Home Energy Audits

Home Energy Audits and Why You Should Get One

By SaleCore for MiamiRE

While you may be familiar with ways to measure efficiency in various aspects of your life, such as your vehicle or even your work, have you thought about how to measure the efficiency of your home? A home energy audit, also known as a home energy assessment, can help you evaluate and understand the big picture of your home's energy use, comfort, safety, and potential savings. An audit will determine how much energy your home consumes, where inefficiencies may exist, and which problem areas and fixes you should prioritize to save energy and improve the comfort of your home. Conducting a home energy audit is fairly simple, allowing you to do much of it yourself, or you can call the professionals for a more thorough assessment.

Concept of energy efficiency in the form of a tachometer

DIY Home Energy Audits

While a professional energy assessment will provide the most comprehensive picture of your home's energy use, a diligent self-assessment can help you identify problem areas and prioritize your energy efficiency upgrade needs. Following are the leading items to focus on during a DIY home energy audit.

  • Air Leaks: Air leaks weaken your efforts to control the temperature of your home. These leaks may exist around plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, and pipes. Keep an eye out for cracks in the foundation or siding, as well as your door and window frames. These cracks may allow warm air to escape. Seal leaks between moving parts (the door and its frame) with weatherstripping. Fill leaks between non-moving parts (the window frame and wall) with caulking.
  • Insulation: Proper insulation is critical to control your home’s temperature. Gaps in your insulation will allow outside air to seep into your home, and can be problematic in hot or cold weather, causing your air conditioner and heating system to work harder, leading to higher electric bills. To prevent wasted energy, ensure that the insulation in your walls, attics, and crawl spaces are completely filled.
  • Heating and Cooling Systems: The most significant expenses on your energy bill are generated by your heating and cooling systems. To maintain the efficiency of your HVAC systems, use duct tape to plug leaks in air ducts, insulate ducts and pipes that move through unheated spaces, and replace filters as needed. Your HVAC system should be professionally inspected at least once a year.
Concept of appliances and energy efficiency chart
  • Appliances: Your home appliances consume a significant amount of energy on a daily basis. Your refrigerator, for example, runs on over-time, resulting in less-than- efficient operation. In addition, older models consume more energy than newer models do. Therefore, if you are considering new appliances, select appliances with the ENERGY STAR label. Products with this label meet specific performance and efficiency standards. They also feature an energy-saving mode that limits energy consumption when the appliance is off. With that said, it is important to remember that your appliances consume energy when plugged in, even when they are not in use. Connect your appliances to power strips, allowing you to disconnect multiple appliances at the same time.
  • Water Heaters: A typical household uses approximately 60 gallons of hot water per day on laundry, showers, and dishwashing, thus contributing to more than 25% of your energy bill. There are simple steps to making your water heater more efficient, such as reducing your hot water usage by washing your laundry in cold water or taking shorter showers. Another easy adjustment you can make is to decrease the water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees. In addition, if your water heater feels warm to the touch, you can insulate it with a water heater blanket, cutting heat loss by up to 45% and saving up to 16% on your heating bill. It is recommended to replace your water heater after about 15 years.
  • Home Lighting: If you still use traditional incandescent light bulbs in your home, you can make a big difference to your energy bill by switching to LED bulbs. LED bulbs consume about 90% less energy, and can last up to 25 times longer. Although they are a little more expensive to purchase than traditional light bulbs, you can rest assured that they will pay for themselves over time.

Professional Home Energy Audits

Professional inspecting insulation

While you can certainly achieve many repairs and savings with a DIY home energy audit, a professional assessment is a more thorough and comprehensive examination of your home’s overall efficiency. Professional auditors will conduct a homeowner interview to identify specific comfort issues, understand typical living patterns in your home, and will review historical energy use to serve as a benchmark for potential savings estimates. In addition to room-by-room inspections, a home energy professional will conduct a thorough investigation using a variety of tools and a combination of diagnostic tests to identify leaks, moisture problems, ventilation issues, and assess the home’s energy performance. They may use equipment such as blower doors, infrared cameras, gas leak and carbon monoxide detectors, moisture meters, and non-toxic smoke pens. They will identify where your home is losing the most energy, and will then propose a prioritized list of improvement measures, based on health and safety issues, comfort, and overall cost-benefit, to help save energy and reduce your utility bills.

Homeowner doing a home energy audit

Cost and Savings

What you pay for a professional energy audit will depend on the company and the size of your property. Even as a paid service, however, the cost for an energy audit and subsequent energy efficiency measures conducted will be well worth it when you’re saving between 5% to 30% on your electricity bill. Your improvements may also qualify for local, state or federal rebates.

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