You can conduct your own home energy audit to reduce your energy bill. Energy prices are rising rapidly due to the natural disasters that hit the U.S. Gulf Coast and disrupted oil well operations. Here's four areas you can easily assess for energy savings.
Find Air Leaks In Your Home:
Did you know you can increase your energy savings 5 - 30% per year just by plugging air leaks in your home? Here's how you
investigate air leaks and plug them.
Check for air gaps along floor edges and baseboards. Look for air gaps around:
- Electrical outlets
- Switch plates
- Door weatherstripping
- Window frames
- Attic hatches
- Fireplace dampers
- Window or wall-mounted air conditioners
Here's other places where air leaks drive up your energy bill:
- Mail slots
Poorly done caulking and weather stripping are prime locations for air leaks. Run your hand along these areas to see if you can feel any drafts. Inspect all doors and windows. If you can rattle them, movement indicates possible air leaks. Can you see light coming through windows frames? If so, that's an air leak you can plug.
Be sure your storm windows are properly closed and fit well. If you can't afford to replace old ones, tape plastic sheeting over them for the winter to cut down on air leakage.
You can also check the outside of your home for air leaks. Look at the exterior corners, and where your siding and chimney
meet. Plug and caulk any gaps you see in these areas. Look where your house foundation and the bottom of your brick or siding meet. If you see holes there, seal and/or caulk them to shut off the leak.
If your home is not properly insulated, you'll suffer enormous heating and air conditioning loss. Since energy prices are rising, you may wish to evaluate the present insulation in your home, and figure out if you need to replace or add to the insulation.
Check out your attic insulation, particularly around the attic hatch. Make sure it closes tightly and is properly weather stripped.
While you're poking around your attic, be sure the pipes, ductwork and chimney is sealed as well. Expanding foam caulk is an excellent sealant for these areas.
Do you have an adequate vapor barrier in your attic? Some possible barriers are tar paper, Kraft paper, or plastic sheeting. If you don't have vapor barrier material, you can paint the interior ceilings with a vapor barrier paint. Vapor barriers reduce moisture. Less moisture increases insulation effectiveness and decreases structural damage.
Don't block your attic vents with insulation. Seal electrical boxes with caulk and cover your attic floor with the recommended amount of insulation.
Don't forget to check your basement. If it's not heated, be sure your living room floor has insulation underneath it. In many parts of the U.S., the insulation R value should be 25. If your basement is heated, the insulation R value should be 19. Consult with your local home improvement store for more details.
Furnaces, Heat Pumps, and Air Conditioners:
Proper maintenance of your furnace, heat pump, and air conditioning unit will do two things: it'll extend the life of the system, and each unit will operate at peak energy efficiency. Be sure to replace system filters monthly with forced-air furnance systems.
This is a simple maintenance task anyone can do, but if you forget to do it, expensive repairs could be necessary.
Is your furnace, air conditioner, or heat pump more than 15 years old? If so, you should seriously consider replacing the system, since new units are very energy efficient. If your current system is in poor condition, a new one will reduce your energy consumption and energy bills.
Insulate your ductwork and pipes in unheated spaces with insulation material that has an R value of at least 16.
Inspect the wattage size of your light bulbs. If you're using 100-watt bulbs when 60 or 75 watt light bulbs will do, swap them out. Fluorescent lighting is a good energy efficient method for lights that are on for hours at a time. Check with your local electric company to see if they offer rebates or incentives for using energy-efficient lighting.
Doing these four simple energy audits are easy. They don't take up a whole lot of time, but they can certainly reduce your
energy bills and make your home more energy efficient.