Conducting your own Home Energy Audit can easily be done. It’s a great way to assess where your home is losing energy, as well as prioritize potential areas to upgrade for increased energy efficiencies. And, improved energy efficiency can contribute to lower bills, increased comfort, lower utility rates and environmental conservation.
Focus your home energy audit on the items below for the greatest return:
Have your equipment inspected and cleaned annually. If you have a forced-air system, check your filters and replace them as needed. General rule-of-thumb is once every month or two, especially during periods of high usage.
If a unit is more than 10-12 years old, consider replacing with a newer, energy efficient unit. A new unit greatly reduces energy consumption (especially if existing equipment is in poor condition). According to Energy Star, if your air conditioner is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an Energy Star approved system can cut your cooling costs by as much as 30%.
Also, check ductwork for dirt streaks, especially near seams. These indicate air leaks and should be sealed with duct mastic. Insulate any ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE), by reducing drafts in your home you can see anywhere from 5% to 30% per year in energy savings. The below list from the DOE highlights areas for potential air leaks around your home:
- Electrical outlets
- Switch plates
- Junctures of walls and ceiling
- Weather stripping around doors
- Window frames and caulking around windows
- Gaps around pipes and wires
- Foundation seals
- Fireplace dampers
- Attic hatches
- Mail slots
- Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners
- All exterior corners
- Where siding and chimneys meet
- Areas where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet
Are you having difficulties detecting leaks, go to energy.gov/energysaver/energy-saver, for details on conducting a basic building pressurization test.
Heat loss through your ceiling and walls can be very large if the insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum. “Given today’s energy prices (and future prices that will probably be higher), the level of insulation might be inadequate, especially if you have an older home,” states the DOE.
- Attic hatch: Make sure the hatch is at least as heavily insulated as the rest of the attic, is weather stripped, and closes tightly.
- Attic: Check to make sure openings for items such as pipes, ductwork and chimneys are sealed. Cover the entire attic floor with at least the current recommended amount of insulation.
- Vapor Barrier: A vapor barrier should be present under the attic insulation. Without this barrier, moisture can reduce the effectiveness of insulation and promote structural damage.
- Attic vents: Check to make sure these are not blocked by insulation.
- Electrical boxes: Seal any electrical boxes in the ceiling with flexible caulk.
- Wall insulation: This is harder to check and may require a thermographic inspection.
- Water heater, hot water pipes and furnace ducts can also be insulated.
According to the DOE, lighting accounts for about 10% of your electric bill. Examine the wattage size of light bulbs in your house. You may have 100-watt (or larger) bulbs where 60 or 75 watts would do. Compact fluorescent bulbs are about 3 to 4 times more efficient than incandescent bulbs. By switching from incandescent lighting to compact fluorescent lighting the average consumer can save 50 to 80 in energy costs without any loss in lighting quality. And the average compact fluorescent bulb lasts 8 to 10 times longer than any incandescent bulb.
More questions? Contact us on our Ask An Expert webpage.