A home energy audit is an absolute necessity for homeowners who are interested in saving money, helping the environment, and creating a more comfortable home. With a few tools and a little know-how, homeowners can perform their own energy audit.

A home energy audit is a series of tests or assessments performed by a professional or the homeowner. These tests are performed on the outside and inside of the home in order to find energy drainages like air leaks, which allow heated air to escape the house in the winter or cool air to escape the house in the summer. Once these weak spots are located, homeowners can then implement energy-efficient solutions for the problems. The number of weak spots in a home varies, but according to the US Department of Energy, the average home has enough individual air leaks to equal the energy loss that a house would suffer by having a two-foot-square hole leaking air 24 hours a day. This is why performing a home energy audit is essential.

To get started, here are a few tools you’ll need:

  1. Flashlight
  2. Camera or pen and paper (to document any issues)
  3. Incense sticks
  4. Sheet of paper
  5. Lighter
  6. Tissue paper
  7. Ladder (possibly)

Home Energy Audit Checklist

  • Attic. Air leaks in attics draw heated air away from the indoor living areas. Check to see if the holes for your wiring, plumbing, or piping are properly sealed and insulated. Also, check the hatch leading into the attic for air leaks. To test this, close all the windows and doors, and turn on the air conditioner or furnace. Hold a lit stick of incense near the hatch—if the smoke rises between the hatch and the wood frame, then there is a potential air leak.

  • Ductwork. Leaky ducks can alter the performance of your heating and cooling systems. The foil or mastic tape on the ducts can become less efficient over time, causing air leaks. You can test for air leaks by turning on the heat or air conditioning in your home and feeling the ducts for any leaks. If you aren’t sure, shine a flashlight on the ducts and see if any dust is blowing.

  • Furnace and water heater. Check the manufacture date on the furnace and water heater. They become less efficient over time; furnaces should be replaced after 25 years, and water heaters should be replaced after 10 years. If you have an older water heater, it may be lined with outdated insulation. If you touch the water heater and it’s hot, then it is not retaining heat properly. Also remember to check the furnace filter—dirty filters make the system less energy efficient.

  • Windows and doors. A closed window or door can still have an air leak. Check for drafty windows or doors by closing all the windows and doors and turning off the air conditioner, furnace, and fans. Hold a lit stick of incense near all sides of the window or doorframe as well as underneath the door. The direction the smoke wafts should indicate if there is a draft.

  • Fireplace. Inadequate fireplace dampers create air leaks, which are terrible for energy efficiency. To check the fireplace, close the damper and light a small piece of paper in the firebox. Watch the smoke—if it goes up the flue, then there is an air leak.

  • Switches and outlets. Even though your switches and outlets are covered, they can still have air leaks. To test this, remove the protective plates from the switches or outlets and secure thin tissue paper over the outlet. If the tissue moves or blows, then there is an air leak.

Once a homeowner has completed the home energy audit, it’s time to make energy-efficient upgrades. Some of the upgrades are quite simple and affordable. Check back later this week for more information on how to implement energy-efficient changes in your home. 

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Sources: Energy Star; The Washington Post; This Old House; US Department of Energy.

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