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Have your electric bills slowly been creeping higher and higher? While it’s true that energy costs keep climbing, the problem may not lie with your energy company. Or maybe you’re prepping your home for the months ahead. Either way, your home may be wasting more energy than you realize.
So, how do you find out if your home has energy efficiency shortcomings? A home energy audit! Don’t worry, you don’t need a professional to perform one. Today our home improvement experts will walk you through performing a DIY energy audit, including how to evaluate four key areas of your home for energy efficiency and how to fix any issues you find.
But first, let’s talk about what a home energy audit is.
A home energy audit, also called a home energy assessment, of your home’s energy consumption helps you understand what might be causing higher energy consumption so you know what you need to address.
Addressing the issues you uncover in an energy audit often results in lower energy bills and more comfortable home temperatures year round.
A professional energy audit provides a thorough overview of your home’s energy consumption. Professional energy auditors use specialized tools to perform a variety of tests throughout your home to determine where you’re using too much energy. Prices for a professional audit range from $100 to over $1,000, depending on your location, your home, and your inspector.
If that price isn’t in your budget, or you’re just the DIY type, the good news is that you can perform a pretty effective energy audit all on your own! While it won’t be as thorough as a professional audit, you’ll still be able to pinpoint areas to increase your energy efficiency and lower your monthly bills.
The exact steps in your do-it-yourself home energy audit will depend on your home’s features, but here are some of the most common problem areas and how to address the issues.
The first step in your home energy audit is checking for air leaks or drafts.
Air leaks, or drafts, mean the air from outside is coming into your home and the heated or cooled air from inside your home is leaking out. In other words, your HVAC unit is working harder than it needs to in order to keep your home comfortable. This is a very common reason for higher energy bills and inconsistent, uncomfortable temperatures in your home. Air leaks can happen anywhere your home opens to the outdoors or two different building materials meet, such as your windows, doors, and fireplaces.
To check for air leaks, start with a visual inspection on the interior and exterior of your home. Some gaps or holes are visible to the naked eye, and should be caulked or sealed immediately. You can also detect leaks by holding your hand near the seams of your windows and doors or near your fireplace damper. Feeling airflow is a sure sign you have a draft.
If you’re not exactly sure if you feel airflow, try the candle test: turn off any fans and be sure the air or heat isn’t blowing near the window. Standing inside near your window or door, light a candle and carefully hold it or place it on a table near one of your window’s seams (making sure you’re away from curtains and blinds). If the flame stays upright, your windows are secure and you don’t have a draft. If the flame bends toward or away from the window, you have a draft.
How to Fix It: If you have Window World products, contact us. Your products may be covered by our lifetime warranty. For non-Window World products, weatherstripping and caulking should take care of your drafts.
Aside from drafts, there’s another way your windows may be impacting your home’s energy efficiency.
Most older homes have single-pane windows. This type of window has no insulation, which allows outside temperatures into your home. This also causes your HVAC system to work harder to stabilize your home’s temperatures. As you may have guessed, that means higher energy consumption and higher energy bills.
How to Fix It: If you have single-pane windows, upgrade to double or triple-pane. These windows have multiple panes of glass with an insulator like argon gas between each layer for superior energy efficiency. Window World windows are equipped with argon gas insulation, vinyl window frames, and weatherstripping for superior energy efficiency.
While lighting usually makes up just a small percentage of your energy bill, the savings from making sure your lightbulbs are energy-efficient can really add up over time. It’s also one of the easiest things to evaluate and switch in your DIY energy audit!
How to Fix It: Change your light bulbs to LEDs, compact fluorescents, or energy-saving incandescents and use features like dimmer switches and timers to control light usage. You can also check with your energy company to see if they offer incentives for purchasing energy-efficient bulbs.
Energy vampires (yes, vampires!) are appliances or electronics that suck up energy, even when they’re not in use or turned off. Electronics like computers, TVs, and modems are all common energy vampires, but anything with a digital clock or indicator light is likely using energy even when it’s turned off.
How to Fix It: Use power strips so that you can easily cut power to several devices at once. You can also purchase a Kill A Watt detector, which shows exactly how much power it’s using when it’s off, to see which devices it would be most beneficial to turn off or add to a power strip.