April 2018: Spring Tips for the Home

Ask The Inspector

Understanding Your Home’s Phantom Load

What if we told you your home is full of phantoms? Your home’s phantom load, or the amount of energy that appliances consume when they’re turned off, can be scary for your electric bill. Luckily, you can cut back phantom usage with this quick guide. Learn More

3 Tips for Child Safety at Home

While home is often the safest place to be, your house could pose unseen threats to your family. Here are some ways you can prevent accidents around your home and have a healthier, happier household. Learn More

Expert Advice

Flipping Houses 101

If you’ve already mastered homeownership, you may be looking for your next investment. Here’s how to know if flipping houses is right for you, as well as the best types of fixer-upper homes to look out for. Learn More

Why Does My House Smell?

Sometimes previous owners can leave things behind. And sometimes, those things aren’t tangible items, like plates and furniture – they’re smells. Before you walk away from your dream home, use these tips to pinpoint the source of odors and be on your way to breathing easy. Learn More

Snapshots From The Field

Every day on the job, our inspectors come across safety hazards that you and your family should know about. Here’s one that’s far more common that you might think, and fortunately there’s an easy fix.

A clogged dryer vent is one of your home’s most dangerous fire hazards. Each year, more than 2,900 house fires originate in clogged dryer vents. While we cover the topic a lot, this photo from just a few weeks ago proves that it never hurts to keep spreading the word!

Remember, when it comes to your dryer vent, it doesn’t end with cleaning the lint trap (though that’s definitely part of it). You’ll also need to periodically clean the vent itself. Here’s how to go about cleaning if your vent is less than three feet long and leads outside:

  1. Empty the lint screen like you normally would after a load of laundry.
  2. Unplug the dryer, then move it away from the wall to access the vent.
  3. You’ll notice a tube leading from the back of your dryer to a hole in the wall—this is the vent, and the tubing will have to be detached from the back of the dryer in order to clean it. It’s generally attached to your dryer with a set of four screws, which can be removed with a normal flat or Philips head screwdriver.
  4. Using the nozzle attachment on your vacuum cleaner, vacuum as much lint as you can, as far as you can down the tube and into the vent.
  5. Hook everything back up.
  6. Going outside, locate the escape vent and make sure it’s also clear of visible debris. Once the vent is clear, run the dryer and make sure hot air is flowing freely to the outside.
  7. You’re done!

If your vent is long and doesn’t vent directly outside, just give a call your nearest professional.

Maintenance Matters

How to Remove Scratches from Wood Floors

We all know that replacing hardwood floors can be time-consuming and expensive. Before you start looking for a contractor, try this simple technique for fixing scratches, pet damage and more. Learn More

Your 7-Item Checklist for an Efficient Air Conditioner

Whether you run your A/C year-round or you’re gearing up for warmer temperatures, you can perform this easy checkup on your system to make sure that it’s running as smoothly as possible. Learn More

How to Clean a Clogged Showerhead in 6 Easy Steps

There’s nothing more annoying than a clogged showerhead. If your water pressure has been feeling weak lately, try this simple, chemical-free trick for unclogging a blocked showerhead. Learn More

Dos and Don’ts for Pet Stains in Carpet

If you’ve ever been frustrated that a pet stain hasn’t fully disappeared no matter how hard you scrub, this article is for you. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to get your carpets looking fresh and new again. Learn More

Monthly Trivia Question

How much electricity (in U.S. dollars) do modern appliances on low power mode waste each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?

A. $1Million
B. $5 Million
C. $4 Billion
D. Over a Trillion

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

Your 7-Item Checklist for an Efficient Air Conditioner

Weather is funny – it tends to warm up right under our noses. Then, before long, it’s time to crank up the air conditioning. Whether you’re going straight from cold to warm temperatures or you use your A/C regularly, these maintenance tips will help you keep your system in great working order.

Before you begin with your checkup, you’ll need to set your system. Make sure that the thermostat is off with the temperature set at 80 degrees.

1. Start with your thermostat

When was the last time you replaced your thermostat? If you’ve just moved into your new home, what do you know about it? If it’s been awhile, you might be working with an outdated model. In that case, it’s worth looking into springing for a programmable, energy-efficient thermostat. Most can be controlled remotely from your phone for ultimate savings.

2. Look out for wear on exposed ductwork

Worn ductwork is one of the biggest culprits for cooling loss in your home. Look for visible signs of damage and wear.

3. Check the flow of your air vents

You never know what might be blocking airflow, from furniture to curtains to your child’s toys. Walk room to room and be sure that all the air vents are free of obstructions. We promise it’ll make a difference!

4. Make sure your drain line isn’t clogged

Mounted above your furnace, you should see a drain near the cooling coil. This can become clogged with dirt, dust and debris over time. You can be sure that your drain line isn’t clogged by flushing a cup of bleach followed by a gallon of water down it.

5. Replace your air filter

Changing out your air filter is a super simple fix that will make a huge difference in indoor air quality and flow. Your filter should be changed every three months at a minimum, and more like once a month during seasons that necessitate heavy A/C usage.

6. Check your circuits

Look over your home’s electrical circuits to ensure that the connections are on and in working order.

7. Head outside to check the condenser unit

Your A/C unit’s outdoor equipment is just as important as its indoor system. First, make sure that no foliage is touching your unit, and remember not to make plans for any gardening in its vicinity. It’s just not worth it since plants can cause rusting, blockages and other damage. You’ll next want to make sure that refrigerant lines are insulated. If the insulation looks worn, you’ll need to hire an HVAC professional to replace it. The same goes for outdoor electrical wiring—when in doubt, hire out.

Once you’ve completed these seven steps, you can turn your A/C on to a comfortable temperature and wait for it to begin cooling your home. Be sure to head back outside to listen to the condenser. It shouldn’t sound irregular and you should feel warm air blowing out the top. Allow your air conditioning to run for about 15 minutes to be sure everything is working smoothly.

Call NPI to Schedule Your Inspection

National Property Inspections inspectors can provide a full report on the condition of your HVAC system as well as the other major components of your home. Call us today for help making decisions about your most important investment – your home.

Understanding Your Home’s Phantom Load

Your Home's Phantom Load

What if we told you your home was full of phantoms? Before you go calling in the paranormal investigators, you should know what kind of ghosts we’re talking about. They don’t make the walls bleed or the bed levitate, but they can still be scary . . . for your electric bill.

What’s a phantom load?

Simply put, your home’s phantom load is a measure of the energy consumed by your appliances when they’re turned off. Most modern electronics don’t really turn off when you hit the power button. Instead, they go into “low power” or “standby” mode, which allows appliances like TVs and computers to boot up faster when you turn them on. You’ll also see phantom load on display with any appliance that features a digital clock, including your oven, microwave and DVR.

This may not seem like a big deal . . . after all, how much power can they possibly waste when they’re turned off? Turns out it’s a lot. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, modern appliances on low power mode waste somewhere in the realm of $4 billion (yep, with a B) of electricity every year, or 12 power plants’ worth.

What does my phantom load cost me?

You can generally expect around 11 percent of your monthly power bill to go towards appliances that are turned off. This comes out to around $100 a year, but it can vary a lot based on the number of power-draining appliances you have. Considering the average household has over twenty of these appliances connected at any given time, that’s a lot of energy and money wasted.

Which appliances have the worst phantom loads?

Generally speaking, anything with a remote control or external power supply is still going to draw substantial power when it’s turned off. Here’s a breakdown of the worst offenders:

  • DVR: This device is a problem because it wastes a lot of power (37 watts, or $39/year) in standby mode, but if you turn it off completely it can’t record. Considering that’s the reason it exists, there’s not much to do about this one.
  • Video game systems: If you’re a gamer, you should factor in about 24 watts of phantom load for each system you have plugged in. That’s $25 a year.
  • Laptop computers: Laptops that are plugged in and fully charged use almost 16 watts even when they’re in sleep mode ($17 a year).
  • Flat screen TV: While TVs don’t use as much power as DVRs, video game systems or laptops in standby mode, most households have more than one TV, and each one draws its own phantom load. Expect to use about six watts, or about $6.50 a year, for each TV on standby.

You can see that these numbers start to add up fast. These are just the heavy hitters, but if you think about every appliance in your home that’s always plugged in, all of those carry a phantom load, too. Everything from your cable box and Roku to Google Home and cell phone chargers cost you money every day without you realizing it.

How can I control my home’s phantom load?

If you live in a tech-heavy household, it’s not surprising to see hundreds of dollars wasted per year in phantom energy usage. Thankfully, though, it’s pretty easy to keep it in check by using a smart power strip.

Smart strips look just like a normal power strip, but have outlets that can turn on and off individually. Special circuitry in the strip detects changes in the electrical load traveling through each outlet, so when you use a remote to turn on your device, the strip senses the increase in load and turns on that outlet. Other outlets on the strip stay off until you need them, saving energy and money.

Other smart strips allow you to group devices together (like your TV, DVD player and soundbar), so when you turn on the main device, the strip supplies power to the secondary devices, too. There are even models equipped with infrared motion detectors to let your strip know to supply power when you’re in the room, and cut the power when you’re not.

National Property Inspections is Here to Save You Money

From energy audits to full inspections revealing the condition of your property, NPI helps you find ways to run your home more efficiently. Call us and book an appointment today.

5 New Ways to Save Energy

So you have your thermostat set to the perfect temperature and you’ve checked and re-checked your windows and doors for drafts. . .and you’re still cold. It may just be time to think outside the box. Here are five more ways to save energy and keep a warmer home through the coldest months of the year.

1. Move furniture away from radiators

You might be tempted to move your sofas and chairs as close to the fireplace, woodstove or registers as possible. But upholstered furniture can actually absorb heat, leaving the rest of yoether home in the cold. It’s best to move all furniture away from your home’s radiators to keep the warm air circulating freely. This goes for curtains as well when possible, though the right kind can go a long way toward keeping in warm air.

2. Trade in your curtains

Speaking of curtains. . .winter might be a good time to upgrade. Switching to curtains made from a heavier material can help keep warm air from escaping through drafty windows. Insulated, or thermal curtains are available for this express purpose in stylish colors and prints so that you won’t have to drastically change the vibe of your living area.

3. Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans

Most of us don’t even think about our ceiling fans in winter—they’re typically reserved for cooling things off and circulating air only. In warmer months, the blades of ceiling fans spin at a slight angle counterclockwise to utilize the wind chill effect. But we all know that warm air rises while cooler air sinks. Therefore, ceiling fans are actually perfect for taking the work your furnace is doing and kicking it up a notch. By switching your blades to clockwise during the colder months, cool air is drawn upwards while warm air is forced down into your living space. You’ll be able to turn down the thermostat and save a little cash by keeping all that cozy warm air low.

4. Put down extra rugs

If you have hardwood floors, you’re no stranger to icy feet. Putting down extra rugs can help provide additional insulation for any room, whether wood, tiled or carpeted. To up the warmth factor and protect against slips, simply place a grippy pad underneath.

5. Switch to flannel sheets

Did you remember to switch your cotton sheets for a flannel set? This quick, inexpensive change can make a big difference in your nighttime comfort, not to mention your heating bill. While flannel sheets had a bad rep at one time for being uncomfortably warm, the flannel-cotton blends available now help strike the perfect balance. You can even invest in a flannel duvet cover to see even more substantial savings over time.

For even more energy-saving tips, call us today. Our inspectors can evaluate your residential or commercial property to determine the efficiency of your HVAC system, insulation, window seals and other infamous energy drainers.

March 2018: Advice for the Home

Ask the Inspector

Advice for the home

How to Remove Caulk the Right Way

We’re not going to beat around the bush – removing old caulk takes time and patience . . . in spades. But today we’re sharing a few tips that will make the job much easier in the long-run. Learn More

Your Crash Course in Dryer Vent Cleaning

It’s hard to believe that your home’s dryer vent is also one of its most dangerous fire hazards. Luckily, preventing safety issues is easy as long as you keep the area free of debris. Learn More

5 New Ways to Save Energy

So you have your thermostat set to the perfect temperature and you’ve checked and re-checked your windows and doors for drafts. . .and you’re still cold. It may just be time to think outside the box. Here are five more ways to save energy and keep a warmer home through the coldest months of the year. Learn More

Expert Advice

Spend Your Gift Card on These Home Improvement Tools

If you still have a gift card from the holidays burning a hole in your wallet, we’re here to give you some ideas to spend it on. Here are some of the best home improvement tools you wouldn’t think to buy for yourself, but won’t know how you lived without. Learn More

How to Remove Static from Your Home

It’s that time of year again. . .you can’t walk across a room without feeling an irritating little zap.  Read on to learn about a few easy solutions for removing static from your home and your person. Learn More

Snapshots From The Field

Our inspectors are always coming across interesting finds in the field. Here’s one of the latest.

We’re all familiar with that age-old question, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” This case is similar, only here, we’re left wondering, “Who installed first, the electrician or the plumber?”

Probably the electrician. Water and electricity never, ever mix and installing a toilet so close to an electrical panel presents a major fire hazard. While there doesn’t appear to be a sink or shower present in the space, even the small amount of water in the toilet bowl could be dangerous for anyone called on to inspect the electrical panel (it being in such close proximity as to necessitate leaning over it), or even anyone using the toilet in the event of a leak. We would advise removing the toilet to be on the safe side.

Maintenance Matters

DIY Countertop Repair for Scratches and Scuffs

If you cook a lot, chances are your countertops have seen better days. Every scratch and chip tells a story, from that pan you dropped to the knife that slipped. The good news is that there are some simple countertop repairs you can do yourself to make your counters look like new and save some money in the process. Learn More

Your Quick Guide to Winter Gardening

While you might consider your garden a dormant part of your yard until spring, there are still plenty of ways to give it some much-needed attention in winter. How you go about winter gardening will depend largely on the climate and weather in your region, but here are a few ideas to get you started. Learn More

Monthly Trivia Question

How many house fires a year are caused by clogged dryer vents?

A. 2,900
B. 500
C. 10,000
D. 1,500

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

January 2018: Winter Energy Saving Tips

Ask The Inspector

Winter Energy Saving Tips

Q. What Does an Inspector Look for When It Comes to Heating Systems?

In the winter, utility costs rise in most regions of the United States. In fact, heating and cooling typically account for about one half of a homeowner’s total yearly utility costs! Since cold weather can tax any type of home heating system, having an NPI inspector look at yours can mean great savings. Your inspector will examine your home’s particular system and take into account its unique needs.

Identifying the energy source and delivery system used to heat your property is part of a general home inspection. Your inspector will check for a master system shut-off switch, which is important for both safety and convenience. They’ll also examine the condition of the equipment, maintenance history, the state of the filter, and the ventilation system. Understanding the status and upkeep of these components is important whether you’re buying a home or ordering a seasonal checkup.

Inspector’s Tip:

Filters on heating and cooling systems should be cleaned and checked once a month depending on manufacturer instructions. When you hold the filter up to a light, you should be able to see through it. If you can’t, then it’s time to replace or clean it.

Expert Advice

How can I determine energy loss from my home?

A. It’s normal for utility bills to rise in winter. But if you suspect your bills are overly high, then your first step should be to reach out to your utility company to see if they offer free or discounted energy audits to customers. If not, then you need to hire a certified home energy rater to evaluate your home’s energy efficiency.
By using equipment like blower doors, which measure the extent of leaks in the building envelope, and infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation, your certified home energy rater can determine the energy efficiency of your home. They’ll also look at your HVAC system to determine the age and the efficiency of the unit. To complete the survey, your home energy rater will inspect all major appliances, with some raters even going so far as to inspect light fixtures and bulb use. Your potential savings and future energy conservation consumption will make the investment of hiring a professional well worth it.

Be Advised

Reduce Hot Water Bills

Do you want to lower your water heating bills this winter? You’d be surprised at just how simple it can be to save. Here are our best tips for energy-efficient water heating.

  • Repair leaks in fixtures and install new low-flow fixtures on showerheads and faucets. When replacing dishwashers or clothes washers, purchase energy-efficient appliances with an Energy Star® label.
  • Lower the thermostat setting on your water heater and save between 3 to 5 percent for each 10-degree reduction in your water temperature. Just be sure to consult your water heater owner’s manual first.
  • Install a timer on your electric water heater that will shut it off at night when it isn’t in use. This simple move could save you an additional 5 to 12 percent in energy costs.
  • Insulate your water heater tank and hot water pipes. This helps hold heat in so that you’re not so inclined to crank up the temperature. Select specially made covers according to the type of system you have.

With these easy steps, you’ll be on your way to big savings all year round.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

  1. It is the wrong finish
  2. It is installed backwards
  3. It is blocking the window from opening

Correct Answer C.  The faucet was installed without making note of the fact that the window opens inward. The window can no longer open because the faucet blocks it. 

Maintenance Matters

What is the proper location for the thermostat in my house?

Location matters when it comes to your home’s thermostat, and it can have a significant impact on energy efficiency and utility costs.

Your thermostat should be located on an interior wall near the center of your home in a room that’s used frequently by your family. It should not be in direct sunlight or near fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources, and it should also be away from doors and windows that open and close often. Since the kitchen is usually the warmest room in a home due to its many appliances, thermostats should be placed well away from this room to give an accurate reading.

Thermostats are generally located about five feet above the floor so they can be read or adjusted easily, and they may be controlled by a gauge, a dial or a panel of buttons. Thermostats are examined for all these factors during a home inspection.

Most thermostats for gas-fired appliances also have a variable anticipator to help prevent overheating. The anticipator “fools” the heating unit into shutting down just before the room hits the set temperature so the heat remaining in the furnace finishes the job.

Whenever changing a thermostat or performing routine maintenance, it’s a good idea to make sure the settings for the anticipator are correct.

Did You Know?

Insulation Tips

Making sure you have the proper amount of insulation in your attic can save you money on energy bills. Check out these great insulation tips from

  • Consider factors such as your climate, home design and budget when selecting insulation for your home.
  • Use higher R-value insulation, such as spray foam, on exterior walls and in cathedral ceilings to get more insulation with less thickness.
  • Install attic air barriers, like wind baffles, along the entire attic eave to help ensure proper airflow from the soffit to the attic. Ventilation helps with moisture control and reducing summer cooling bills. If you have insulation on the underside of your roof, be sure to ask a qualified contractor for recommendations.
  • Be careful how close you place insulation next to a recessed light fixture. Choose IC-rated insulation to avoid a fire hazard.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and make sure you wear the proper protective gear when installing insulation.

For more information about the type and amount of insulation recommended for your area, visit

Monthly Trivia Question

Q: What is the average life expectancy of a furnace? 

A: 5-10 years
B: 10-15 years
C: 15-20 years
D: 20-25 years

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

February 2017: Attic Inspections

Ask The Inspector

Q. What Is Included With An Attic Inspection?

A roof inspection isn’t complete without an inspection of the attic. Once inside the attic, an inspector can note potential leaks discovered during the exterior inspection, comment on the general condition of the sheathing and rafters, and check the presence of insulation.

Ask The Inspector

An attic inspection is part of a National Property Inspections general home inspection. The first thing an NPI professional will check is the sheathing and rafters. The inspector will note any obvious cracks or sagging in the supporting structure and check for any insect damage, rot or water penetration.

The NPI professional will also check the insulation in the attic and make sure there is the adequate amount according to your local area’s requirements. Lastly, the inspector will check if there is any equipment in the attic and if the bathroom fan vent is installed correctly. The inspector will note areas in need of maintenance and recommend repairs.

Be Advised

Limiting Excessive Moisture In The Home

The building of tighter homes (those with less airflow through the structure) has reduced heating and cooling costs, but has also increased the potential for moisture problems. Excessive moisture can be present in any home. It can accumulate on furniture, walls, woodwork and other surfaces. Decreased air quality, mildew, mold, and even damage to a home’s internal structure can occur due to unchecked moisture issues within the house.

Be Advised

Reduce excess sources of moisture in your home by addressing the following factors:

  • Clothes dryers should always be vented to the outdoors
  • Weather stripping, upgrading windows, using caulking and many other solutions are all options in improving moisture exchange within the home
  • Running kitchen and bath exhaust fans whenever steam is produced by cooking or showering is important in improving ventilation
  • Periodically check your attic for condensation or any other signs of moisture.

There are many sources of moisture buildup but you can eliminate excess humidity within the house. From routine check-ups to a regularly scheduled inspection, there are many ways you can avoid costly issues. A qualified professional can provide you with information regarding excessive moisture problems specific to your home.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?
Snapshots From The Field

  1. The paint on the house is chipped
  2. The tree is too close to the house
  3. The window is too low to the ground

Correct Answer B. The tree in the picture is too close to the house, which could cause structural problems to the home and also could be dangerous if the tree falls.

Noteworthy News

Cut Carbon Dioxide Use

Excess amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) are a concern for many Americans. Lessening your CO2 footprint is achievable by any homeowner with some small changes within the home.

Noteworthy News

Here are some tips on how to eliminate your CO2 waste up to 142 pounds per week:

  • Wash clothes in cold water instead of hot
  • Use a drying rack
  • Caulk and weather-strip your home.
  • Only run the dishwasher when it’s full
  • Clean off the top of your refrigerator as those items can prevent your fridge from effectively venting heat
  • Insulate your water heater and turn the temperature down
  • Turn off your TV and DVD player after you shut them down. Electronics consumer energy even when they are in “standby” mode.

Maintenance Matters

Keeping dishwashers humming

The motorized dishwasher is 114 years old. The first motor-powered version was unveiled at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. An electric model followed in 1908. Silverware baskets were added to the door in 1969.


Today, dishwashers have self-cleaning features, hard-food disposers, china-cleaning modes and energy-saving settings. They appeared in around 50 percent of United States homes in 2001, according to Energy Information Administration statistics.

Many dishwashers, especially older versions, have a filter near the bottom of the machine meant to keep food particles off the motor. Clean as needed according to your maintenance guide.

Water is sprayed onto dirty dishes through small holes on the spray arms. These holes can become clogged with food and other particles. To clean, remove the arms using maintenance guide instructions, and use small, stiff wire to clear the holes. Dip the arms in warm white vinegar to remove calcium deposits.

To remove odors from a dishwasher that hasn’t been operated in a week or more, place a cup of white vinegar in a small container on both the top and bottom racks. Run this through one normal cycle.

The modern dishwasher isn’t just a time saver, it can decrease water usage compared to washing dishes by hand. And when it’s ran completely full it’s relatively energy efficient. So kick up your feet and let your dishwasher do all the work.

Did You Know?

Ways To Save Energy

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, artificial lighting consumes nearly 15 percent of a household’s energy use. By reducing your lighting energy use and selecting more efficient lighting sources, you can reduce lighting energy use in your home by 50 to 75 percent.

Install Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) where lights are on for long periods, such as the kitchen, family room and outdoors. CFLs use 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs.

Turn lights off when they are not in use

Dirt reduces light levels, so keep your lamps and fixtures clean

Install timers that automatically turn lights off after a certain period of time

Use natural daylight whenever possible

Install dimmers so you can change light levels in your room to match your needs

Decreasing the amount of energy used within your home takes some small adjustments to your daily lighting habits. See if any of these tips can work for you, and watch your electricity bill go down with just a few changes.

Monthly Trivia Question

Into what category do 44% of home buying households fall?

  1. Married couples with dependents
  2. Second time home owners
  3. Newlyweds
  4. Vacation homebuyers

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

A close look at your home systems can improve energy savings. Several options for evaluating your home’s energy efficiency are available.

Consumers who improve their home’s energy efficiency can reap the benefits of energy savings. Several different inspection services are available to help homeowners pinpoint areas of potential savings.

The U.S. federal government offers an online do-it-yourself auditing tool for consumers. Go to follow the instructions to receive a personalized energy savings report for your home. Collecting the information for the audit can take some time. If you had a general home inspection when you purchased your home, find it. The home inspection report contains much of the information needed to complete the audit.

Certified Home Energy Raters perform an on-site inspection that covers items such as insulation, windows, construction, ducts, heating and cooling equipment, water heaters, lighting, appliances, and thermostats. Blower door tests determine areas of leakage within the home “envelope.”

Measurements and findings are entered into the software, and the homeowner receives a report detailing the current energy rating, recommended improvements and energy savings predictions possible with different improvements. These reports may help the homeowner in securing an energy-efficient mortgage through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA and VA that includes the cost of energy efficient improvements. New-home builders wanting to qualify for certain tax advantages are required to use raters to check the energy efficiency levels of recent construction.

Raters must meet certain education requirements prior to taking a final exam and then continue to meet education and quality assurance standards set by the Residential Energy Services Network in order to maintain their certification.

Infrared camera inspections are another way to analyze some areas of energy loss in the home. Trained infrared inspectors can use the cameras to locate areas of missing insulation, electrical hot spots and water intrusion.

Home Tune-Ups, a division of CMC Energy Services, offers another version of an energy audit. Tune-Up inspectors perform a visual inspection and provide their clients with a cost and savings report for improvements. The Tune-Up includes access to a database of contractors. CMC trains its own inspectors and offers its own software program for determining energy savings.

Individual states or utilities may also offer weatherization programs or energy audits. Wisconsin is one such state, but these programs very widely from state to state. For more information, try contacting your local utility, state energy office, or sometimes health and human services, which may administer some of the energy reduction program monies.

Information about energy efficiency legislation, programs and standards is also broken down state by state on a new website at and sponsored by the Alliance to Save Energy.