Start saving with a DIY home energy audit
By Anne Prince, NRECA
Click the image to try Touchstone Energy Cooperatives' online tools and discover ways to save money in every room of your house.
As temperatures begin to drop and your energy focus turns from cooling your home to heating it, consider using this time to increase energy efficiency and cost savings for the colder months ahead. Whether your home is old or new, chances are you are spending more on energy than necessary.
Armed with some basic knowledge and a little time, you can conduct a baseline energy audit of your home to identify where you are losing energy (and money). Use a checklist and take notes on problems you find as you walk through your home. Remember, the audit itself won’t save you money unless you act on your findings.
Click the image to check out the Home Energy Saver calculator produced by the Department of Energy. Create a custom energy profile and find out how you can make your home more energy efficient.
So, where to start? If your home has multiple levels, work from the top down. Begin in your attic or highest floor, and work your way down to the first floor.
- Insulation and air leaks (drafts) — According to the Department of Energy, improving your home’s insulation and sealing air leaks are the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy waste and make the most of your energy dollars. Check to see whether there is sufficient insulation in the attic. Are openings containing piping, ductwork and chimney sealed?
- Electronic devices — Inventory all of the electronic devices you have and how often you use them. Computers, printers, DVD players, phones and gaming consoles are notorious “vampire power” users — they drain energy even when not in use. If items can be turned off without disrupting your lifestyle, consider plugging them into a power strip that can be turned on and off (or put on a timer).
- Lighting — Note where you still have incandescent lights. Can you replace them with CFL or LED upgrades? Do you have nightlights? If so, consider replacing them with LED nightlights. Are there places where you can install motion sensor lights in low use areas, such as a closet, porch or garage?
- Thermostat/indoor temperature — Do you have a programmable thermostat? When was the last time it was programmed? Is the date and time correct? If they are not, this could throw off the automatic settings. Is it set so the HVAC unit operates less frequently during the day and/or times when no one is home and at night when people are sleeping?
- Appliances and cleaning — Appliances are large energy users, and if yours are more than 10 years old, they are likely not as energy efficient as today’s options. How and when you use them also make a difference. Do you wash your clothes in hot water, or can you use cold water instead? Do you use your washer, dryer or dishwasher during the day? Consider running them at night, during off-peak times. Does your hot water heater have a blanket? If not, consider insulating it. Make sure your dryer vent isn’t blocked — this will not only save energy, it may also prevent a fire.
Once you have completed the audit, take a look at the findings. Prioritize actions that you can take based on your time and budget, weighing where you can get the most impact for your investment. Increasing your home’s energy efficiency will make your family comfortable while saving you money.
Taking savings to the next level
If you would like to take your audit and savings to the next level, contact PEC for an energy evaluation conducted by the energy experts. Sharing your audit findings with the representative from your co-op will provide a great starting point for a more detailed assessment.
Anne Prince writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.