If you find yourself wishing your home was a little warmer during the winter or a little cooler in the summer, do your own home energy audit to look for ways to stay more comfortable and save money on your utility bills.
For a do-it-yourself energy audit, grab a pen and notepad and take a tour of your home. Look for places where warm air leaks out or cold air leaks in. Reducing drafts could save 10 to 20 percent on energy use.
Start with obvious places like around doors and windows. Also, check along baseboards and at the junctures of walls and ceilings. Hold your hand over electric outlets, switches and plumbing fixtures to see if you can feel a draft. If you’ve got a fireplace, make sure the damper closes tight. The U.S. Energy Department offers these other tips to find air leaks around the house.
Once you find leaks, plug and caulk holes or places where faucets, pipes, electric outlets and wiring go through walls. Look for cracks and holes in mortar, foundation and siding, and look for leaks around windows and doors. Seal them with caulk or weather stripping.
The next step in your audit is to check insulation. If you can, get into the attic to see whether there’s insulation and how much. While you’re in there, also check to see if there’s some type of vapor barrier, usually a plastic or foil-coated sheet, underneath the insulation.
In older homes, checking your walls for insulation is a little trickier, unless you’ve got X-ray vision. One way to check is to look behind electrical outlets. Make sure the power is off, then remove the outlet cover plate. Insert a stick or screwdriver behind the outlet. If there’s some resistance, you probably have insulation. You can also make a small hole in an inconspicuous place – behind a couch along an outside wall, for example – to look for insulation.
During your audit, look at your furnace, water heater and air conditioner. Change filters when appropriate and look for signs of wear. If your furnace is 10 years old or older, you may want to think about replacing it. Call a Home Comfort Technician to give you thorough check of your system including a video inspection of your heat exchanger, the device that holds the fire in your furnace. At Home Comfort Experts, we offer you choices and explain the differences between a repair and a complete replacement.
Take the quiz: Repair or Replace
While you’re looking around, make sure to check lamps and light fixtures. Energy for lighting accounts for about 10 percent of your electric bill, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Look for ways to use sensors, dimmers and timers to reduce lighting use.
Finally, review your appliance and electronics use. If you can, unplug electronic devices when you’re not using them to reduce “phantom” energy use. Some devices, like computers, use small amounts of electricity even when they are off or in sleep mode.
Depending on what you find in your do-it-yourself audit, you may want to call a professional who can use special equipment to perform a more thorough energy audit.