A good way to start improving your home’s energy efficiency is by conducting an energy assessment (also called an energy audit). An assessment takes inventory of potential leaks, excess electricity use and inefficient appliances and equipment to uncover opportunities for you to save energy and money. You may be able to solve many of the problems that same day. Make it a family challenge! Give your whole family a list of things to check off (assign young children safe and easy items). Have a contest for who can find the most energy fixes. By getting the whole family involved, you’ll have a fun, free and educational activity that is sure to get everyone on the lookout for other quick and easy energy saving fixes, like remembering to turn off the computer or TV. Before you begin the assessment, be prepared to make easy fixes on the spot by picking up these materials:
- Weather Stripping
- Plastic sheeting for windows
- Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs
- Duct sealant (mastic)
Once you have your time, materials and extra hands, you’re ready to start your assessment. Below is a list of common energy inefficiencies. Consult a qualified auditor or contractor for those harder-to-reach spots.
- Check the insulation levels in exterior walls, basements, attics, crawlspaces
- Look for holes and cracks in any walls, foundation, windows, doors, plumbing and wiring. Pay extra attention to any air leaks found in your home.
- Make sure your fireplace flue is tightly closed
- Check lighting patterns. Are you leaving lights on during the day, unused lights on at night? Can you switch to more efficient light bulbs?
Most of these can be fixed right away. As you move through your home, carry a bag or toolbox with the above supplies so you can fix items instantly, or mark the area with colored tape so you can retrace your steps later on. Safety Tips: Check to make sure that any appliances burning fuel, like your stove or space heaters, have at least one square inch of vent opening for every 1,000 BTU of appliance input heat. Also, consult a qualified professional to make sure you avoid “backdrafting,” a condition where flue gas enters your living space instead of exiting through the venting system of a combustion appliance.
- Virginia Energy Sense’s Do-It-Yourself Guide
- Virginia Energy Sense’s Energy Tests and Audits
- ENERGY STAR’s Home Improvement Tips
- U.S. Department of Energy’s Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Assessments
If you’re looking for a professional energy auditor, learn how to find a qualified auditor to learn more about your home’s energy use.