states where there is minimum code compliance. RESNET certified auditors subscribe to RESNET’s code of ethics, standards of practice, financial interest disclosure, and complaint resolution process.

Although a professional energy audit may be more detailed, you can conduct your own energy audit as described by the US Department of Energy’s “A Consumer’s Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy” (apps1.eere.energy.gov/consumer). The guide describes how you can identify and locate air leaks, check your home’s insulation, and discusses how to reduce your utility bills.

As States and local communities are moving towards requiring energy audits to increase home energy efficiency, why not start today and find out how your home rates? Who knows, you may end up with a more comfortable home and save money in the process.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of November 17, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.

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