How well do home energy audits serve the homeowner?
Home energy audits administered by utilities and government typically provide homeowners with lists of technical upgrade recommendations intended to increase the technical energy efficiency of the house. Audits proceed with assessment of physical characteristics, subsequently processed with a computational model and transformed into a report, sometimes customized by the auditor. While the design of an energy audit reflects program and policy points of view — balancing program cost with expected program savings, educating people about the value of energy efficiency, etc. — it is crucial to consider the criteria for a good home energy audit and recommendations from homeowners' points of view. How well do home energy audits currently meet these criteria? How well do asset-based assessments match what homeowners seem to want? We consider these questions based on a study of 286 homeowners who participated in a Seattle City Light home energy audit program. Findings suggest that there is substantial opportunity to reorient audit programs to better fit the realities of why homeowners undertake energy audits and retrofits. In the Seattle City Light program, participating homeowners found certain elements of the audit they received — interaction with professional auditors, blower door testing, and customized, specific upgrade recommendations — to be more compelling than the standardized and quantitative elements. Rather than being engaged with increasing energy efficiency, as invited by an asset perspective and asset-based efficiency scores, homeowners wanted to build better understanding of their home's energy use and to learn how to solve specific problems, especially reflecting their household's actual energy use practices.