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!


Susie - said...

Excellent post! I'm giong to remember this for when I have my own house! thanks :)

Robj98168 said...

And dont forget to insulate your Hot Water Heater- especially if it id an older model

Cheap Like Me said...

This is great ... and in fact I have a draft of a similar topic going, too. I'll link to yours when I put it up.

Diane MacEachern said...

Great ideas here - easy, too.And once it's done, it's done. Love it!

Green Fundraising Ideas said...

The energy star deal is really cool! Great tip - I'll pass it along. Thanks!


Lisa said...

I need to do more of these things. I have cut my energy by 30% as well but would love to get it down even more. It gets to be kind of fun to watch your energy costs go down.

jerry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Barksdale said...

Excellent article! Some municipal and state governments are embarking on disasterous "Climate Protection" plans. For example, the Austin City Council passed a law in 2009 that mandates single-family home sellers submit a single-family energy audit at the point of sale. This ordinance is the Energy Conservation and Disclosure Ordinance. The audits cost between $100 and $300, depending on the size of your home and non-compliance is a Class C misdemeanor with a fine up to $2000! If you live in Austin and Austin Energy is your electricity provider, you can't take your business elsewhere. Austin Energy is "community-owned" (read City of Austin) monopoly. I couldn't take my electricity business to another provider if I wanted to! In contrast to Austin Energy, South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) will perform free energy audits for homeowners, as do many state and municipal energy utilities. Furthermore, all Austin Energy single-family energy audits fail to measure or list the property owner's historical electricity use for the house. As a home-buyer, wouldn't it be useful to see how much electricity a house used over the past 12 months and review a comparison of electricity consumption of adjacent properties in your neighborhood? How do you know if your "new" home should use 650 kilowatt hours a month, or 1050 kWhs?

John Barksdale

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