Perform Your Own Energy Audit
By taking the initiative to fix the leaks around your home, you can lower energy bills by 5% to 30% annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s. With annual energy bills averaging $2,200, making these fixes or using energy-efficient products could save you nearly $660 a year.
Self-audits are free and only require a flashlight, ladder, candle, some sort of measuring device, a screwdriver and a dust mask.
How Much Can I really Do?
This question boils down to your tolerance for the tasks involved.
Some require you to climb into attics, crawlspaces and delve into portions of your home to look at duct work. Other question-based audits rely on you to answer questions such as the R-value of your insulation or how many gallons of water your toilet holds.
If you don't have time, are squeamish in dirty places, or are planning a remodel, then you may be best suited to hire a pro.
Even those who are competent to do this work themselves will often hire a pro to confirm their suspicions. A DIY audit may reveal drafts but not the exact source. Because the costs associated to a draft can range from small to high, hiring a pro may prove to be worth it.
Where should I look?
According to Energy Star, this is the breakdown of a typical homes energy expenses
- Heating (29%)
- Cooling (17%)
- Water heating (14%)
- Appliances (13%)
- Lighting (12%)
- Computers and electronics (4%)
- Other (11%)
On the flip-side, Self-audits might find details pros may not
While pros use special heat-seeking equipment to find hard-to-see aspects of a homes energy losses, your self-audit can teach you to identify and address the small ways a home wastes energy.
Since lighting, electronics, and appliances use nearly 30% of the your home’s energy costs, you can make an extraordinary dent in your bills by replacing old appliances with energy-efficient replacements, LED bulbs versus conventional, plugging "standby" appliances into power strips versus wall outlets, sealing those refrigerator doors, and programming your thermostat.
Spotting common energy leaks
1. Check the homes exterior. Check the windows, doors, walls, and roof that is exposed to outdoor air. Hold a incense stick near windows, doors, electrical outlets, range hoods, plumbing and ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and ceiling fans in bathrooms. When the smoke moves, you've found a draft from a source that may need caulking, sealant, weather stripping, or insulation.
2. Check your insulation, it's R-value and thickness. Where insulation is exposed (in an attic, unfinished basement, or around ducts, water heaters, and appliances), use a ruler to measure. Compare the depth or thickness to what the Department of Energy requires in your area.
Although examining in-wall insulation is difficult only a professional’s thermographic scan can reveal if insulation coverage is consistent within a wall. Insulation does settle or may not have been properly installed.
3. Are There Stains on Your Insulation? These often indicate air and or water leaks from a hole behind the insulation.
4. Look at Exposed Air Ducts. If your ducts are dirty, have small holes, aren't properly insulated or pass through unfinished portions of your home, you can lose 10 to 30% of the energy used to heat and cool your home. Look for obvious signs, holes and uninsulated sections and make the repairs necessary.
When Should I Hire A Professional to Make Repairs?
The DOE recommends calling a contractor before insulating ducts in basements or crawlspaces, as doing can impact other home systems, such as water pipes. Furthermore, these ducts could release polluted air.
If you suspect you might have asbestos material used in insulation around your home, this could pose a serious health hazard. Hiring a prowill be a necessity as there are numerous laws in regards to remediating this health hazard.
If you're having to replace insulation around electrical systems it also might be necessary to hire a pro to make sure you keep those systems up to code.