Home Energy Audits
The first step in making your home more efficient is to take a closer look at just how much energy you are using and where. A home energy audit can help you assess your home's energy use and understand what measures you can take to conserve it.
You can do it yourself, or have one done by a professional. Either way, an energy audit is a great tool that can help you save loads of money and energy at home.
DIY Home Energy Audits
It is not difficult to perform your own home energy audit. And the knowledge you will gain from knowing how your home uses energy will be priceless down the road.
To get started, gather up your last 12 months of utility bills, and take note of when you use the most and least energy throughout the year. Check out Energy Star's Home Energy Yardstick to compare your home's energy efficiency to similar homes across the country.
If you don't have a copy of your bills for the last year, call your utility company and ask for a 12-month summary.
Now take a look around your home to see where your energy is going. Look for leaks around electrical outlets, switch plates, window frames, base-boards, weather stripping, pipes, doors, fireplace dampers, attic hatches, and wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.
Check out your home's level of insulation to be sure it meets at least the minimum standard building requirements. Inspect your heating and cooling equipment to make sure that vents and filters are cleaned properly. Next, assess how much energy you are using in the form of lighting, computers, and electrical appliances.
How can I tell if my home has an energy leak?
On a windy day, take a lightweight piece of yarn or ribbon and test your windows and doorjambs for leaks. Hold the ribbon near the windowsills or doorjamb. If it is fluttering, you have a leak.
The Home Energy Saver, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, can help you as you complete an at-home energy audit. This site helps users calculate energy costs, research conservation, and calculate future savings.
Hiring a Professional
For a detailed look at your home's energy use, you may want to contact a professional home energy auditor. A professional auditor will inspect your home and use a variety of techniques and equipment to evaluate its energy efficiency. The audit will look at your existing utility bills and assess the efficiency of your home's heating and cooling systems, lighting, insulation, appliances, and windows.
Thorough audits often use equipment such as blower doors, which measure the extent of leaks in the building envelope, and infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation.
Contact your utility company to see if they offer free or discounted energy audits to customers. If not, you can hire a home energy professional to evaluate your home's energy efficiency. Check out Energy Star's Home Partner Locator or RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network) to find a certified home energy auditor in your area. In California, contact CHEERS (California Home Energy Rating Services).