It’s the dead of winter – you’re sitting on the couch with blanket, a hot chocolate in your hand, and you can’t help but wonder why you didn’t bother having a home energy audit to rid the ice cold draft from your windows and doors. You think it’s too late, you think you will make due with your 90’s college space heater and energy-guzzling electric blanket. Turning up the thermostat is basically heating your neighborhood.
What you might not know is that energy audits happen all year round in the blazing heat of the summer and the cold of winter.
Evaluating your home’s energy efficiency is imperative for reducing bills and maximizing your home’s potential. An energy auditor will check up on your home looking for insulation issues, leaks of any kind, faulty ductwork, and might even perform a blower door test to see where your draft is coming from.
This is the first step to determine how much energy your home is wasting, and how much money is slipping underneath your front door.
How to Tell if I need an Energy Audit
Once it’s established what inefficient parts of your home is costing the most money, an auditor may offer you some suggestions. If you’re noticing an uncomfortable draft, you may need to upgrade or replace windows. It seems like a no-brainer, but the newer windows may potentially add value to your home in the long run.
A temporary fix might be to use caulking along the seams of the window and frame or install a better window curtain. If your windows are in the clear (no pun intended), you may want to consider checking out your furnace and hot water heater.
If your furnace was built more than 25 years ago and has a standing pilot, it may waste up to 35% of the fuel it uses. Replacing your furnace with an energy efficient one, such as an AirEase – Pro Series A97mv, would drastically reduce waste.
If you think you’re spending too much on hot water, you probably are.
Turning down the thermostat to a modest warm 120*F will still allow those extra-long showers without draining your wallet in the meantime. Insulating your hot water lines will help them stay warm between uses, and installing low-flow fixtures will reduce the amount of water per minute. Now you won’t feel bad about your long showers.
One of the most important ways to reduce energy waste in your home is making sure your attic is properly insulated. Grammar school science has taught us that heat rises, but what school didn’t tell us is the price we can pay for this physics phenomenon.
It’s estimated 25% of your home’s heat loss is coming from your attic. On the pricier end, each square foot of insulation will run you $1.00-$3.50. The good news is, it’ll pay for itself in 5 to 6 years, increasing home value and your everyday life. While you’re in the attic, it wouldn’t hurt to check out those ducts up there. Simply taping over minor cuts and holes could help you in the long run as well.
What will this home audit cost me?
There are a lot of companies out there that will charge you a pretty high fee just to come in and evaluate your home’s performance. Fear not however, because many energy companies, and also a lot of other local companies will come in and perform this home energy audit for free! If you just go ahead and search free home energy audit followed by your local town, more then likely you will be provided with a few results. For users of National Grid, all you have to do is call them and they will do this service for you!
Many times in their visit, they will also provide quite a few free perks and gifts just for letting them perform the audit. We recently had a home done with someone on our team and they provided LED light bulbs throughout the house, 2 smart power strips for entertainment centers and kitchen appliances, and free guides to help home remedy some future problems we could run into.
Of course after the inspection, more then likely they will come back with many things that need to be fixed to get your house up to par with energy standards.
Many times you could see your bill reduced upwards of 30%, putting all those savings back into your pocket, or to spend on more green products! You must also do your homework as more then likely there are many rebates or programs for the installation of many different items in your local area.
Check with your local states rebates and incentives programs to find out more on that.
What kind of Work Will be Performed after the Energy Audit
To be honest, we would have been quite satisfied with new LED light bulbs throughout the house and a couple fancy power strips. However we are all about leading others to live green so we couldn’t be hypocrites. After receiving the assessment, it actually turned out we were not doing all that bad! Considering we had just put all new energy efficient appliances, new water heater, and boiler, I would hope that would be the case. However, our major problem lied within the attic.
One of the most common problems assessed on an energy report is an under insulated attic. This is a very simple fix with new eco-friendly foam insulation that they use to pump into the attic. Believe it or not (it really doesn’t matter to us because we are the ones who saved the money), our heating bill dropped by just under 40% in the colder months. After all was said and done after all the rebates and the work performed we paid less than $1000, and that money was paid off after less than a year of the work in savings.
The department of energy has also put out a great short video regarding energy audits that we have provided here
Can I Perform My Own Home Energy Audit
For those of you who are DIY experts, you can actually perform one of these home energy audits on your own to determine if you need the work. We will lay out some steps here if you feel like tackling this task.
- Locate and seal any air leaks in places like:
- Windows and Doors
- Baseboards, walls, and ceilings for gaps
- It is very important to note that ventilation and an air leak are two different things!
- Check Insulation in attic and walls
- When checking the attic insulation, if it is thick foam, you can stop here, it is fine.
- If not, determine the R-Value of the existing insulation, and check to see if it meets standards.
- A quick tip for determining wall insulation, pull out an existing outlet (be sure to shut down power) and reach in to pull a piece out!
- Inspect Boiler and Water Heater
- Water heaters typically only last 8-10 years on average, check the date on yours.
- Boilers have come a long way recently, while they are a hefty investment, there is nothing better then an efficient boiler.
- Inspect all light bulbs
- If you don’t have LED bulbs throughout your house, stop reading and do this immediately as you probably should have done this years ago.
- Update Old Appliances or Energy Intensive Electronics
- If you have a really old TV that you still use, it may be time to upgrade. Most are fairly cheap now and they can make a difference in savings.
- If your kitchen appliances have seen their days, consider opening up a Home Depot credit card. Seriously. Or Sears. They need some business.
- Unplug those phone chargers when you aren’t using them! This may seem minor but every bit counts. Especially if you have 7 kids running around on new iPhones playing Candy Crush.
Be sure to benchmark! If you are considering having the work done, which we recommend by a professional for maximum results, see what you were spending in the average month and compare it to what it is after the work is finished. If you are in New England, as we are, do not cheat and compare a heating bill from January to a heating bill to June. Use these steps, or hire a professional, and see how well you do!
If you have an experience with a home energy audit, tell us about your experience in the comments!