My family and I are three years into owning our first home, and today we crossed the final—and largest step—in our process to make the house more energy efficient, with the installation of solar panels.
Transforming your home into a living space running on sustainable energy can feel daunting, but when you take it one step at a time, it’s much easier than it seems. We knew from the moment we moved into our house that we would need to make some upgrades, so we started with an energy audit to determine exactly what we needed to do.
What Is an Audit?
Think of a home energy audit as a checkup for your house. Cracks and crevices around doors and windows, attics that aren’t insulated, and unmaintained air-conditioning and heating systems are all ways energy can escape. They waste not only a precious resource but money, too. Doing an audit helps identify those problem areas so you can make fixes and prevent energy waste.
A professional auditor will usually start by taking a look at your utility bills to see the history of your energy use and costs. Then he will do a walk-through of you home, assessing both the outside and the interior. He might use special tools, like a thermographic scanner, to determine where energy is concentrated and escaping.
Some local utility companies offer auditing programs or can recommend a private company to perform an audit. You can also check the Residential Energy Services Network for listings of certified energy auditors.
While a professional audit does typically have a fee of a few hundred dollars, completing the process and making fixes will save you more in energy costs in the long run.
How to Do It Yourself
If you don’t have the budget to perform a professional energy audit, you can still do one yourself. The first step is to check for air leaks. Look around doorways, window frames, plumbing fixtures, and electrical outlets.
You also want to check your attic to make sure it’s properly insulated and that vents aren’t covered by insulation. Schedule an annual maintenance for your cooling and heating system to check the ducts and machine.
Next you should examine your lights and make sure you’re using energy-efficient lightbulbs. You can also take a look at your appliances and decide if it’s time for an upgrade. Older refrigerators and washer and dryer units, even when in good condition, can suck up more energy than newer models.
There are some other unseen energy suckers in your home as well, which the U.S. Department of Energy calls “energy vampires.” These are appliances and electronic devices that use energy just by being plugged-in, like your coffee maker and your laptop.
The End Result
Once you have completed your energy audit, it’s time for the real work to begin. After looking over our utility bills and performing a DIY audit of our home, we created a plan of action to minimize our energy waste.
We found leaks around our front and back doors. While many of our appliances are new energy-efficient models already, we learned we could make our lighting more energy efficient by adding Wi-Fi-enabled control. We learned that our thermostat wasn’t measuring temperatures accurately and we would benefit from a newer model.
We also discovered that not only did our attic have zero insulation, but our roof was also damaged. All of these factors contributed to our considerably high energy bills, especially during the summer and winter months.
Performing an audit is just the first step, but it’s an important one. No matter how much time or money you plan to invest in upgrades, knowing exactly what the problem is makes a huge difference. Even small changes, like sealing cracks yourself with caulking, can be inexpensive solutions to the problems you discover, and they can go along way to making your home a sustainable energy hub.
What did you discover about your home after performing an audit? Share your experience with us on Twitter.
Image sources: Pixabay | Sher Warkentin
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