Mother Earth Living

Do Your Own Home Energy Audit

Find out where your house is losing energy.
By Laurel Kallenbach
January/February 2008
Add to My MSN

Photo By Djonk/Fotolia


Content Tools

Related Content

How Energy-Efficient is Your Home? Find Out Now

Two new federal programs, the Home Energy Scoring program and the PowerSaver program, make it easier...

Green Your Life: Green Dog Ownership

Part one of Natural Home intern Dani Hurst’s “green pet ownership” series. This one’s for all the do...

Can This Home Be Greened? Nifty and Fifty: An Older Home Gets A Sustainable Makeover

This graceful Massachusetts home can become more energy-efficient with better windows, insulation, a...

Weatherize Your Home, Collect Stimulus Money

Weatherizing your home saves you money. Just a few simple changes can greatly reduce the amount of e...

Want to save energy and money? Pinpoint where your house loses energy by performing a simple energy audit yourself—or have a professional energy auditor conduct a more thorough inspection. For more details, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy site. Search for “Home Energy Audit.”

For more on finding and sealing air leaks that might be affecting your home's efficiency, check out the article Sealing Air Leaks for Increased Home Efficiency.

1. Locate air leaks

• Reducing drafts can save 5 to 30 percent of energy annually.

• Inspect for gaps and air flow around electrical outlets, windows, baseboards, doors, fireplaces, attic hatches, pipes, foundations and mail slots.  

• Test for air movement by closing all exterior doors, windows and fireplace flues and by turning off all combustion appliances (gas furnaces, water heaters). Then turn on all exhaust fans to suck air out of the rooms. Use smoldering incense sticks to locate leaks; moving air causes the smoke to waver.

Fixes

• Caulk, plug or place weather-stripping around leaks and holes.

• Replace old windows with high-performance ones or install plastic sheets over the windows.

2. Evaluate the insulation

• You’ll need to determine the current insulation’s R-value, thickness or depth. If you live in a newer house, ask the builder. For older houses, you’ll have to check what type of insulation you have and how many inches are there.

• Determine whether attic and basement insulation meet the recommended R-value for your locale. Once you know your insulation type and amount, search for “Insulation Fact Sheet” on the Oak Ridge National Lab site: www.ORNL.gov. Click on “Determining the R-Value You Need for an Existing House,” then on “R-Value Recommendations.” Here you can enter your zip code to see what R-values are most appropriate for your climate.

• Inspect your attic for an existing vapor barrier—tarpaper, a plastic sheet or kraft paper attached to fiberglass batts—under the insulation. This reduces the amount of water vapor that can pass through the ceiling. Moisture can reduce insulation effectiveness. If a vapor barrier isn’t there, install one.

• Check wall insulation by removing an electrical outlet cover plate (be sure to switch off the circuit breaker first). Probe into the wall with a stick or screwdriver. If you feel resistance, you have some insulation. Unfortunately, this can’t tell you if the entire wall is insulated or whether the insulation has settled. Only infrared scanning (also called thermography) done by a professional using special equipment can achieve this.

Fixes

• Increase insulation throughout your house as needed. For more information on finding the right insulation for your home, check out the article New Dimensions in Insulation.

• Coat attic ceilings with vapor-barrier paint.

• Insulate the water heater, hot water pipes and furnace ducts.

3. Check Your heating and cooling equipment

• Get professional maintenance once a year.

• Clean or replace filters monthly if you have a forced-air furnace. 

• Check ductwork for dirt streaks, which indicate air leaks.

Fixes

• If your HVAC system is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a new energy-efficient unit.

• Insulate ducts or pipes in unheated spaces. An R-value of 6 is the minimum.


Previous | 1 | 2 | Next






Post a comment below.

 








Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.