Condo Blues: How to Conduct a DIY Home Energy Audit

Monday, November 16, 2009

How to Conduct a DIY Home Energy Audit

Unlike some areas of the United States, my local gas and electric companies do not offer free home energy audits to their customers. After much digging on my gas company’s Website, I found a link to the Energy Star Website that allowed me to conduct a DIY home energy audit using their Home Energy Yardstick. Best of all this service is free. I like free. Free is good.

I entered information about my home from the last 12 months of my natural gas and electric utility bills, clicked Submit and hoped for the best. The Home Energy Yardstick gave me an energy performance grade (Below Average to Above Average) and a score on a ten point scale.

Once I found out how much energy my home used last year, I needed to check the energy efficiency of the structure and mechanicals. Pros do with this inferred cameras and blower door test gizmos. Fortunately I was able to find most of the same information on my own with a flashlight, a candle, and a some poking and prodding around the house.

How to Do a Free DIY Energy Audit in Ten Easy Steps

1.Check your natural gas and electricity usage for the previous year using the Home Energy Yardstick

2.Search for interior air leaks and drafts

3.Search for exterior air leaks and drafts

4.Check your home insulation levels Often the minimum code requirements aren’t enough for maximum energy efficiency as I recently found out.

5.Check your heating and cooling air ducts for air leaks

6.Count your light bulbs How many do you have? How many are energy efficient models? If you want immediate savings replace them now. However it’s perfectly fine to replace the bulbs with more energy efficient models as they burn out. That way the bulbs won’t all go out at once and leave you bumping around in a very dark room. Guess how I found that one out?

7.Check the energy rating on your appliances and how often you use them. Conventional wisdom says ditch your major appliances and get Energy Star rated appliances to save money. However, that may not always be the case. For example, when I compared my current refrigerator to its Energy Star equivalent I found that I would only save $1 in electricity a year if I upgraded. In my case, it’s more wasteful to make the change because my refrigerator is looking and working well and barely 5 years old. However, I found that I could still reduce how much electricity my refrigerator used by cleaning vacuuming the coils on the back at least once a year (which I never did until now), checking that the door seals were tight, keeping it full because a full refrigerator and freeze run more efficiently than an empty one. Tip: You can keep your refrigerator or freezer full when it is emptyish of food by filling empty milk jugs with water and putting them in your refrigerator between shopping trips.)

8.Check your habits. Do you leave items plugged in or turned on when not using them? Do turn off the lights as you leave the room? You can buy all of the energy efficient items you want but if you leave them on constantly or when not in use, they are wasting energy, Energy Star rating or no.

9.Check your furnace. You may need to call a pro or the manufacturer for this information. How often do you replace or clean the filter? A dirty filter makes it work harder and use more energy.

10.Check your air conditioning. Again, you may need to call a pro or the manufacturer for this information. Also evaluate your habits. At what temperature and how often do you run it? If you have a window unit do you remove it during the winter? Tip: If you don’t remove your window air conditioning unit during the winter you are causing a massive air leak and wasting energy.

Conducting a home energy audit was my first step in my 20% Home Energy Reduction Challenge project. I found a lot of air leaks and habits that needed changing. But it paid off; it helped me reduce my home’s energy consumption by 32% and saved me a nice little chunk of money too.
Have you ever conducted your own Home Energy Audit? What did you find?

This post is part of the November Green Mom’s Carnival where our topic is Saving Money through Green Means hosted by me, Condo Blues!