An energy audit is a way to assess your building's energy use and find ways to make improvements. With the results of the audit, you can reduce energy use and cut utility bills. As you prepare to conduct an audit, it can be helpful to have a floor plan to make notes for specific places and keep track of your notes.
According to Energy Savers, an information website run by the U.S. Department of Energy, making sure your home is draft-free can save up to 30 percent of your energy use each year. To start, look around electrical outlets and windows to see that they are sealed properly and that air is not flowing through cracks; shake windows and listen for a telltale rattle. Use a stick of incense to detect air movement. Check weather stripping and look for cracks around doors and windows. If you have a fireplace, make sure your fireplace is airtight when not in use. Look around pipes, the foundation and even the mail slots. By reducing drafts, you can keep both warm and cool air in and improve energy management. (see References 2)
Insulation is crucial to efficient energy use. As part of your audit, make sure that your home has adequate insulation. Start in the attic and ensure that the walls and floor are insulated; look also for a vapor barrier that protects the insulation and make sure it is able to do its job. To see how well your walls are insulated, remove an outlet cover or make a small hole in an unobtrusive spot, then insert a screwdriver to see if the walls are filled with insulating material. If your basement is not insulated, check that the ceiling is well protected to keep the floor above from taking up too much heat or cold. You should also make sure that pipes are insulated, particularly if they run through cold spaces in your home. (see References 2)
As part of your energy audit, consider how your behaviors can cause wasted energy. Look for doors or windows that are frequently left open and check to see that appliances are turned off when they are not in use. Note places that you can plug in devices to power strips that can be turned off completely; this will allow you to turn the power off entirely to prevent phantom power loss, which can happen when appliances are plugged in to the wall. Check to make sure your thermostats are turned down at night or when you are away from the house. (see References 1)
According to the Energy Savers website, 10 percent of energy use is typically due to lighting. To make sure that you are not using inefficient lights, replace all of your light bulbs with energy efficient models. Look for rooms where you can make greater use of natural light to reduce the dependence on electricity; you might also consider installing a skylight or widening a window. Identify places where you can install dimmer switches and control panels to make it easy to turn lights off from anywhere. (see References 2)
Elizabeth Smith has been a scientific and engineering writer since 2004. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, newspapers and corporate publications. A frequent traveler, she also has penned articles as a travel writer. Smith has a Bachelor of Arts in communications and writing from Michigan State University.
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