The first step in making your home more energy efficient is to see what improvements need to be made. You don't want to fix something that wasn't broken to begin with. A great option is to hire a professional who can do a home energy audit for you for a couple hundred dollars. But if you're trying to save money as well as energy, you might consider doing the audit yourself.
Of course, a DIY audit will not be as accurate as the professional version and will lack the experience and expertise of a certified auditor. However, it should give you a good idea of where you can make cost-effective improvements and cut down on your home's energy waste.
Seek out air leaks
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air leaks can account for 5 to 30 percent of a home's energy loss. Reduce wasted airflow by exploring the nooks and crannies of your home for air leaks. Look for obvious leaks around the edge of your flooring, along your baseboards and where the wall and ceiling meet. Inspect electrical outlets, vents and fireplace dampers for any cracks or gaps.
Air leaks don't just stop at your front door. You should also inspect for any leaks outside of your home. Water faucets, exterior corners, chimneys and areas along the foundation are vulnerable to air leaks and can cause energy waste.
Conduct a pressurization test
Sometimes air leaks can be hard to find, so creating a test to make it easier to find those small energy-wasters can be a big help in your energy audit. An indoor pressurization test is actually very easy to do - just follow these simple steps.
1. Close all windows, doors and fireplace flues.
2. Be sure to turn off any combustible appliances, such as a gas burning furnace or hot water heater, for safety.
3. Turn on every exhaust fan that blows air outside. This might include your clothes dryer, stove vents and bathroom fans. You might also consider using a large fan to blow air outside your home. Sucking the air out of your home will make it easier to find leaks.
4. Use an incense stick to detect any leaks in your home. Simply light it and move the stick around areas of your home that are commonly known for air leaks. The places where smoke wavers or is blown into the room are the areas where you have a draft and are losing energy.
Insulation is a great tool for keeping heating and cooling inside your home. But inadequate levels of insulation wastes energy by allowing heating and cooling to escape. Many people believe that older homes are the only ones that need added insulation. But the fact is many brand new homes could benefit from added insulation as well. Homes are often built with the minimum insulation requirement, but an extra layer of insulation can often provide more energy savings.
Insulation is measured by its R-value, which simply means its ability to resist heat passing through it. A higher R-value often preforms better. The attic is the easiest place to start your inspection because you can physically see how much insulation it has.
But be sure to inspect the attic's vapor barrier. This barrier limits the amount of water vapors escaping through the ceiling, which could cause structural damage. A vapor barrier might be tarpaper or a plastic sheet. Vapor barrier paint could also be painted on the attic floor.
Discovering how much insulation is in your walls is a little more complicated. You will have to examine the insulation level through an electrical outlet. The first thing you should do is turn off the power to an exterior outlet. When you're sure there isn't an electrical current running through it remove the cover plate. Stick a screw driver or long stick in the empty space around the outlet. If you feel some resistance, you have some insulation in the wall. Unfortunately, this method doesn't allow you to see how much insulation you have in the wall or if it continues throughout the other areas of your home. The only way to get an accurate reading is through a thermographic inspection by a professional energy auditor.
What else is involved with a DIY home energy audit? Come back soon to read more in Part 2!