Conducting a DIY home energy audit is an easy way to fight climate change, maintain a warm home, and save some money in the process. You don’t have to be a professional or have lots of time either. This audit takes less than an hour to complete and many of the recommendations can be implemented in a weekend.
Step 1: Check for Air Leaks
The first thing to look for is air leaks. A few suspect spots are around doors, electrical panels, light switches, and recessed lights that go into the attic. All of these are incredibly easy to fix, often times with just one can of expanding foam and some weather stripping.
Step 2: Put Blinds to Work
More of a reminder, is to close vents and blinds. In the summer, you want to keep your blinds closed and in the winter you want to keep them open. This lets the greenhouse effect work for you. Another thing to do is to close vents when they aren’t in use, for example the chimney flue.
Step 3: Get a Smart Thermostat
Smart thermostats like the Nest adjust to your schedule to regulate the heat in your home. For example, they can automatically turn down the heat when you go to work or off when you go on vacation. While not the cheapest change the make, they claim a payback of about 2 years.
Step 4: Turn Down Water Temperature
Hot water is responsible for nearly 20% of the energy costs for an average home, so this section will focus on reducing waters energy footprint -- all for less than $25.
One of the easiest ways to reduce the energy usage of hot water is to simply turn it down. This is where the kitchen thermometer comes into play. Run hot water in your sink and test the temperature. If it’s over 125°, look at the front of hot water tank and locate the dial. Turn it down a bit, and test again after a few hours. If you have someone with a compromised immune system, consider 130°.
Step 5: Switch to Low Flow Water Head
Low flow shower heads branded with WaterSense can be an energy reduction you don’t even notice. Essentially, the flow is reduced by using smaller water droplets with more surface area, saving precious hot water. Go for something that 1.5 GPM or under. Best of all, low flow shower heads are relatively inexpensive at around $10 - $30.
Step 6: Insulate Hot Water Pipes
Reducing heat loss from pipes is one of the easiest changes to make. Simply insulate hot water pipes as you can, but especially the first 3 feet -- it’s cheap and easy to do with a great payback.
Step 7: Switch to LED Lightbulbs
If you still have incandescent bulbs, swap them immediately. LED light bulbs are about $5 - $10/each and payback in just a few months.
Step 8: Check for Energy Star
When you buying new appliances, check for the Energy Star rating and the efficiency rating, especially for refrigerators, clothes dryers, and dishwashers. Of course the extra cost and payback here will vary.
Step 9: Check Attic Insulation
Ensuring you have proper insulation is a vital piece of home energy efficiency. It’s really like a hat for your house. Get up there and measure how much insulation you have.
This is important to do even if your home had the proper insulation levels 10 years ago, because it settles over time which lessens effectiveness. Below is a great graphic that showcases about how much insulation is needed in the attic. Of course, it’s different depending on where you leave and the may vary with the type of insulation used.
Another source of heat loss in the attic can be the attic hatch or access if not properly insulated. Luckily, this is an easy fix, by either building or own insulation wall or buying a pre-made structure.
Step 10: Get Double Pane Windows
Believe it or not, some people still have single pane windows. Double pane windows sandwich gases between each layer to create insulation. While windows are a major cost, if you have single pane windows talk with a professional to develop a cost and payback schedule that works for you.
Step 11: Closing
Congratulations, you’ve done a simple home energy audit. Next, consider big changes to have an even larger impact, such as solar panels, solar hot water heater, new major appliances like a furnace, and so forth. Hiring a professional to do a home energy audit might catch anything you missed and they often have tools not accessible to DIYers like thermal imaging camera. Finally, be sure to check for rebates and other incentives from your state, city, and also your energy providers to save even more.