Professional energy audits may cost over $500 for a residential home. Energy audits conserve energy and money; however, you can do them yourself. You will need a full year of your energy bills, the ability to look up into your attic, and a thermal leak detector.
Look at your energy bills to see what your energy usage averages over the year. Be sure to look at the kilowatt usage. Examine the bills you received during months of peek chill and peek heat. If your energy usage increases significantly during those times, consider conducting your energy audit during those months.
Your home energy audit should consist of monitoring internal energy loss, external energy loss, and energy loss associated with heating and cooling units.
The internal energy audit consists of inspecting your electronic appliances, lighting, and wall and ceiling fixtures. Old appliances may not be performing at peak efficiency and can be a drain on your energy. Some newer appliances have built-in moderation devices which will cycle the appliance off when not in use. Also, look for the appliances which drain small bits of energy through the course of a day. Home entertainment electronics, music players, and many kitchen appliances have digital displays that are often unnecessary, but are using a constant dose of electrical energy.
Aesthetic lighting drains energy. Recessed lighting decreases ceiling insulation and oftentimes leaks energy into the attic. Kitchen cabinet lighting is oftentimes unnecessary; however, it can be improved with LED lighting to decrease energy usage while maintaining aesthetic appeal.
Ceiling fans, and light switches are oftentimes sources of energy leaks because they are not sealed properly. Energy auditors use an expensive machine called a blower door to find energy leaks throughout the home. Blower doors are accurate, but you can use a thermal leak detector, which cost upwards of $40, to find energy leaks around doors, windows, and wall and ceiling fixtures.
External energy loss happens through improperly weatherized doors and windows and insufficient home insulation. Using the handheld thermal leak detector, check the windows and doors for energy leaks. If you do not have a thermal leak detector, you can do a visual check. If you see light coming through the outer cracks of doors or windows when they are shut, you need to add or replace the weather stripping on them. You can also feel for drafts, or place light linen near the cracks to observe drafts.
You should know how much insulation your home has, because builders must let you know what level of insulation they have provided in the home so that it complies with state building codes. You can check your insulation level yourself. According to the Energy Star website, if you can see your floor joists in your attic, you need to add insulation.
The biggest energy consumer in your home is the heating and cooling unit. The water heater is the second biggest energy user. Ensure you have scheduled regular maintenance for your air conditioner. Check the filter, and visually inspect the ducts to see if they need to be cleaned. Inspect the condenser coil on the unit for cleanliness.
The water heater runs perpetually to maintain the water temperature. Look at the thermostat to ensure it is not set above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Touch the water heater carefully. If it is hot to the touch, it needs more insulation. Home improvement stores sell water heater jackets that can insulate old water heaters, though most new water heaters will be well insulated.
Finally, if your family has an income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, you may qualify to have a free professional home energy audit and free energy reducing repairs done on your home. Contact your local Community Action Agency or your local County government offices to find out about the Weatherization Assistance Program.