How a house power audit may also help you lower your expenses

Photo (c) zimmytws – FotoliaIf your heating bills were higher than expected in winter, there may be areas where you can improve your home’s energy envelope.

And if it costs more to heat your house this winter, it may cost more to keep it cool when summer comes. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has outlined a number of steps any homeowner can take to improve energy efficiency through a home energy audit.

The first step is to locate and seal air leaks. In winter, drafts are not only expensive, they also reduce comfort. The most likely places for air leaks are along the baseboard or the edge of the floor and where the walls meet the ceiling.

Cracks on doors and windows are another source of energy loss. You may also find leaks from lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, and electrical outlets. DOE estimates that plugging these leaks can not only create a more comfortable home but also cut annual energy bills by up to 20%.

Is the insulation sufficient?

The next step is to check your home’s insulation. Homes built in the last 20 years are generally quite energy efficient, but homes built before the 1980s may have saved on insulation.

If you have a skylight or pull-down steps, this can be an area where energy is escaping. Make sure the opening is insulated as well as the rest of the attic and that there are no gaps around the opening. Installing a thick weather strip can fill most of the gaps. However, hinges and springs may need to be adjusted to ensure a tighter fit when access to the attic is closed.

Ovens and air conditioners are huge energy consumers as both devices are used many hours a day to control the internal temperature of your home. In addition to plugging leaks, you can save money by making sure they operate at their maximum efficiency when they are in operation.

Replace filter

Filters must be checked and replaced regularly. The burners of gas and oil stoves need to be cleaned regularly to avoid wasting fuel. When a stove, air conditioner, or heat pump is old and breaks down regularly, replace it instead of repairing it. New units will be much more efficient.

After performing an energy audit, the DOE suggests creating an energy plan for the whole house. Add up your annual household energy expenses and identify areas where you think costs can be reduced.

The plan should also assess the cost effectiveness of remedial actions. Determine the payback when installing triple windows as opposed to plugging holes with sealant.

DOE has more energy-saving ideas here.

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