Energy costs can often take up the biggest share of household budgets for most individuals, especially in the colder months of the year.
Fortunately, an energy audit can help to reduce this budget buster by revealing leaks and other energy consumption vampires that are driving up your energy costs.
While you can hire a professional to do this for you – from about $250 to $650 or more, depending on where you live – you can save money by doing it yourself.
1. Look for air leaks
Infrared cameras (a/k/a thermal cameras) are used by professionals to help them spot where cold air is coming into your home.
Fortunately, these devices are not as expensive now as they used to be. You can buy good infrared cameras (and devices designed to be used with your smartphone) for a few hundred bucks.
While they’re a great tool that can help you quickly spot air leaks, you can still find air leaks without such a device, it will simply take a little longer to find what you’re looking for.
To begin, look for leaks in areas they’re commonly found; doors, electrical outlets, window frames and baseboards.
Hold a feather or small piece of paper in front of the area you’re looking at. If you see movement, you’ve probably got a leak. Depending on where you find the leak you can seal up the area with expanding foam, caulk, or weather stripping.
If you find an air leak around one or more outlets, stop the leak with a switch plate or electrical insulation pad.
Replace any worn or compressed weather stripping around doorways and if necessary, add a draft dodger or rolled up towel to stop cold air from leaking (and warm air from escaping)!
2. Examine your lighting
If you have incandescent bulbs in your light fixtures, replace them with either LED or CFL light bulbs to save energy without sacrificing your lighting needs.
3. Manage your windows
In the winter months, take advantage of sunlight streaming through your windows by keeping blinds and curtains open. Do the opposite in the summer, to reduce the strain on your home’s cooling systems.
4. Inspect your plumbing
In addition to electrical costs, water and sewer consumption also adds to a family’s monthly budget. For the simplest cost-saving measures, go with low-flow toilets and water faucets throughout your home.
Next, check the temperature setting on your hot water heater by using a thermometer under the hot water coming from your kitchen tap.
The Department of Energy (DOE) recommends a setting of 120 degrees, so adjust it on your hot water tank if necessary.
5. Check your appliances
A simple, yet often forgotten way to save on electricity costs is to unplug appliances that aren’t being used. Alternatively, you can use a smart power strip to turn off multiple appliances at one time.
When buying a new appliance, look for products with the Energy Star label. These items have been constructed within certain standards of energy efficiency and will help you keep your energy costs lower.
6. Visually inspect your heating and cooling unit
Check the ductwork to ensure that everything is well connected and leak-free. If your costs have significantly risen there could be a problem with your unit. Contact an HVAC professional to have them determine what’s wrong.
Even if you don’t see any issues it’s a good idea to set up an annual inspection of your heating and cooling system; it’s not that expensive and could potentially save you a lot of money – and grief – by catching problems early.
7. Check your insulation
Finally, check the insulation in your home, including the basement (if applicable), walls, pipes and attic.
To check the insulation in your walls remove an outlet cover and shine a light into the crack(s) around the outlet box. If it looks like you could use more insulation, contact a professional for their advice.
Improve your water heater’s efficiency by making sure the pipes leading out from the tank are wrapped with insulation. Wrap your hot water heater tank as well to help with its efficiency.
These posts may come in handy with your inspections: