The first step to taking a whole-house energy efficiency approach is to find out which parts of your house use the most energy. A home energy audit will show you where these are and suggest the most effective measures for reducing your energy costs. You can conduct a simple home energy audit yourself, you can contact your local utility, or you can call an independent energy auditor for a more comprehensive examination.
How We Use Energy In Our Homes (based on national averages)
• Check the level of insulation in your exterior and basement walls, ceilings, attic, floors, and crawl spaces.
• Check for holes or cracks around your walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that can leak air into or out of your home.
• Check for open fireplace dampers.
• Make sure your appliances and heating and cooling systems are properly maintained.
• Study your family's lighting needs and use patterns, paying special attention to high-use areas such as the living room, kitchen, and exterior lighting. Look for ways to use daylighting, reduce the time the lights are on, and replace incandescent bulbs and fixtures with compact fluorescent lamps or standard fluorescent lamps.
Formulating Your Plan
After you have identified places where your home is losing energy, assign priorities to your energy needs by asking yourself a few important questions:
• How much money do you spend on energy?
• Where are your greatest energy losses?
• How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy savings?
• Can you do the job yourself, or will you need to hire a contractor?
• What is your budget and how much time do you have to spend on maintenance and repair?
Once you assign priorities to your energy needs, you can form a whole-house efficiency plan. Your plan will provide you with a strategy for making smart purchases and home improvements that maximize energy efficiency and save the most money.
Another option is to get the advice of a professional. Many utilities conduct energy audits for free or for a nominal charge. For a fee, a professional contractor will analyze how your home's energy systems work together as a system and compare the analysis against your utility bills.
He or she will use a variety of equipment such as blower doors, infrared cameras, and surface thermometers to find inefficiencies that cannot be detected by a visual inspection. Finally, they will give you a list of recommendations for cost-effective energy improvements and enhanced comfort and safety.
For more information about home energy audits, contact:
U.S. Department of Energy's
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse (EREC), (800) DOE-EREC (363-3732), and Network (EREN).