Do it yourself energy audit
If you’re thinking about making energy-efficient changes to your home, it can be tough to gauge exactly how much money and what resources you’re actually saving.
A home energy audit, however, can assess your home’s energy consumption and evaluate what else can be done to reach your highest green potential. Audits pinpoint exactly where you’re losing energy, and measure the efficiency of your home’s HVAC systems. You can hire a professional auditor or do your own walk-through to assess problem areas.
Here is a beginner’s checklist to follow for home energy audits:
- Make a list of obvious drafts. Reducing air leaks can save up to 30 percent per year.
- Check the baseboards, flooring edges, wall junctures, electrical outlets, window frames, doors, attic hatches, fireplaces and wall/window-mounted air conditioners. Plug and caulk holes in pipes and seal cracks.
- Check insulation levels which, if too low, can promote heat loss through ceilings and walls. Check the attic hatch to see if it is as insulated as the attic. Check pipe, ductwork and chimney seals. Check for vapor barriers under the insulation, which reduce water vapor passing through the ceiling. Make sure attic vents are not blocked by insulation. For walls, turn off the circuit breaker and make sure there is no electricity running through the outlets before probing. Any resistance means there is insulation.
- Evaluate HVAC equipment annually. Check and clean filters, or replace as necessary. Update systems older than 10 years old. Insulate pipes or ducts that travel through unheated spaces, such as unfinished basements or attics.
- Assess the wattage on your light bulbs and use smaller-watt bulbs if possible. Consider compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED bulbs. Check – and change – your behavior. For example, power down when you’re not home and turn the thermostat down or off. Log on to the ENERGY STAR website to use its Home Energy Yardstick which compares your home’s energy efficiency to similar homes throughout the country and provides recommendations for improvements. It requires your zip code, age, square footage and number of occupants.
- Professional energy audits examine every room and past utility bills. They usually entail a blower door test, thermographic scan and an air infiltration measurement technique. Sometimes local utility offices offer free or discounted energy audits to customers.
- Need some help working through the checklist? Use this home energy worksheet as a tool to help you calculate the efficiency of your home’s systems
Sources: energysavers.gov; energystar.gov; hes.lbl.gov/consumer/