With winter approaching faster than you may like to think, now is the perfect time to do an energy assessment of your home. Checking your home and ridding it of energy-wasting gaps and cracks will help keep your energy bill down this winter. A home energy assessment doesn’t take very long and it’s pretty easy.
Below are a few simple and inexpensive ways to do a quick energy assessment of your home. These may seem like small things, but over time the small changes can make a large impact on your energy bill and save you money.
Check for air leaks around your home
One of the easiest and most tricky ways to waste energy is by losing heat from your home. This can happen through numerous small cracks near windows, doors, air vents, fireplaces, electrical outlets, and exterior molding. Some people suggest using incense sticks, but for a safer method that won’t catch your house on fire, try talcum or baby powder. It might make a little mess, but it’s much safer than incense. Go around the windows and doors and see if the powder is blown in or sucked out of the room. If you find a crack or gap where the powder is escaping or forced in, fill in the crack with either caulk or wall plaster.
Sometimes, you can even run your hand near areas you think there’s a draft and feel the cold air gushing in. We discovered our door created a HUGE draft in our living room. Catching this early allowed us to add some insulation tape to the inside of the doorframe for a better seal.
Clean out and replace furnace filter
If you pull out your furnace filter, hold it up to a light and it casts a shadow instead of letting light through, it’s time to change your furnace filter. If air can’t get through the filter, then the furnace isn’t heating and pushing much, if any, warm air through your house. Changing your furnace filter only takes about five minutes and will boost efficiency when heating your home.
I just replaced my furnace filter a week ago, and man was it dirty! We have two cats in our home, so the filter was covered with cat hair. Upon pulling it out, we also discovered the filter was only good for one month… and we used it all last winter. So take a lesson from me, check your filter and check it often – especially if you have pets – and be sure to spend the bit of extra cash for a filter that lasts several months.
Consider putting “energy vampires” on a power strip
Even though your TV, laptop or Xbox are off, most of these electronics still draw small amounts of energy that add up at the end of the month; electricians and energy experts call them “energy vampires” or “phantom loads.” I put all of my electronics through my house on power strips or surge protectors.
Before I go to work in the morning and bed at night, I turn off or even unplug the power strip, which keeps all of my electronics off while when I obviously can’t use them. It only takes a second to plug the strip back in or flick the switch, and this small change has helped me save quite a bit at the end of the month.
Check the insulation in your attic (and add if you need to)
If you haven’t been in your attic in awhile, you might want to check it out before winter. Making sure your attic is properly insulated will help trap heat in your home. Keep in mind that hot air rises and cold air sinks, so creating a barrier at the top level of your home keeps heat from escaping and cold air from invading.
Your local home improvement store clerk can tell you how much insulation you should have in your attic, as it varies from region to region. You clearly wouldn’t need as much insulation as we do here in Detroit if you live in Phoenix. If you have some extra money, you might consider adding some insulation just for extra protection.
This isn’t totally energy related, but it’s still important since you’ll be in your attic anyways: Inspect for holes that critters might have crawled in through, and make sure they’re plugged up as well. That will help keep both cold air and animals out. While you’re up there, you might want to make sure those critters aren’t still living in your attic. You don’t want to get surprised by one of nature’s furry (or non-furry) friends one day. Trust me.
Keep track and compare energy bills
I know I hate looking at my electric and gas bill – especially in the winter. Seeing that it’s nearly doubled just trying to keep the chill out of my house makes me want to cry. This is an important step, though, in the home energy assessment process. If you don’t know how much energy you use monthly then how can you know if you’re using less energy in your home?
Keeping tabs on our bills is the only way we know whether our energy audit helped. Also it allows you to make conscious decisions on how you use energy in your home. For example, if your gas bill doubles when the weather cools off, maybe you can turn the thermostat down a few degrees and wear a blanket or sweatshirt around the house if you get cold.
The best part of the home energy assessment, though, at least for me, was seeing my bill hover around $110 for our 1,100-square-foot home for both gas and electric, despite temperatures below 0. So man up and face that energy bill, because with a little planning, you won’t see it skyrocket as the temperature plummets.
You can start saving money on your energy bills today even if you do only one or two of the things on this list. All of these fixes are pretty inexpensive and take little effort to do. You don’t have to go out and replace every single appliance or window in your home to save money and energy. Fixing the spaces that waste energy, and assessing how you and your family can be more efficient, will make an immediate impact without busting your budget.
If you feel like you want a closer look at your home, seek a professional energy auditor; learn more about them from Energy.gov.