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What is a home energy audit?

4 min read

When you hear “home improvement projects” it’s possible you think of things like updating flooring, repainting a room, or simple maintenance on appliances. Or maybe you think of big projects like remodels, finishing a basement, or adding to your home. While all of these can go a long way to create more comfort at home, you might be overlooking a very simple project that can go a long way: a home energy audit.

A home energy audit is simply a check to ensure you’re wasting as little energy at home as possible. So, how would you perform this audit and what kinds of things would you test?

How to perform your own home energy audit

Home energy audits can include checking for air leaks, ventilation, insulation, and lighting, as well as assessing appliances and other electronics.

Check for air leaks

Leaky windows and doors can make it hard to keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And that can end up costing you significantly on utility bills. Check to see if air is creeping in or escaping areas such as door jams, windows, lighting and plumbing fixtures, light switches and other electrical outlets. Simple fixes could include plugging and caulking holes or other gaps where air might be escaping or creeping in. More significant fixes include replacing windows or doors.

Check your insulation

Older homes, in particular, could be suffering from poor insulation. Insulation is crucial in effectively keeping hot or cold air from escaping through your walls, ceilings, and floors. Checking the insulation behind walls can be difficult but if you’re worried this may be an issue then it might be worth the effort.

Insulation is measured by “R-value,” which signifies how well it can resist heat. The higher the R-value the greater the performance. Walls should have an R-value of 25 and the top of the foundation walls and floor perimeters should have an R-value of 19 or greater.

Choose an electrical outlet on a wall and turn off any circuit breakers connected to it. Test the outlet to make sure it’s not hot. You can also stick a plastic crochet hook or any other small hook into the wall as it may pull out small bits of insulation. However, this won’t tell you about the whole wall or house. But a thermographic inspection can do this.

A thermographic inspection can still be done on your own when going the DIY route, especially if you’re really committed to your own inspection. You can find standalone thermal imaging cameras for a few hundred dollars online or add on accessories designed to work with both Android and iPhone smartphones for a couple hundred dollars. A good place to start would be Amazon and search for “thermal imaging camera.”

Testing to see if insulation is there at all is a good first step but if you can determine the R-value and its performance, that’s even better.

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Inspect heating and cooling equipment

As you’re well aware, much of your home energy consumption comes from heating and cooling appliances. It’s a good idea to inspect those appliances annually (or more frequently, if recommended by the manufacturer)—an efficient furnace and air conditioner can make a huge impact on your monthly bills.

Performing basic maintenance as needed can go a long way in helping to avoid costly repairs. When troubleshooting, do what you can to eliminate any problems and call a professional if necessary.

Lights

Lighting up your house accounts for about 10% of your energy bill so it’s a good idea to use energy efficient light bulbs, whenever possible. When shopping for bulbs look for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), or light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Electronics and appliances

When shopping for new electronics, always be on the lookout for the most energy efficient brands and models. It’s important to invest some time and attention in these products because you’ll use them a lot so usually end up contributing to a large portion of your power bill.

If you’re not in the market to upgrade appliances or buy new ones, you can check to see if your existing appliances have energy friendly settings. These typically get the job done just about as well but consume less energy in the process. You should also consider another very simple act that can go a long way: unplugging devices when they’re not in use. Appliances take energy just by being plugged in.

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