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Ask the Experts: What to Expect from a Harrisons Energy In-Home Energy Audit

One of the standout reasons for the Harrisons Energy success story is our pledge to stand by our customers every step of the way, from initial phone call to completing paperwork, right through to the installation of solar systems, ventilation, insulation and heat pumps.

The key ingredient to this pledge is our free in-home energy consultation at which our regional energy experts can gauge your household needs and plan the perfect system to help save you money and provide a healthy home. We won’t specify something you don’t need.

But what’s involved in this home audit? What do you need to do to prepare and what will you learn?

We spoke to one of our Auckland Harrisons Energy franchisees Dan Brebner about what you can expect.

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Does it matter whether people know what they are looking for before they contact Harrisons to arrange an in-home consultation?

It depends. Usually, when people ring in to our call centre they have a good idea of what they are after. There is so much information on the website to help them understand what Harrisons has to offer that many already know how a solar system, ventilation, insulation or a heat pump can help them. But as well as checking their homes for the practicalities around installing these systems, there’s still a lot we can teach them about how they will work. That said, if they say they want a solar system and then when I visit, I see they have terrible “crying windows”, then I’m always going to be able to suggest they look at ventilation as well. I always tell them that, in terms of a healthy home, putting insulation and ventilation in first is the priority and then a heat pump so you are creating a warm home that’s easier and more cost-effective to heat.

So if someone calls you about installing a solar system, where does your conversation start when you arrive?

When considering solar there are three main factors to consider: roof space, budget and use of power. My first question is usually to ask them what they already know about solar power and then show a presentation that covers everything they need to know all described in layman’s terms.

The important parts are:

  • How it works,
  • How it gets power from the roof to the home,
  • How to utilise that power,
  • Explaining the difference in our products – because there are a lot of products out there to choose from and how our product can benefit over others.
  • Explaining what we offer and why we offer it sets us apart because we’re all business owners, not commission sales people.

When you explain how best to utilise solar generated power, how much do you stress the need for them to change habits?

If they are choosing to not put a battery in right away, it’s really important to try to re-educate people about using power during the day when their solar system is generating free power. We look at the power bill over the last year and see what the household has used and then aim for between 35% and 50% savings, because that’s what you can usually achieve during the day without a battery. It’s good at this point to see if the household has electric hot water because there’s big savings to be made there. We do a lot of education at these meetings because it is very important – I always say ‘I can get you the best solar system in the world but if you don’t use the solar power, then there’s no point’. A lot of people will think they can just put the panels on the roof and they’re going to almost eliminate their grid power bill but it doesn’t work like that. What counts is how you use your power for free: things like putting dishwashers on timers and delayed starts and putting power diverters or timers on hot water cylinders. Getting solar is very much a habit shift until you get to battery storage. There’s a lot of interest in solar batteries but there is still the need for a lot more education on the subject – the best way to explain it is that a solar system will generate power during the day when the sun is out and so the house uses what it needs then, after which you either divert the excess to a battery or the grid.

How easy is it to explain potential savings to power bills?

Whilst solar savings are all about usage and so unique to each home, with our other products we can give some actual savings data. Although everyone uses their heating differently, we can show that whereas a normal heater will use 1kW and generate 1kW, a heat pump will use 1kW of power and gen up to 5kW of heat. With ventilation it is also easy to explain how a heating bill could at the most halve once a home has been dried because it’s a lot easier to heat and costs just 20c a day to run. With insulation, you could lose 40% of heat through ceiling and another 15% through the floor so if you do them together you’re twice as well off heating-wise than you were before.

How should people prepare for an energy consultation?

They should have power bills ready so we can see usage and look at where to make savings. If the house is relatively new then it helps to have roofing plans too. It always helps to have done some research yourself to get a feel for your expectations. But not much else is required, we’ll do the rest and help explain what we’re doing and how we can help.

After sitting down and explaining the products, what do you need to see and check before moving ahead with an order?

For solar it’s important to walk around the house, look at the roof, switchboard and meter box and plan where panels would go and which direction they’d face. North is always best, but we’d check for any shading or, for example, if the household is home in the afternoon, you’d look at putting more on the western face to get more sunlight then.

For heat pumps we check that there’s an external wall, whether there’s a ceiling cavity or underfloor space and how far the product would be from the switchboard.

For ventilation we have to know if there is enough room to install the unit in the ceiling, whether the ceiling is made of gib or tiled and, if the property is two storeys, how the system will work.

For insulation, we must check anything that can affect it such as downlights, heat lamps or un-ducted fans. And we’ll get under the floor to check access.

How long should people expect a consultation to last?

For ventilation and insulation it should be 45 minutes to an hour, heat pumps are between 30 and 45 minutes and solar consultations can take an hour to an hour and a half.

If you’re keen to have one of our experts carry out a free, in-home energy audit and consultation contact us on 0800 00 33 54 or check out your nearest Harrisons Energy franchisee via the website and we’ll arrange to visit at a time that suits you.