I live in a home that was originally built in the 1880s (but has been remodeled/ updated over time). I knew that we had high energy bills - how high they were comparatively - I didn't know. But, I saw a promotion for getting a home energy use audit through Xcel Energy and decided that we should get one done.
We had our guesses as to what was creating our high bills - with my wife and our youngest child home we don't turn down our thermostat during the day. We have a swimming pool which has a heater in the summer. We also were pretty sure that the sun room (made out of lots of glass windows) adjacent to the kitchen was an energy vampire. Maybe we needed new insulation added to the house - we weren't sure when the last time the insulation was touched.
Boy were we surprised when we had our energy audit done!
The audit was a thorough look at how our home consumes energy, and how we could use less energy (thereby sending less of our money outside our home). One of the most telling parts of the audit was setting up a air vacuum in our house to note where the air was flowing right out of the home.
What we learned just might help you to save a bundle of money, too. Here are five areas we found where energy was just being leaked out of our home - and that means the money was being leaked out, too.
•1. Leaky duct work! We were really surprised to find that we had some leaks in our duct work. What will it take to fix it? Just going around the crawl space and cellar to tape all the joints in the duct work. Air was just flowing from the inside of rooms right through the vents. Which means that on those cold Minnesota winter days, warm air will flow from the inside of our house right OUT the duct work.
•2. Air Leaks Around Light Switches and Electrical Outlets! This one really surprised us. The air was just whistling through the outlets and junction boxes. The fix? Our auditor suggested foam gaskets for insulating the space behind the cover plate. And, fill the gaps around the outlets with non-expanding foam. Finally, use those kid-safe outlet covers whenever the outlet isn't in use to stop the air flow.
•3. Water Pipes Not Sealed At The Wall! Here's one we didn't ever think of: The place where water pipes go into the wall in the bathroom weren't ever calked, and that was creating a big air leak. That air goes into the space between the walls, and right up into the attic - and out of the house. The fix is just a little bit of calk around all those pipes.
•4. The Trim Around the Windows - Not the Windows Themselves - Were Seeping Air! When we walked around with the auditor, he really liked our windows - they are relatively new and are pretty energy efficient. BUT, the trim around the windows wasn't calked, and so there's just air pouring out around them. The fix on this one is just calk again. (Oh, and a good tip I got on the calk - use masking tape on both sides of the place to put the calk, and after its been beaded, just remove the tape. That's one I hadn't heard of before, and it's a great tip).
•5. The fireplace insert - a hidden culprit of air loss! Our gas fireplace insert itself isn't responsible for this leak. Its that there is a void between the insert and the fireplace opening of maybe 1/8 of an inch or less. But, that leak has a huge flow of air going right out of the house. The fix on this is again just some calk applied to seal the space.
We did also learn that the sun room (that all-glass monster that my wife hates) is also a big source of loss of energy in our house. Since the audit, we put in a patio door between that sun room and the rest of the house, and we can already tell the difference.
Our auditor thinks that we can use at least 35% less energy just doing these few simple fixes. That could make a big impact on our bills during those cold Minnesota winter months, and those hot Minnesota summer weeks.
If you are an Xcel Energy customer, schedule your own energy audit. I forgot to mention - the price of getting this audit done? Just $35!
These fixes were all quick and easy - and very affordable. No home owner can really go wrong in finding easy ways to save money these days.
Realtor in MN/WI
Broker/Owner of Mackaby Realty
Twin Cities real estate, specializing in the St. Croix River Valley - towns like Bayport, Stillwater, Woodbury, Afton, Cottage Grove, Lake Elmo Hudson, Somerset, and Prescott.
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