A do-it-yourself energy audit is something easy you can do yourself. You’ll be saving energy and money by performing a few easy checks. When you perform an energy audit make sure to keep a checklist of areas you have inspected and any problems you have found. This list will help you to prioritize any tasks or upgrades you may be considering.
The main areas of an audit involve evaluating and upkeep of your heating and cooling system, evaluating your home’s current lighting, locating air leaks, and checking insulation.
Heating & Cooling Equipment – regular maintenance is key!
- Inspect your heating & cooling equipment bi-annually. Once in the spring, before you need your air conditioning, and once in the fall, before you turn on your heater for the winter. Contact a service technician.
- In a forced-air furnace, check your filters and replace them every month or two. They will need to be changed more frequently during times of high usage.
- If you have a unit that is more than 15 years old, you should consider replacing your system with a newer, energy efficient unit. This can greatly reduce your energy consumption.
- Check ductwork for dirt streaks, especially near the seams. This indicates air leaks that should be sealed. Contact a professional technician.
Insulate any ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces.
Lighting – energy for lighting accounts for about 10% of your electric bill.
- Examine the wattage and size of light bulbs in your house. You may have 100-watt (or larger) bulbs where 60 or 75 watts would suffice.
- Consider replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs in areas where lights are on for hours at a time.
Check to see if your electric utility company offers any rebates or incentives for purchasing energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
Locating Inside Air Leaks – First make a list of potential air leaks. You can potentially save 5-30% per year by reducing drafts in your home, and your home will be more comfortable after!
- Gaps along baseboards
- Edge of flooring
- Junctures of the walls and ceilings
- Electrical outlets
- Switch plates
- Window frames
- Weather stripping around doors
- Fireplace dampers
- Attic hatches
- Wall- and window-mounted air conditioners
- Gaps around pipes and wires
Windows and doors
If you have difficulty locating leaks, you can conduct a “basic building pressurization test”. First, close all exterior doors, windows and fireplace flues. Make sure to turn off any combustion appliances; this would include gas burning furnaces and water heaters. Turn on all exhaust fans (located in kitchen and bathrooms) or use a large window fan to suck the air out of the rooms. This will increase the infiltration of air through crack and leaks, making them easier to detect. You can use an incense stick whereby the moving air will cause the smoke to waver or a damp hand which will make any drafts feel cool on your hand.
Locating Outside Air Leaks – Inspect all areas where two different building materials meet. Plug or caulk holes or penetrations for faucets, pipes, electric outlets and wiring. Seal cracks and holes in mortar, foundation and siding.
- All exterior corners
- Where siding and chimneys meet
- Areas where the foundation and bottom of exterior brick and siding meet
Exterior windows and doors
Insulation – Heat loss through the ceiling and walls of your home can be very large if the insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum.
- Attic hatch – make sure it is as insulated as rest of attic and is weather-stripped and closed tightly.
- Attic – make sure opening for items like pipes, ductwork, and chimneys are sealed.
- Vapor Barrier – reduces the amount of water vapor that can pass through the ceiling. If one doesn’t exist you may consider painting the interior ceilings with vapor barrier paint.
- Wall insulation – check an outlet on an exterior wall. Make sure the circuit breaker to the outlet is turned off. Determine the plug is not “hot” by plugging in a lamp or radio. Once this outlet is not getting any electricity, remove the cover plate from the outlet and gently probe into the wall with a screwdriver. If you get resistance you have insulation there.
Water heater, hot water pipes and furnace ducts – should all be insulated.
Here is a helpful site when you are conducting your audit: