If you want to be more energy-efficient in your home, there are a variety of ways to go about it. You can replace all of your lighting with CFLs, implement the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), and make sure that everything is off and/or unplugged when not in use.
If you want a more energy-efficient home overall, then you should consider having a home energy audit done on your property. Home energy audits give homeowners the opportunity to find out how much power their household uses and identifies areas of wasted use. After having an inspection done, homeowners receive a report outlining the main areas of use and suggestions for ways to reduce consumption or accidental loss. The length of an inspection varies depending on how in-depth you want it to be, but they can range anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.
Is the inspection really worth it? If you want to reduce your energy use and save money, then yes! While you might end up making an initial financial investment, the overall savings typically make the service worthwhile. The less you have to use your heating and cooling system, the less money you’ll waste and the more you help the planet.
Dr. Richard Knaub, Project Leader in Weatherization & Workforce Development at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, explained it best in his article entitled “Living Comfortably: A Consumer’s Guide to Home Energy Upgrade“.
“If you followed the auditor around while the blower door is running, you might be surprised at what you’d find. Air leaking through face plates on switches and outlets, and escaping around doors, windows, pipes, and under sinks … and all of these places add up. Put them all together and you could have a space the size of a bathroom window — maybe even bigger — that’s constantly open.”
If you’d have a hard time knowing that your bathroom window was wide open all the time letting your heat and AC continuously escape, then an energy audit will be worth the investment.
Sometimes your utility company will even come do an energy audit at your home for free. For example, Duke Energy customers in Ohio can sign up for a free home energy assessment and energy efficiency starter kit. During the assessment, an expert will check your home for air leaks, examine insulation levels, check appliances for efficiency problems, and more. In addition to the assessment, homeowners will also receive an energy efficiency starter kit with helpful items that can help them start saving energy right away, including shower heads, outlet seals, faucets and aerators, CFL bulbs and weather-stripping.
If your utility company doesn’t offer free audits, you can hire a private company to do a comprehensive one. The advantage of hiring a certified company is that they can do a more thorough audit and most can also do the work to remedy the problems identified in the audit. The suggestions and repairs they make can ultimately save you hundreds of dollars a year and will result in less energy use.
In lieu of a professional energy audit, you can do your own energy evaluation. With the last 12 months of utility bills and some basic information about your home, you can use the ENERGY STAR Home Energy Yardstick to calculate and compare your home’s energy efficiency to similar homes across the country. You can also get recommendations for energy-saving home improvements from ENERGY STAR.
Whichever method you choose, doing an evaluation of your home’s energy use is a good way to be a conscious homeowner. Help the planet and help your wallet a little at the same time. Happy Earth Day!