Starting an Energy Audit Business

By Eric Hammer

Have you ever thought about starting an energy audit business? Put simply, what you would do is to walk around someone's home or office and help them figure out where they can save money.

You'll point out which appliances are not efficient and should be replaced with new ones (You'll also need to be able to explain in dollars and cents exactly how long a new appliance will take to pay for itself.). You can also suggest energy saving options, such as installing solar panels on the roof of a building, using different colors of paint to absorb or repel energy (for example, if you were to paint your roof white, it will reflect the sun more, typically resulting in lower air conditioning costs) and of course, you can suggest tried and true methods for saving money, such as improving the insulation on windows and doors.

As the owner of an energy audit business, you'll also ultimately be in a position to do some good for the planet and for your fellow human being. After all, by helping people to save on energy, you're doing two great things - you're helping someone save money, which is always welcome and you're helping to save the planet by reducing the carbon footprint of your clients. Therefore, this job is a great one for those who want to do something positive with their lives.

How Much Can You Make?

Typically, energy auditors charge around $400-$500 for an audit of a person's home and around $500-$600 for a small business. Of course, the amounts you charge can go much higher if you happen to be working on a larger space.

In all cases, the money is almost pure profit since there are few disposable items involved. The equipment necessary, such as thermal cameras and handheld computers are long term investments rather than short term investments so, while your startup costs may be higher, most of the money you earn (aside from paying taxes and insurance) tends to be yours to keep.

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Consider working with city and state authorities as well as private business. Often, the local power company will have energy auditors on staff rather than contracting out with an external energy audit business so you may be able to land a regular, steady job working with such companies.

In all cases, remember that this is a service business. People need to be able to trust you and therefore, your reputation will be everything. If you end up making costly recommendations which don't actually help at all, you'll quickly find yourself out of business.

Finally, while you can make extra money by referring your clients to contractors who can install the material they need and then taking a commission, you need to be very careful to disclose this up front so that your customers know they can trust you. Nothing looks more suspicious to a customer if they happen to find out after the fact that you got a commission without their knowledge. The way this can be spun effectively is to arrange for a discount from the contracts in question, which you share with your clients (i.e. if the contractor can offer your clients a 15% discount, you might take 5% and explain to your clients that you have arrangements with this place to offer a 10% discount. Just be sure to make clear that you get a commission as well and don't pressure your clients to sign with the company you recommend).

Qualifications / Requirements

While state laws vary on the requirements for becoming an energy auditor, typically you should expect to need a master degree in engineering so that you can fully understand all the inner workings of doing a job like this. You'll also want to pass an exam from one of the national organizations that certify energy auditors.

First Steps

Start by reading about how energy audits are done. Take some books out of the library and read up on what you can do at home to save energy. Then, take an honest assessment of your own home and the homes of some friends and relatives. Once you have done that and feel like you would like to do this for a living, get certified officially as an energy auditor (and if you don't yet have your degree, be sure to apply to college).

Resources

Check out these helpful resources to find out more about how to start and energy audit business:

WiseGeek: How to Become and Energy Auditor - a bit brief, but it provides a good overview of what you'll need to do in order to get started in this business.

Building Science Tech: How to Become an Energy Auditor - a little more comprehensive than the site above, though they tend to focus on "tips" rather than the over-all process.

Energy Audit Institute - A school to learn how to become an energy auditor so you can start your energy audit business.


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