The approach of winter will intensify demand for home energy audits, and “auditor training programs are popping up like tents in a gold rush,” says Peter Troast, founder of Energy Circle, an online source of information about home energy issues. “It’s sort of a wild west right now.”

That’s where remodelers’ questions begin. Do you add home energy audits to your list of services? Perform the audits in-house, using your own staff, or partner with a third-party specialist? How much to charge for the audits? How to ensure that your staff and trade partners can competently and profitably tackle the laundry list of remediations that audits are likely to suggest?

Troast and others say that remodelers that are sorting through these questions should be sure that they can do or at least oversee the actual retrofit work. And that, despite the abundance of audit training opportunities, finding skilled hands-on tradespeople to do the work isn’t always easy.

“There is NO MONEY in just testing,” says self-proclaimed “air-sealing zealot” Mark Scott of Mark IV Builders, Bethesda, Md., who is certified as a Building Analyst by the Building Performance Institute. He charges $350 for an audit (“not enough,” he says) and says about a third of clients go on to do the work – a fraction that he expects to rise as temperatures dip.

Kyle T. Webster

Other remodelers venturing into the audit field charge in the range of $250 to $850. Because investing in testing equipment such as blower doors and infrared cameras can cost thousands of dollars, many begin by partnering with specialized auditors.

Remodeler Greg Rittler of Kanon Group, of Towson, Md., typically works with Greenspring Energy and Terra Logos to do the audits. He consider the $450 he charges homeowners “a loss leader but it develops the relationship.”

In the meantime, there may be no better time for remodelers to establish their toeholds in the home energy arena, especially given that the much-discussed energy bill working its way through Congress has a provision that is performance-based: Homeowners who get an energy audit and then complete some or all of the recommended work will be reimbursed up to 50% of the cost depending on how much of a reduction in energy usage the retro work achieved.

—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.

Some excellent resources:

Guide to Energy Audit Certification (Energy Circle) (includes a state-by-state listing!)

2009 Training Guide for Home Performance Professionals (Home Energy Magazine)

Additional information on home energy audits from:

U.S. Department of Energy

Energy Star

See also this blog on Remodeling Online featuring Peter Troast and Energy Circle