Summer officially begins soon, and with it, comes hotter weather and more hours of daylight. Spring is a great time to start thinking about a home energy audit so that you can prepare your home for summer, saving energy and money in the process.
The main purpose of an energy audit is to determine whether your home wastes energy, and to pinpoint where the energy is being lost so you can evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy-efficient. Audits also determine the efficiency of your home's heating and cooling systems and ways to conserve hot water. Audits can be as simple as a do-it-yourself audit or they can be very detailed using specific tools and techniques to pinpoint air leaks.
If you have been living in your home for some time, you already may be familiar with areas that get drafty with cold weather or warmer during the summer months. Sky-high energy bills may hint at the inefficiency of your appliances and heating and cooling equipment.
A do-it-yourself energy audit, commonly referred to as a walk-through, is the simplest and most common method of conducting an energy audit. Go room-by-room to check for air leaks. There are many potential sites for air to leak into or out of your home, including: windows and doors, gaps around pipe and wire feedthroughs, electrical outlets, foundation seals, mail slots, exhaust fans, attics, garage doors, siding cracks, and old caulking. Check insulation levels where possible. Look at the age of your heating and cooling equipment and past maintenance records and maintenance schedules. Check to see if filters are clean. Review the types of lighting in your home and explore more efficient alternatives. Be sure to keep a checklist of areas you inspected and problems you found. This list will help you prioritize your energy efficiency upgrades.
If you're somewhat computer savvy, you may be interested in using a computer program to conduct a more thorough energy audit. Home Energy Saver and Home Energy Checkup are two free web-based do-it-yourself residential energy audit tools. These tools can help you determine the savings you can expect from making specific energy upgrades, and thus help you prioritize improvements to make. Or try the ENERGY STAR® Home Energy Yardstick to compare your home's energy efficiency to similar homes across the country and get recommendations for energy-saving home improvements from ENERGY STAR.
Another option is to pay a professional service company like Comfort Xpress to conduct a sophisticated energy audit on your home. Our experts often use tools such as blower doors, infrared cameras, digital surface thermometers, and smoke pencils to detect leaks in the building's envelope - your home's surface area exposed to the outside. We may conduct a building pressurization test that measures the leakiness of the building envelope, or a thermographic inspection that reveals the often hard-to-detect areas of infiltration and areas where insulation is missing. Our experts will generate a report with the results of their tests. This report typically includes a list of where you are wasting energy, what improvements you can make, estimates on what these improvements will cost, and what your annual savings will be should you make the recommended improvements. In some cases, our experts will carry out some energy-conserving measures on-site at the time of the audit. These professional tests are not free but the savings after upgrades can be considerable.