How to Conduct Your Own Home Energy Audit

An Easy-to-Follow Home Energy Assessment Checklist

Conducting your own home energy audit, sometimes called a home energy assessment, is an easy way to make your family's monthly budget more productive. As Benjamin Franklin said, a penny saved is a penny earned, and in this case it's more likely that you'll save dollars, not cents. So why not follow the checklist below and effectively give yourself a raise in income, since you'll be stretching your current income just a little further?

Quick and Easy Tips that Add Up Fast

Turn off lights when you leave the room. Just like mom used to say, it really does matter.

Replace the bulbs in your most frequently used lights with energy-saving options. With about 1/3 the energy required compared to a traditional incandescent bulb and a 10x greater lifespan, compact fluorescent light (CFL) replacements can result in savings during their total usage of up to $30 each.

Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees. This will save money and prevent scalding risks for children and the elderly or infirm. Use a water heater insulation blanket if your unit is more than 10 years old. Use foam pipe insulation around the exposed portion of the water heater's cold and hot water pipes. When it's time to replace, consider an on-demand tankless water heater for even more energy and cost savings. 

Turn off and unplug appliances and electronics when not in use. The stand-by power draw, also called "phantom load," from these items accounts for up to 75% of their energy costs. The use of power strips can make the job easier. 

Partially dry your clothes with your dryer and hang them to finish drying. If you can, use an indoor or outdoor clothes line, and watch the savings add up!

Bigger and Better--It Takes More to Save More

Finding and reducing air leaks and drafts--

According to energy specialists, ridding your home of air leaks can result in an annual savings of 5-30% and likely a more comfortable environment in your home.  Shine a flashlight around common draft areas like windows and doors at night while another person checks from the outside for any visible rays of light. Where light escapes to the outside, air does also.

On a windy day, turn off your HVAC system and shut all doors and windows. Turn on all exhaust fans, your stove vent, and your dryer on a no-heat setting, creating a negative air pressure situation. Light an incense stick and pass it along all areas where air leaks can occur. Where any smoke movement is detected, either sucked outward or blown inward, you have an air leak.

Places to check for air leaks:

*Completely around all doors and windows, even those with weather stripping and caulking

*Electrical outlets, light switches, and phone jacks

*Light fixtures, especially recessed lighting

*Along crown molding and baseboards

*Joints where different types of construction come together, like brick chimneys and walls

While not all of the above have direct access to outside air, the goal is to detect air movement which indicates leakage somewhere. This air can enter your home from within the walls through the tiny openings surrounding the places listed above.

What to do--

Use weatherstripping, foam insulation, and other easy do-it-yourself methods for the easy fixes. For more technical issues, or if you feel unqualified, hiring a professional is definitely in order. Any associated costs are well worth it when your savings will continue to add up month after month, year after year. 

An HVAC Check Up

Your heating and cooling system is a huge energy consumer. Regularly changing the filter with the highest grade available will keep you unit lasting longer while saving you money each month. Having a professional check out the condition of your air ducts is a good idea. This is sometimes a free service, but regardless of cost, repairing any air return leaks, fallen duct insulation, poor duct connections, kinks in the ductwork or duct tape breakdown is a well-spent investment in your home and your wallet.

Beef Up Your Insulation

This may be something you can do, but if your home has significantly less insulation than it needs, hiring an insulation pro is the thing to do. Less than adequate insulation is one of the biggest energy wasters--and one of the simplest to take care of, with annual savings of up to 30%.

While the options are extensive, the simple ways to use less electricity can make a big difference in your monthly utility expenses. The savings are worth the effort, and getting started is easy. Make a plan for short-term and long-term goals. Window and large appliance replacement may not be in your budget this month, but open a separate savings account and deposit each month's utility bill savings, and soon your initial efforts will pay for the more costly projects. 

For possible tax incentives, check out: