Small measures add up to real savingsBy Magen Howard, CCC
Just about every home could benefit from an energy audit. An audit can help you assess how much energy your home uses and evaluate what measures you can take to improve efficiency.
If you are interested in specific recommendations, consider contacting a professional home energy auditor. He or she can use a variety of techniques and their 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.
Finding a local professional
First, contact your electric cooperative and ask if they offer free or discounted energy audits. If not, you can hire a professional energy auditor, such as a certified Home Energy Rater. Find a local Home Energy Rater at EnergyStar.gov
But if you are really eager to get started on your own, it’s possible to perform a simple DIY audit yourself. Does your home feel drafty and cold in the winter, or stuffy and hot in the summer? If so, then it probably leaks air.
Look for damaged seals around doors and windows. If you see daylight or feel air, apply caulk and weather stripping. Also check electrical outlets and recessed canister lights. Outlet insulation kits can be purchased for as little as $2, and you can fix up your canister lights by caulking around the edges. Also look where walls meet the ceiling. Cobwebs mean you’ve got drafts.
Insulation needs by zip code
Next, peek into the attic and inspect the crawl space or basement for sufficient insulation — how much you need depends on your home and local climate. To check by zip code, visit ornl.gov.
Your home vs. other homes
You can also use Energy Star’s Home Energy Yardstick to compare your home’s energy efficiency to similar homes. You’ll get a score (on a scale of 1 to 10) and gain insight into how much of your energy use is related to heating and cooling, versus other uses such as hot water and appliances. You’ll also be guided toward recommendations for improvements to “up your score.” You’ll enter some basic information (such as zip code, your home’s square footage, and number of occupants) along with your last 12 months of utility bills. If you don’t have all the bills, ask your cooperative for a 12-month summary. Visit EnergyStar.gov.
Look to the light(s)
Finally, assess your light fixtures. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are up to 75 percent more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs, and they’ve come a long way in light quality, design and affordability. They cost more upfront, but you’ll make your money back in less than nine months. Purchase an Energy Star-rated CFL — it typically will last 10 times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb producing the same amount of light.
As far as LEDs bulbs go, an Energy Star-rated model is estimated to use only a quarter of the electricity consumed by traditional bulbs and can last for 25 years. The up-front cost is much more than even a CFL, but LED prices are expected to drop as new products are developed.