A professional home energy audit is a great way to measure the energy efficiency of your home, as well as discover where you can make improvements that save both energy and money. However, you always have the option of performing your own assessment of your home's energy management.
A self-done home energy audit won't be as thorough as a professionally performed audit, but you'll still be able to pinpoint areas that are in need of your immediate attention. The following offers a comprehensive guide on performing your own home energy audit.
Detecting and Sealing Air Leaks
Start by locating air leaks throughout your home. Flooring edges, baseboards, electrical outlets and junctions where walls and ceilings meet are common areas for drafts. Don't forget to check around HVAC vents, window sills and fireplace dampers for hidden air leaks.
In most cases, you can use a smoke test tool to locate drafts in otherwise hard-to-find places. A professional auditor will use this in conjunction with a blower door test to quickly identify draft sources. Once the leaks are identified, you can go back and seal each one with caulk and/or weatherstripping.
Air leaks aren't just limited to the inside of your home. As you walk outside, check the exterior corners of your home, as well as around water faucets, drainage outlets and areas around the foundation, for air leaks.
Inadequate insulation levels can cause your home to lose heat during the winter or gain heat during the summer, making it more difficult for your HVAC system to efficiently maintain indoor comfort. It's important to make sure that your home has the proper amount of insulation. Here are three crucial areas you should check during your home energy audit:
- Attics – In addition to checking insulation levels, make sure that openings for chimneys, ductwork and plumbing are properly sealed. Attic hatches located above conditioned spaces should also have as much insulation as the rest of the attic and be able to close tightly for an adequate seal.
- Basements and crawlspaces – Make sure these spaces have the proper type and amount of insulation installed. Plumbing, ductwork and your water heater should also be fitted with the proper insulation.
- Walls – Checking insulation and these areas can be somewhat difficult for do-it-yourselfers. Professional auditors use infrared thermographic scanners to inspect wall insulation without any physical intrusion. It's possible to shut off power to an electrical outlet, remove its cover and carefully probe the surrounding area for signs of insulation. However, this step does not offer an accurate picture of your wall insulation.
Make sure your attic, basement and/or crawlspaces feature a vapor barrier underneath the insulation. Vapor barriers help block excess water vapor from infiltrating your interior spaces, thereby preventing moisture related problems (such as mold growth) from affecting your home.
Checking HVAC Equipment
It's also good idea to check your heating and cooling equipment during the home energy audit. It's an opportunity to perform essential basic maintenance tasks, especially if you haven't gotten around to doing so already:
- Inspect and, if necessary, replace your HVAC air filter with a clean replacement. The new filter should be rated at the recommended MERV rating for your HVAC system.
- Inspect the ductwork for gaps, cracks and other signs of damage. Sealing these flaws can easily boost your HVAC system's overall efficiency and save energy. Leaks should be sealed with metal tape and/or duct mastic.
- If you have your HVAC system for 15 years or more, consider replacing it with a newer and more energy efficient model. Installing a new HVAC system can easily reduce your home's energy consumption and subsequently reduce its energy costs.
You can talk to local HVAC contractors or visit http://www.alliedairheat.com if you need further information on maintaining your HVAC equipment.
Changing Your Lighting
Your home's lighting is an often-overlooked component of your home's overall energy efficiency. With the recent phase-out of incandescent bulbs, there's a good chance you've already replaced them with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or halogen bulbs.
Nevertheless, there's always room for improvement. Recent advances in lighting technology have made light-emitting diodes (LEDs) a popular and energy efficient choice for many homeowners. Not only are they more energy-efficient than comparable CFLs, but they also emit less heat and deliver improved lighting performance.
Performing your own home energy audit by completely these tasks will help you save on energy. It will also help you recognize areas of your home for which you may need to hire professional contractors for repairs or maintenance.