Energy prices may fluctuate from time to time, making it difficult for homeowners to estimate their monthly bills. However, there are a few actions individuals can take to keep their costs low without sacrificing efficiency. More owners conduct energy audits after initially buying a home, but it’s important to keep up on these examinations over time.

Some homeowners may conduct energy checks themselves, while others turn to professionals. Before making the decision, it’s important to understand what these audits do and whether hiring a professional is necessary.

Audits Detect Home Vulnerabilities

An energy audit can highlight areas of the home that are prone to leaks, holes and cracks which could potentially result in higher energy bills. Most of these areas are around doors and windows and allow heat and cool air to escape, but they can appear in other locations as well. Many of these are also quick fixes, and homeowners can patch them up by caulking problem areas, plugging leaks or purchasing new window treatments and doors. In other cases, new insulation in attics and walls can also keep heat and air locked in a home.

Unfortunately, some leaks and cracks are not as easy to detect as others, which prompts many homeowners to hire a professional auditor. Most professional audits cost between $300 and $500.

“Homeowners can check for infiltrations around windows, doors and electric outlets and they can go and buy kits to fill those areas,” Alliance to Save Energy executive vice president Brian Castelli told Fox Business. “But some things you aren’t going to be able to see without tools.”

Prepare for an Auditor

Professional energy auditors rely on several tools to make their determinations, including a blower door, infrared camera and duct blower, according to Fox Business.

Most energy audits last between two and four hours, depending on the size of the home, and most professionals will interview homeowners about their trouble spots. After the audit has been completed, homeowners will get a list of problem areas, if any, and recommendations on how to correct them.

If homeowners plan to make alterations to their homes, such as putting in new window treatments, they should consider purchasing “green” features that may offer them more durability and possible tax credits.