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Why Your Home Needs An Energy Audit

home energy audit

Is your home's HVAC system always running hard but can't adequately heat your home? Do some rooms in your house seem cooler or hotter than others? Have you noticed a mold or mildew problem in a room other than your bathroom? Perhaps your water heater can't keep up with demand. You can fix these problems by starting with a home energy audit.

How does a home energy audit work?

An energy audit looks at several specific features of your home. First, it lists the characteristics of your home's thermal envelope: walls, ceilings, floors, doors, windows, and skylights. Each of these features has a specific R-value, which is a measurement of the resistance to heat flow. The higher the resistance (or R-value), the better the insulation quality.

Another factor is the leakage rate or how much outside air infiltrates into your home. Drafty doors and windows are the primary culprits here, however, other features of your home's construction, age, orientation to the sun, and physical condition will have an effect. A third area to look at is your home's mechanical system - the heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) as well as the heating water.

Energy Star provides a Home Energy Yardstick website so you can compare your household's energy use to the rest of the country. The site is a good place to start and gives some basic recommendations about making home energy efficiency improvements.

Tips for Conducting Your Own Energy Audit

Generally, performing your own energy audit will help you discover most of the major energy usage problems in your house. For example, locating and sealing air leaks will help you save money and make your home more comfortable. An easy way is to wet your hand and then feel for drafts around:

  1. Electrical outlets
  2. Switch plates
  3. Window frames
  4. Baseboards
  5. Weather stripping around doors
  6. Fireplace dampers
  7. Attic hatches
  8. Wall or window-mounted air conditioners.

Look and feel for gaps where pipes and wires enter a wall. Also check where your floor meets the foundation. And don't forget mail slots. Check to see if caulking and weather stripping are applied properly and in good condition.

Every house is different, but climate, location, and HOW you use energy are primary factors in how your home performs. When combined with information about local weather, the home's thermostat settings, as well as energy bills for a 12 month period (24 is more accurate), an energy audit can render a more accurate picture of how your home uses energy.

Getting a Professional Home Energy Audit

Unless you already have a few years experience of belly-crawling the dusty, cramped spaces of your home to weather-seal it, you should consider having a professional perform an energy audit.

Now you might think all an energy auditor does is seal a fan onto your front door and then prowl your house looking for drafts. Sure, they might perform this test, but not only do you get the benefit of their years of training and experience, you also gain from a fresh perspective.

Professionals can often see things you have overlooked that can help you save on your energy costs and be more energy efficient. For example, a slight discoloration along a corner of your living room wall might indicate an unsealed gap in your home's framing that lets in cold air and moisture. This and other hidden heat loss areas can also be detected with heat-sensitive cameras, a tool most homeowners don't own.

Finding a qualified energy auditor can also give you an informed choice of options. Some fixes might just require a tube of $4.00 caulk to save you $100.00 in energy costs. Some fixes might be more expensive but can be done over time. An energy auditor can make recommendations for improvements and solutions based on what they learn about your living habits, needs, and budget. This can include efficient low-wattage lighting fixtures and getting the best insulation for your buck, as well as purchasing Energy Star rated appliances and upgrades so you can take advantage of both Federal and State rebate offers.

Remember: an energy audit show you where to start saving money to heat your home this winter, and it will identify cooling problems that cost you during the hot summer months. But whether you do it yourself or consult a professional, do it as soon as possible so you can identify your home's problems and develop a plan of action. After all, making your home energy efficient not only saves money, energy, and natural resources, it also makes your home more comfortable and enjoyable for you and your family.

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