How to perform your own energy audit for your home

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 11:34

No matter what time of year it is, there are always improvements that can be made to a household to improve its energy efficiency. Whether it's summer and the precious air-conditioner is working harder than it has to or winter and all the house's warmth is leaking outside, there are many easily remedied aspects of a home that can cause increased financial costs.
Homeowners must seek out these areas of improvement if they hope to discover the source of their energy waste. They can hire a professional to come down to their house with specialized equipment, but it's also possible to spend a few hours going over their heating bills and performing their own home energy audit. Without first fixing any issues a home may have, energy-efficient technologies such as radiant heating can only do so much to lower costs.Residents can scour their own houses and find many of the issues themselves, but in some instances, a hired energy auditor is needed. This trained expert can search some of the places normal people might struggle to access and double-check the conclusions of a do-it-yourself audit, sometimes finding ways to improve upon the results.
Here are some of the first places to look when conducting a home energy audit where the biggest impacts can be made:
1. Finding all the air leaks - Air leaks can occur both inside and outside of a house. Plugging all the leaks of a building can result in energy savings of up to 30 percent every year, but homeowners have to be thorough in their search. Visual scans of the most common problem areas usually can spot the largest leaks and cracks, but lighting incense sticks can help people to detect drafts using the smoke to find areas of air flow.
Many interior leaks transpire around baseboards or where the walls and ceiling meet. Outside leaks are commonly found in areas where different types of building materials converge. Don't forget to check every floor of the house, including the basement and attic. An opening at any one of these places can result in wasted energy that accumulates all year long.
Use caulk or weather stripping to plug the creases along the borders of doors and windows. However, keep in mind all of the faucets, pipes and outlets inside that might need to be sealed with caulk too. Outside cracks such as those that commonly form in the foundation should be filled with material that can withstand the elements.
2. Ensure proper insulation - While many houses are insulated, the standards for such may have changed since their construction. Older houses especially might not be up to par with current requirements, and it's difficult for homeowners to see how much the interior of walls are insulated without professional equipment, but there are a few things to look out for that help contain generated heat.
Anywhere in a building that has a heating system installed should be insulated, such as basements with baseboard heaters, to ensure the warmth produced there doesn't escape . If a room is openly exposed to the outdoors with no barrier in between, then homeowners can concentrate on the other contained interior areas of a house where people want the heat to remain in such as floors and the attic.

Every surface that surrounds the inside of a home needs to be as protected as possible to prevent leaks to the outside. Whatever walls, ceilings and floors envelop a room with heating needs to be encased in insulation to reduce heat loss and maintain the climate inside. Air ducts that travel through un-insulated areas of the building should be covered as well.
To get an idea of how much insulation is inside a wall, homeowners need to be careful. First they must shut of the electricity to the wall they wish to inspect. After that, people can remove the face plate of an outlet and stick something long and thin into it to feel if there is any padding. Something like a crochet hook would work best, so residents can bring out a piece of the insulation for clarification, reported Energy.gov.
3. Out with the old bulbs, in with the new - The lighting fixtures in a house make up around 10 percent of electricity bills. Homeowners should switch to efficient light bulbs such as CFLs or LEDs to shave off costs. Not only will they use less energy, but they'll generate less heat, easing the burden on air conditioners in the summer.
Dimmer switches, motion sensors and even timers are a good way to control the lighting both inside and outside a house to guarantee the lights aren't burning up energy when no one is around. Controls with more range allow residents to lower the brightness of lights as well when they don't need full power.
4. The equipment in a house - If a building is using an old heating system, then chances are it's not as efficient as it could be. Modern advancements in floor heating provide another option to forced air heaters that need to fill an entire room with hot air to warm it. Instead of expending so much energy, radiant heating transfers warmth between surfaces, reducing the excess.
If residents lower the house's thermostat a couple of degrees in the winter before they go to bed or raise the temperature of air conditioners during the summer nights, the small difference they may not even notice will have a big effect on energy bills once the season is over.
Even old household appliances can be replaced with Energy Star-certified models to ensure no resources are wasted. Simple practices can add up when dealing with electronics such as setting sleep timers on TVs so they aren't running all night or taking advantage of power-saving mode.
Even if a device or appliance isn't being used, if it's plugged into an outlet it's still susceptible to energy use known as "phantom surges." By plugging these devices into a power strip, homeowners can shut off the whole switch to save all of the electricity cycling through them for no reason. Surge protectors that detect when an appliance is being used can help regulate energy flow even when no one is around.

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