Why Your Home Needs An Energy Audit: Part 1

By Vernon Trollinger, February 23, 2010, Energy Efficiency, Save Money

This heating season, you probably want to save money on your energy use. This is especially true during this winter's cold snap that caused high demand from Texas energy companies in both Dallas and Houston. But that might not be the only reason. You might find that your home's HVAC system is always running hard but can't adequately heat your home. Or some rooms in your house seem cooler or hotter than others. Maybe 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. 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 water heating. 

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. 

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: 

 * Electrical outlets
 * Switch plates
 * Window frames
 * Baseboards
 * Weather stripping around doors
 * Fireplace dampers
 * Attic hatches
 * 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. 

Go to Part 2.
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