Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits

One of the first steps to making your home more efficient involves understanding how it uses energy. Just as a doctor has to do a thorough examination of a patient before writing a subscription, your home will need a good inspection before most inefficiencies can be identified and corrected.

You can easily conduct a basic home energy audit with a simple but diligent walk-through. When auditing your home, keep a checklist of areas you have inspected and problems you find. Full lists are available online—Touchstone Energy Cooperatives® Home Energy Saver (at www.touchstoneenergysavers.com) and the Alliance to Save Energy Home Energy Checkup (search for it at www.ase.org) are both useful—and most trouble spots can be found in a few key areas.

Locating Air Leaks

First, make a list of obvious air leaks (drafts). The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5 percent to 30 percent per year, with a much more comfortable residence the result. Check for indoor air leaks, such as gaps along a baseboard or edge of the flooring and at junctures of walls and ceiling.

Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. If you can rattle them, movement means possible air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window has a leak; you can usually seal these through caulking or weather stripping.

On the outside, inspect all areas where two different building materials meet, including all exterior corners, siding and chimney junctures, and areas where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding join. You should plug and caulk any holes or penetrations for faucets, pipes, electric outlets, and wiring.

Also, look for cracks and holes in the mortar, foundation, and siding, and seal them with the appropriate material. Check the exterior caulking around doors and windows, and see whether exterior storm doors and primary doors seal tightly.

When sealing any home, be aware of indoor air pollution and appliance “backdrafts.” Backdrafting occurs when various appliances that burn fuels and exhaust fans in the home compete for air. An exhaust fan may pull combustion gases back into the living space. This can obviously create a very dangerous and unhealthy situation.

Insulation

Heat loss through the ceiling and walls in your home could be very large if  insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum. When your house was built, the builder likely installed the amount of insulation recommended (if any) at that time. Given today’s energy prices (and future prices that will probably be higher), your insulation might be inadequate, especially if you have an older home. Online energy audits will provide more details on checking insulation levels in the attic, walls, and basement.

Heating/Cooling Equipment

Inspect heating and cooling equipment annually, or as recommended by the manufacturer. If you have a forced-air furnace, check filters and replace them as needed. Generally, you should change them about once every month or two, especially during periods of high use. Have a professional check and clean your equipment once a year.

Lighting

On average, lighting accounts for about 10 percent of a home’s electric bill. Examine the wattage size of the lightbulbs in your house. You may have 100-watt (or larger) bulbs where 60 or 75 watts would do. You should also consider compact fluorescent lightbulbs for areas where lights are left on for hours at a time.

More information on both do-it-yourself and professional energy audits can be found at www.energysavers.gov.

Article courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

 

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