Do It Yourself Home Energy Audits

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With rising energy costs today, it may prove insightful and money saving to conduct a quick energy audit through your house. Begin with a well thought out check list and you may discover a variety of energy issues in you home. While performing your audit, mark off the checklist for areas you have monitored and problems you have discovered. You will use this later to determine your required energy efficiency upgrades and perform a total energy home improvement.

Air Leaks are a major cause of energy loss.

First write down a list of the very obvious air leaks. The potential energy savings from eliminating blatant air leaks in a home may range from 5 to 30% per year. Examine closely for interior air leaks, such as gaps along the baseboard or edge of your flooring installation. Take a look where the walls and ceiling join. Check to see if air can flow through these joints.

There are a number of common places for air movement and energy losses. These will be discovered in many homes that were built during periods when energy issues were not a real factor in construction.

Electrical outlets and switch plates traditionally have not been sealed but current energy costs make this a worthwhile investment and the labor is minimal. Be sure to follow proper safety procedures around electrical connections. Look for tight mouldings around windows and if possible try to determine if insulation was placed between the framing and walls.

Check all baseboards for drafts or air spaces. Ensure that the weather striking around doors is in good condition and creates a proper seal. Determine that fireplace dampers have been properly installed and operate properly for peak efficiency.

Check the fit and insulation around attic entrances. Check wall or window-mounted air conditioners for air tight installation. Be sure to check for gaps around pipes and wires, electrical outlets, foundation seals, and mail slots. Check to see if the caulking and weather stripping have been applied effectively. There should be no gaps or cracks.

Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. Check that panes and frames are all tight and free of movement. Movement indicates potential air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame it goes without saying that you are leaking air. You can usually seal these leaks with caulking or weather stripping. Inspect your storm windows. New energy efficient storm windows will pay for themselves very quickly. You may also wish to consider replacing your current windows and doors with energy efficient products.

Conducting a Leak Test

Close all exterior doors, windows, and fireplace flues. Turn off all heating appliances such as gas burning furnaces and water heaters. Turn on any exhaust fans, heating cooling fans and bathroom fans. Use a large window fan to suck the air from one room to another. You can use incense sticks or your damp hand to detect air movement. If you use incense sticks, moving air will cause the smoke to waver, and if you use your damp hand, any drafts will feel cool to your hand.

Exterior Inspection Check Points

Check all outside corners, siding and chimney joints, points where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet. As you have done inside, caulk holes or openings for faucets, pipes, electric outlets, and wiring. Search for cracks and holes in the mortar, foundation, and siding, and seal them with a quality caulking. Check the exterior caulking around doors and windows. Ensure exterior storm doors and interior doors seal tightly.

Ensure proper house air flow systems operate efficiently so that air feeds for heating and cooling are operating efficiently.

Check that attic access areas are insulated, weather stripped, and close up securely. Inside the attic, seal any gaps at ductwork and pipe openings with an expanding foam caulk or some other permanent sealant.

Try to check behind drywall to see if there is a vapor barrier benefit the attic insulation. The vapor barrier might be tarpaper, Kraft paper attached to fiberglass batts, or a plastic sheet. If vapor barriers are absent and installation of new vapor barrier is not practical, you may consider painting the interior ceilings with vapor barrier paint. This reduces the amount of water vapor that can pass through the ceiling.Ensure that the attic vents are not blocked by insulation. You also should seal any electrical boxes in the ceiling with flexible caulk and cover the entire attic floor with at least the current recommended amount of insulation.

Check Basement areas

In unheated foundations, you should have insulation under the living area flooring. There should also be insulation at the top of the foundation wall and first floor perimeter. Your water heater, hot water pipes, and furnace ducts should all be insulated.

Heating and Cooling Equipment

Heating and cooling equipment should be inspected annually. With forced-air furnaces, check your filters and replace them as needed. Typically, you should change them about once every month or two, especially during periods of high usage. If the unit is more than 15 years old, you should consider replacing your system with one of the newer, energy-efficient units. This is another cost effective improvement that will also increase the value of your home.

Insulate any ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces.

Lighting

Energy for lighting accounts for about 10% of your electric bill. Changing all your light bulbs to the newer energy saving light bulbs will save you a surprising amount on your energy bill. Your electric utility may offer rebates or other incentives for purchasing energy-efficient lamps.