How to Conduct Your Own Mini Home Energy Audit
Apr 15, 2020
With shelter in place orders in many states across the country, many are now setting up home office spaces and temporary school work stations for their children. With more people at home and inside during the day, homeowners could also be facing higher home energy bills.
While a professional energy audit provides the most complete picture of your home's energy use, this may not be possible as many contractors have been put in a challenging position since the outbreak of COVID-19.
I work as an Engineer within our Energy Efficiency Delivery Team. Here are some of my suggestions for how to conduct your own mini home energy audit based on what professional auditors look at during an inspection.
- Make sure lights are switched off in empty rooms.
- If your workspace is near a bright window, turn off the lights and enjoy the natural light.
- Switch lights to LEDs. Many hardware stores have LED bulbs that offer financial discounts from local governments and electric utilities. If you’re not sure what to buy, energy.gov has a nice chart comparing energy efficient lighting.
Appliances and Electronics
- Unplug small appliances and electronics when not in use to save energy. TVs, DVD players, stereos, coffee makers, and products with external power adapters use electricity even when turned off (known as phantom loads). For convenience, plug multiple devices into a power strip (or smart power strip) and turn the strip off when devices are not in use. Or you can use an app-controlled smart plug to do the work for you!
- Enable your computer and monitor to sleep while not in use. Check to ensure your power management settings are activated.
- Retire old appliances like refrigerators, freezers, furnaces, and water heaters. If your appliance is 10 years old or older, replacing it with an energy efficient model could save you $100 dollars (or more) each year. Many utilities and local governments offer rebates and/or financing for upgrades.
Heating and Cooling
- Adjusting your thermostat a degree or two can save significant amounts of energy while still staying comfortable. Wondering which smart thermostat is right for you? ACEEE research analyst Hannah Bastian says one way to select the best device is to look for Energy Star certification.
- Check and clean HVAC filters monthly. A home's heating and cooling system can account for more than 50 percent of the utility bill. A clogged air filter can hinder your unit's efficiency by reducing airflow and in turn, causing the system to work harder.
- Clean the area around the outdoor components of your HVAC system. Airflow problems can reduce your system's efficiency by up to 15%.
Insulation & Air Sealing
- Caulk and weather-strip around windows and doors. Check for signs of air leakage and use caulk and weather-stripping to stop the leaks.
- Check attic insulation levels with a ruler. You should have 16 - 20 inches of insulation in your attic, and wall cavities should be completely filled top to bottom. Here are some details to help you check for air leaks and poorly insulated parts of your house. For more tips on adding insulation, visit energy.gov.
- Seal your attic hatch or door. Weather strip and insulate your home's attic hatch or door to help keep your home more comfortable and save energy.
By making energy efficiency upgrades in your home, you’ll be saving not only energy, but money as well. All it takes is a little extra attention to detail and some basic research.