Recently, we discussed the pros and cons of having a Home Energy Auditor evaluate the energy efficiency of your home. In that article we briefly mentioned that resources were available for the do-it-yourself energy auditor. In this article, we’ll explore what steps you need to take to get started on your own energy audit.
Finding and Fixing Indoor Air Leaks
As you start your walkthrough of the house be sure to keep a checklist of places you’ve been and air leaks you’ve found. There may be many more leaks than you expect and in unlikely places. First check for drafts and other obvious leaks. Then start to get more critical. The following places are susceptible to air leaks and should be checked:
- Electrical outlets
- Switch plates
- Window frames
- Weather stripping around doors
- Fireplace dampers
- Attic hatches
- Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners
When inspecting around doors and windows, look for any noticeable daylight. Where daylight shows, air will flow. You can often fix these problems with caulk or weatherstripping. However, if your doors and windows are old and noticeably inefficient, it may be best to upgrade to newer, more efficient products.
If you are having trouble finding and fixing air leaks in your home then you can conduct a pressurization test. To do this, close all exterior doors and windows. Turn off all combustion appliances like gas furnaces and water heaters. Then, turn on all the exhaust fans in you house. These fans will pull air into the home through any leaks that may exist. Walk around the house with incense sticks and watch how the smoke moves as you run it around openings and along corners and ceilings. The smoke should make it easy to tell where air is flowing into the home.
Moving to the exterior of your home, inspect anywhere that two materials meet such as exterior corners, chimneys, and the bottom of siding where it meets the foundation. You should address any holes that were drilled through the siding for vents, water spigots, and electrical outlets. Plug or caulk these holes as necessary. Also, check the caulking around all windows and doors and re-caulk if necessary. Make sure doors close and seal properly.
Check Your Insulation
Next, you should check the insulation value of your home, as best you can. Attic insulation is the easiest to inspect. Make sure you have an adequate amount of insulation and that any attic vents are not blocked by insulation. Also, seal any holes where plumbing or ductwork pass through the ceiling.
The walls will be more difficult. Make sure all the power is shut off to the wall in question. Then make double sure. When you are positive that power is off, you can insert a screwdriver into the stud bay. If you feel some resistance, it will be slight, then you have insulation. You can also punch a small hole at inconspicuous locations such as closets to check for insulation.
However, just because you have insulation at these points does not mean that it exists throughout the house. This is where a professional home energy auditor becomes especially advantageous. The only way to properly determine whether you have insulation is through a thermographic inspection.
Heating, Cooling, Lighting
Heating and cooling equipment should be checked annually. Filters should be checked and changed once every month or two and if your system is older than 15 years, then consider replacing it for a new, efficient model.
Lighting is also a simple but important part of your home energy audit. Reducing the wattage of your light bulbs and switching to CFL’s are two great ways to save bundles on lighting costs.
As previously discussed, a professional home energy auditor brings certain advantages to your energy audit (i.e., blower door test, thermographic inspection, expertise). But as you can see now, it is definitely possible to conduct your own test. Following these steps will provide an overview of your home’s inefficiencies and the specific areas that need to be addressed.