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DIY Energy Audit

January 4, 2011

Loan Officer Kristen DiCarlo

Loan Officer Kristen DiCarlo

You can easily conduct a do-it-yourself home energy assessment (also known as a home energy audit).  With a simple but diligent walk-through, you can spot many problems in any type of house. When assessing your home, keep a checklist of areas you have inspected and problems you found. This list will help you prioritize your energy efficiency upgrades.

Locating Air Leaks:

First, make a list of obvious air leaks (drafts). The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5% to 30% per year, and the home is generally much more comfortable afterward.

Check to see if air can flow through these places:

• Electrical outlets

• Switch plates

• Window frames

• Baseboards

• Weather stripping around doors

• Fireplace dampers

• Attic hatches

• Wall or window-mounted air conditioners

Also look for gaps around pipes and wires, electrical outlets, foundation seals, and mail slots. Check to see if the caulking and weather stripping are applied properly, leaving no gaps or cracks, and are in good condition.

Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. See if you can rattle them, since movement means possible air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window leaks. You can usually seal these leaks by caulking or weather stripping them. Check the storm windows to see if they fit and are not broken.

Insulation:

Heat loss through the ceiling and walls in your home could be very large if the insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum. When your house was built, the builder likely installed the amount of insulation recommended at that time. Given today’s energy prices (and future prices that will probably be higher), the level of insulation might be inadequate, especially if you have an older home.

If the attic hatch is located above a conditioned space, check to see if it is at least as heavily insulated as the attic, is weather stripped, and closes tightly. In the attic, determine whether openings for items such as pipes, ductwork, and chimneys are sealed. Seal any gaps with an expanding foam caulk or some other permanent sealant.

Make sure that the attic vents are not blocked by insulation. You also should seal any electrical boxes in the ceiling with flexible caulk (from the living room side or attic side) and cover the entire attic floor with at least the current recommended amount of insulation.

Heating/Cooling Equipment:

If you have a forced-air furnace, check your filters and replace them as needed.  Generally, you should change them about once every month or two, especially during periods of high usage. Have a professional check and clean your equipment once a year.

If the unit is more than 15 years old, you should consider replacing your system with one of the newer, energy-efficient units. A new unit would greatly reduce your energy consumption, especially if the existing equipment is in poor condition.  Check your ductwork for dirt streaks, especially near seams. These indicate air leaks, and they should be sealed with a duct mastic. Insulate any ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces. An insulation R-Value of 6 is the recommended minimum.

Lighting:

Energy for lighting accounts for about 10% of your electric bill. Examine the wattage size of the light bulbs in your house. You may have 100-watt (or larger) bulbs where 60 or 75 watts would do. You should also consider compact fluorescent lamps for areas where lights are on for hours at a time.  Your electric utility may offer rebates or other incentives for purchasing energy-efficient lamps.

Source: Energy Savers

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