Hiring a professional to conduct a home energy audit is a great way to determine how much energy your home consumes and what you can do to make it more efficient — but it also can be expensive. You can, however, easily conduct your own. Use the following guidelines from the U.S. Department of Energy and keep a checklist of areas you inspect and problems you find.
Air leaks. You might be able to save 5 percent to 30 percent a year on your energy bills by finding and fixing leaks. Start by checking for obvious leaks. Inspect windows and doors. If you can rattle them, chances are there’s an air leak. Caulking or weather stripping is an easy fix. Also check to see if air flows through less-obvious places such as baseboards and electrical outlets. Then head outside the house to inspect all areas where two different building materials meet: where siding and chimneys meet and where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet. Plug and caulk any holes you find and seal other cracks with appropriate materials.
Insulation. Check the attic hatch to see if it is as heavily insulated as the attic, is weather-stripped and closes tightly. In the attic, determine whether openings for items such as pipes, ductwork and chimneys are sealed. Seal any gaps with an expanding foam caulk or other permanent sealant. Also check to see if you have a vapor barrier under the attic insulation. If not, paint the interior ceilings with vapor barrier paint to reduce the amount of water vapor that could pass through the ceiling.
Heating and cooling equipment. Check to see if it’s more than 15 years old. If so, you might want to consider switching to a newer model. Also check your ductwork for dirt streaks; these indicate an air leak and will need to be sealed with a duct mastic.
Lighting. Check the wattage of your lightbulbs. You might be using a 100-watt bulb when you could be using a 60-watt. Consider switching to compact fluorescent lamps for lights that are on for hours at a time.