Energy efficiency, energy savings, and money saving get a lot easier with a simple home energy audit walk through of your home or apartment. Every single home, even energy efficient homes, lose energy. But with the insight gained from a detailed energy audit, you can create energy savings and turn your home into an energy saving home by limiting your home’s energy loss and using energy wisely.
Here are the top seven frequently asked questions and answers about home energy audits and how they can help you save energy — and save money.
- What is a Home Energy Audit?
A “green homes” energy audit is a simple process of walking through your home, room by room, paying careful attention, and writing down how you use energy in that room, plus possible places where you home uses… and loses… energy. You can “do it yourself,” or hire a professional. The energy audit professional typically looks at heat loss with specialized thermal imaging equipment and other techniques that “visualize” heat loss and energy gaps. But the “do it yourselfer,” however, can very easily take note of energy usage and energy loss in each room. And when you add up the numbers, you’ll see exactly where you can save on energy. Computer spreadsheets are a valuable tool for the do it yourself home energy auditor to save and compare your findings on a room by room and year by year basis.
- How Long Does it Take to Do an Energy Audit?
The first time you do a home energy audit, it will take several hours at least, and you may decide to spread it over a few days – depending on your home’s size and how much you have in it. As you do your “energy walk” through your home for the first time, you will find many areas of energy usage you hadn’t thought of before. Future energy saving audits will take a little less time – because you’re already aware of these “hidden” areas. Also, as you fix the energy leaks in each room, those will no longer need your attention, saving time. Fixing any problems you find, of course, may take a bit longer.
- How Often Should I Do an Energy Audit?
At least once each year, though I would definitely recommend energy audits more often. The best times to do home energy audits are: spring, before you see the jump in your energy bills for the high energy air conditioning season, and fall before you see the jump in your energy bills for the heating season.
- How Much Can I Save on my Energy Audit if I “Do It Myself?”
The amount varies by home and location. By doing an energy audit yourself, you’ll probably save several hundred dollars because you’re not paying someone to conduct the audit. This is on top of the potential 15% – 40% savings in energy costs that many people realize when actually finding and reducing energy usage. The nice thing about doing it yourself is that you become intimately familiar with all the energy consumers and energy losers in your home, and can set your own agenda to fix it.
- What’s the Best Room to Start In?
It doesn’t matter, as you will do them all. I prefer to start in the basement. There is a lot going on in the basement that gets my mind thinking about energy saving! Ducts, vents, registers, furnace, washer, dryer, lights, hot water heater, sump pump, etc. All these items have an energy related cost to them. If you don’t have a basement or prefer to start elsewhere, go for the kitchen. Ultimately, you will want to do your energy audit in every room to maximize your potential energy savings.
- What’s the Best Way to Test for Drafts Around Windows?
A simple strip of single ply tissue taped to the end of a pencil, or flame from a candle (please be careful!). These will quickly show you any air movement, which is what you’re looking for. It’s best to do your testing on a breezy day, because more air will leak on those days so you can see it more easily. You can also close all the windows in the home and set a couple of fans blowing out in a couple of open windows and turning on any exhaust fans to help draw air into the house through the leaks and cracks and make them easy to spot with your tissue tool or candle.
- How Do I Record the Results of My Audit?
On a simple piece of paper! Label it with the date and room so you can easily compare notes between rooms, and between successive audits conducted at later dates. (So it’s best to use one sheet for each room!) Here is where home computers come in especially handy. Record your data for each room in a spreadsheet program and the computer can “do the math” for you. And then you have an easy way to compare results, notes, and numbers from energy audit to energy audit.
Because a home energy audit looks at your home’s energy usage and your personal energy usage, it will show you, in black and white, your home’s energy patterns… and energy problems. Once you know where the problems are, you can start your own energy savings plan that will work for your home because it “attacks” the energy problems that are specific to your home. Replacing all the windows in your home with newer, well-sealed energy efficient models, will, of course, save anyone money. But it will also cost a lot of money, and your particular home may not need to have the windows replaced because some windows are perfectly fine and just need some new or additional caulking to seal the cracks around the frame. But some homes might need new energy efficient windows or doors, or a new energy saving hot water heater, or any one or several energy saving tips. And, of course, you may need to change some personal habits to cut down on energy usage. A home energy audit — especially if you do it yourself – will tell you what you need to do and where you need to do it to save energy and save money in your own home.