Professional home energy audits are more likely to find more ways to reduce energy consumption in your home, but there are several things you can do by yourself to reduce consumption. Performing a do-it-yourself energy audit will help you determine what needs to be done and at what cost. Fortunately, most do-it-yourself fixes are very inexpensive and don't take much of your time.
Before you start your audit, have a pencil and pad of paper on hand so you can write down the list of things that need to be repaired, replaced, or sealed. You'll find that the list will help you determine what needs to be done first and what, if anything needs to be picked up from the store to make your repairs.
Lighting your home accounts for about 10% of your electricity bill. Replacing your lighting with energy efficient bulbs, such as compact florescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is one of the easiest ways to save as they reduce energy consumption from lighting by as much as 75% to 80%. On your pad of paper, record how many bulbs you'll need to replace your old ones.
2. Air Leaks
You can save as much as 5% to 30% per year by eliminating air leaks and drafts in your home. Checking doors and windows is obvious, and you can check these by trying to rattle them (rattling likely means a leak) and by seeing if light comes through the framings.
Also check for gaps and cracks around:
- Electric outlets
- Phone lines and cable cords
- Switch plates
- External corners of the home
- Phone lines and cable cords
- Dryer vents
- Ceiling fans
You can seal air leaks by caulking or weather-stripping them. This is an easy and very inexpensive way to reduce your electricity consumption and your bill. Be sure to check for leaks in both the inside and outside of your home.
Especially if you have an older home, you may not have enough insulation protecting the exterior of your home from losing heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. Most of us are going to avoid tearing all of our walls down to replace insulation, but there are a few key places that replacing or adding insulation is cost effective and not very time consuming.
The attic (or overhead crawl space) is one very important space to check, especially since heat naturally rises and can easily escape from your home here. We mentioned in the first point to check for and seal leaks in the attic. Make sure that the attic door is sealed off as well. Make sure that insulation is thick and covers all areas. Also check for a vapor barrier under the insulation. This barrier keeps moisture from coming through the ceiling and damaging insulation, and may be tarpaper or a plastic sheet. Consider removing your insulation and placing a vapor barrier under it if there is none.
Check your basement's insulation as well if it is easily accessible. If you're very concerned about insulation and you'd like to learn more about how to check your walls, visit Energy.gov's section on thermographic inspections.
4. Heating and Cooling Units
One of the biggest reasons for heating and cooling unit repairs and replacements is because their filters were not replaced on time. Replacing (or cleaning in some cases) filters not only keeps your unit healthy, but reduces energy consumption because the unit doesn't have to work as hard to pump air. You should check your filter once per month, and you'll need to replace it at least every two months.
If your units are aging at least 15 years old you may want to consider purchasing a newer, energy efficient units. Newer units don't use near the amount of energy as old ones and can last for decades.
5. Electronics and Appliances
Most of us realize that electricity is wasted when turned-off appliances remain plugged into the wall. A 46-inch LCD TV alone can waste about $11 per month in electricity when plugged in but turned off. Though the savings is there, few of us are going to unplug our entertainment systems, coffee makers, and computers and printers before we go to bed or every morning when we leave the house. Fortunately, there are new smart power strips that can automatically detect when an electronic or appliance is not in use and will shut off power to it accordingly.
Smart power strips are very affordable, ranging from $15 to $40, depending on their capabilities. Learn more about how smart power strips can save you hundreds of dollars a year.