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One of the first steps to making your home more efficient involves understanding how it uses energy. Just as a doctor has to do a thorough examination of a patient before writing a prescription, your home will need a good inspection before most inefficiencies can be identified and corrected.
You can easily conduct a basic home energy audit with a simple but diligent walk-through. When auditing your home, keep a checklist of areas you have inspected and problems you find. Full lists are available online—Touchstone Energy Cooperatives® Home Energy Saver (at www.touchstoneenergysavers.com) and the Alliance to Save Energy Home Energy Checkup (search for it at www.ase.org) are both useful—and most trouble spots can be found in a few key areas.
First, make a list of obvious air leaks (drafts). The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5 percent to 30 percent per year, with a much more comfortable residence the result. Check for indoor air leaks, such as in gaps along a baseboard or the edges of flooring and at junctures of walls and the ceiling.
Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. If you can rattle them, movement means possible air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window has a leak; you can usually seal these through caulking or weatherstripping.
On the outside, inspect all areas where two different building materials meet, including all exterior corners, siding and chimney junctures, and areas where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding join. You should plug and caulk any holes or penetrations for faucets, pipes, electric outlets and wiring.
Also, look for cracks and holes in the mortar, foundation and siding, and seal them with the appropriate material. Check the exterior caulking around doors and windows, and make sure exterior storm doors and primary doors seal tightly.
Heat loss through the ceiling and walls in your home could be very large if insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum. When your house was built, the builder likely installed the amount of insulation recommended (if any) at that time. Given today’s energy prices (and future prices that will probably be higher), your insulation might be inadequate, especially if you have an older home. Online energy audits will provide more details on checking insulation levels in the attic, walls and basement.
Inspect heating and cooling equipment annually, or as recommended by the manufacturer. If you have a forced-air furnace, check filters and replace them as needed. Generally, you should change them about once every month, especially during periods of high use. Have a professional check and clean your equipment once a year.
On average, lighting accounts for about 10 percent of a home’s electric bill. Examine the wattage size of the lightbulbs in your house. You may have 100-watt (or larger) bulbs where 60 or 75 watts would do. You should also consider using compact fluorescent lightbulbs for areas where lights are left on for hours at a time.
More information on both do-it-yourself and professional energy audits can be found at www.energysavers.gov.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy