Home Energy Audit
By Dave Rongey
Summary: An energy audit will show you which areas of your home use the most energy and help you decide the most effective way to reduce energy costs.
Track Your Energy Costs with a Home Energy Audit
You can conduct a simple audit yourself, contact your local utility, or call an independent energy auditor for a more comprehensive examination.
Check your home's insulation levels, and check for open fireplace dampers. Look for holes or cracks around doors, light and plumbing fixtures, and other places where air may leak into or out of your home.
Make sure your appliances and heating and cooling systems are properly maintained, and study your family's lighting needs and use patterns, paying special attention to high-use areas.
Check out Your Home's Energy Use for more tips.
Your Home's Energy Use
The first step to taking a whole-house energy efficiency approach is to find out which parts of your house use the most energy. A home energy audit will pinpoint those areas and suggest the most effective measures for cutting your energy costs. You can conduct a simple home energy audit yourself, you can contact your local utility, or you can call an independent energy auditor for a more comprehensive examination. For more information about home energy audits, including free tools and calculators, visit the Consumer's Guide or the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) consumer page.
Heat Loss from a House
A picture is worth a thousand words, and .in this case, lost heating dollars. This thermal photograph shows heat leaking from a house during those expensive winter heating months. The white, yellow, and red colors show heat escaping. The red represents the area of the greatest heat loss.
Energy Auditing Tips
- Check the insulation levels in your attic, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors, and crawl spaces. Visit the Consumer's Guide for instructions on checking your insulation levels.
- Check for holes or cracks around your walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that can leak air into or out of your home.
- Check for open fireplace dampers.
- Make sure your appliances and heating and cooling systems are properly maintained. Check your owner's manuals for the recommended maintenance.
- Study your family's lighting needs and use patterns, paying special attention to high-use areas such as the living room, kitchen, and outside lighting. Look for ways to use lighting controls—like occupancy sensors, dimmers, or timers—to reduce lighting energy use, and replace standard (also called incandescent) light bulbs and fixtures with compact or standard fluorescent lamps.
Formulating Your Plan
After you have identified where your home is losing energy, assign priorities by asking yourself a few important questions:
- How much money do you spend on energy?
- Where are your greatest energy losses?
- How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy cost savings?
- Do the energy saving measures provide additional benefits that are important to you (for example, increased comfort from installing double-paned, efficient windows)?
- How long do you plan to own your current home?
- Can you do the job yourself or will you need to hire a contractor?
- What is your budget and how much time do you have to spend on maintenance and repair?
Once you assign priorities to your energy needs, you can form a whole house efficiency plan. Your plan will provide you with a strategy for making smart purchases and home improvements that maximize energy efficiency and save the most money. Another option is to get the advice of a professional. Many utilities conduct energy audits for free or for a small charge. For a fee, a professional contractor will analyze how well your home's energy systems work together and compare the analysis to your utility bills. He or she will use a variety of equipment such as blower doors, infrared cameras, and surface thermometers to find leaks and drafts. After gathering information about your home, the contractor or auditor will give you a list of recommendations for cost-effective energy improvements and enhanced comfort and safety. A good contractor will also calculate the return on your investment in high-efficiency equipment compared with standard equipment.
Tips for Finding a Contractor
- Ask neighbors and friends for recommendations
- Look in the Yellow Pages
- Focus on local companies
- Look for licensed, insured contractors
- Get three bids with details in writing
- Ask about previous experience
- Check references
- Check with the Better Business Bureau
You Can Avoid Costly Mistakes!
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