With cooler weather comes higher energy bills, but Energy.gov reports that conducting a home energy audit can ultimately save you up to 30% in energy costs. These savings are substantial enough to motivate any homeowner, but for those concerned about making less of an impact on our planet, you’ll also get the added peace of mind that you’re doing your part to make an even smaller footprint on the earth.
Energy Audit 101
There are a number of things you can look at during your home energy audit to identify areas of wasted energy. For starters, do an inventory of every place that air comes in and out of your house. This means checking each heating and cooling vent, windows and doors, and feeling around outlets for possible air leaks. If you want to get really fancy, you can use a blower door — a special fan that depressurizes a house to identify air leaks. If you don’t have the time or resources to secure this equipment, you’ll find that holding your hand up in the air to feel around where the most obvious drafts are, will get you started on your plan to reduce energy waste and keep your bills down.
You should also consider how often you leave the lights on when you leave the house just for a few hours each day, then multiply that by 30 days in the month. Turning off the lights each morning before you head out may seem like a small step, but The Daily Green reports that lighting is responsible for 11% of the average household’s bill, so a little can go a long way.
In addition, take a look at your energy bills for the last few months. If your current provider doesn’t give easy access to your billing history, consider browsing electric.com to find a new provider. You can also use this site to pick and choose among different providers to find the most competitive option, as well as the energy service that best aligns with your “green” mindset.
Once you’ve identified possible problems in your audit, you can now work to fix them. For heat and air loss during winter months, Energy.gov suggests investing in storm windows to reduce heat loss by 25%-50%. You can also seal leaky windows by using a simple caulk gun, and stop drafty outlets by installing foam gaskets behind each switch plate.
If you find yourself having trouble remembering to do basic energy maintenance, like turning off the lights or appliances each day, you may want to check out some of the energy saving apps designed for homeowners who want more convenient ways of remembering to reduce their energy burden. The Alliance for Saving Energy (ASE) recommends several different apps, including NestMobile, a free app for iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that allows you to adjust your home’s temperature remotely. You can also try Kill-Ur-Watts, a free app created during the Department of energy’s app challenge that allows homeowners to track and monitor their energy usage and get a clear picture of their carbon footprint and how their home energy use contributes to their overall consumption.
– Flora Cook
Flora Cook is a professor of urban planning and sustainability at a state university and a sustainability analyst for an urban development group. To reach Flora please contact Martin York at BluefirePR (firstname.lastname@example.org)