It’s Earth Day! Give Your Home a DIY Energy Audit

by Michael Franco
House Energy Audit. Efficient Consumption Invoice And Economy

A home energy audit — also known as a home energy assessment — is a detailed evaluation of your residence's overall energy efficiency. The purpose of this audit is to identify areas where energy is being wasted, allowing you to make informed decisions to improve efficiency, reduce energy costs and enhance the overall comfort of your home.

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Why Conduct a Home Energy Audit?

Conducting a home energy audit offers several compelling benefits, central among them the potential for significant cost savings. By identifying areas where energy is wasted — such as through air leaks, inadequate insulation or inefficient appliances — you can reduce your utility bills, often by anywhere from 5% to 30%. But the benefits extend beyond just economic savings.

An energy audit can also greatly enhance the comfort of your home. It can explain why certain rooms are unusually hot or cold. The outcome may also suggest practical solutions like sealing drafts, upgrading insulation or improving your HVAC system. This not only makes your home more comfortable but also helps maintain a consistent temperature throughout.

Furthermore, energy-efficient homes are increasingly in demand, and making your home more efficient can increase its market value. Such improvements are attractive to potential buyers if you decide to sell your home, as they promise lower future energy costs.

Environmentally, reducing your energy consumption lessens your carbon footprint, which is vital for sustainability. This reduction is especially important if your energy is sourced from fossil fuels, as less energy use translates to lower carbon emissions.

An energy audit can also lead to improved indoor air quality by enhancing your home's ventilation and reducing issues related to moisture, mold and indoor pollutants — factors that are crucial for the health and safety of the home’s occupants.

Lastly, a home energy audit can reveal safety concerns such as gas leaks, improper ventilation or electrical hazards, helping to prevent potential disasters before they occur.

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DIY Home Energy Audit: A Step-by-Step Guide

Things You’ll Need

  • Notepad and pen
  • Flashlight
  • Ladder
  • Tape measure
  • Infrared thermometer or thermal camera
  • Electricity usage monitor
  • Blower door (optional, for advanced DIYers)
  • Smoke pencil or incense stick (for detecting air leaks)

How to Conduct the Audit

Step 1: Inspect Air Leaks

Tools used: Incense stick or smoke pencil, flashlight and notepad

Check for drafts around windows, doors, light fixtures and electrical outlets. Anywhere different building materials meet can be a potential site for air leaks. Use the smoke pencil to see if air disrupts the smoke flow, indicating a draft. Note these leaks for later sealing with weatherstripping or other leak-stopping solutions.

Step 2: Evaluate Insulation

Tools used: Tape measure, ladder and flashlight

Inspect the attic, walls and floors adjoining unheated spaces. Check the thickness and condition of insulation against recommended levels for your area. Inadequate insulation leads to significant heat loss in winter and cooling loss in summer.

Step 3: Check Heating and Cooling Equipment

Tools used: Notepad

Procedure: Examine your furnace, air conditioner and water heater. Ensure they are properly maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Older systems may be inefficient and could need replacing or maintenance.

Step 4: Examine Lighting

Take a look at the types of bulbs in use. Replace incandescent bulbs with more energy-efficient LEDs, which provide the same level of light for less energy.

Step 5: Review Appliance and Electronics Usage:

Tools used: Electricity usage monitor.

Identify older appliances that are significant energy consumers and could be replaced with more efficient models. Use an electricity usage monitor to find out how much power devices consume when active and in standby mode. These devices are available through online retailers and home improvement stores and come in two different variations: one that installs in your circuit breaker box to monitor your whole-home energy use and one that simply plugs in between an appliance and the wall to track its usage.

Step 6: Measure Temperature Variations

Tools used: Infrared thermometer or thermal camera.

Use an infrared thermometer to scan rooms for temperature discrepancies that could indicate insulation issues or drafts.

Step 7: Evaluate Water Usage

Check for leaks in tap faucets, showerheads and toilets. Consider low-flow fixtures to reduce water use and the energy required to heat water.

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Is It Time For a Professional Audit?

While a DIY audit can be effective, a professional energy audit goes much deeper, using specialized tools and expertise. They will naturally cost more, but there are federal programs that can provide tax credits for using a pro. Here are some advantages:

More Thorough Equipment and Techniques

Professionals use blower door tests to better understand air leakage. They may also use advanced infrared cameras to get detailed thermal images of a home, which are far more accurate than consumer-grade tools.

Expertise and Experience

Professionals can spot less obvious inefficiencies in HVAC systems, wiring and even structural elements of your home.

Detailed Report and Recommendations

After the assessment, you will receive a detailed report pinpointing specific problems and recommending the most cost-effective improvements. This report often includes estimated savings and prioritized actions.

Safety Checks

Professionals are trained to identify safety issues related to gas leaks or electrical hazards, which might be overlooked in a DIY audit.

Certification and Rebates

Some energy improvements require a professional audit to qualify for government rebates or incentives.

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