WegoWise's Friday Links: 5 steps to a DIY Home Energy Audi
This week, WegoWise is bringing you five ways to do your own home energy audit. As fall weeks begin to morph into the brisk of winter, it's important to make sure your home is properly insulated and utilities are working well before you start cranking up that thermostat and dishing out dough for your energy bills. As much as well all love receiving new Snuggies for Christmas to keep cozy, there are also ways to warm up while saving energy and money. So take these steps to complete your own DIY home energy audit, and maybe you can save enough to splurge on a cat tree bungalow for Felix this year!
1. General Air Leaks
Air leaks in a home or apartment can contribute to up to one third of total heating cost. Invest a little bit of time in the classic "Incense test" to determine where you might be losing the air:
a. Turn off all combustion appliances such as gas furnaces or water heaters
b. Shut all windows and exterior doors – anything that will open to let in outside air
c. Turn on all of the exhaust fans that will blow air outside. In most households, these include your clothes dryer, bathroom fans, and stove vents. This will create a vacuum inside and make it easier to see where air is being sucked in.
d. Light up an incense stick (where you can watch the smoke dissipate as it burns). Pass it around edges of common leak sites, such as doors, windows, heating ducts, water pipes, sewer stacks, wiring, lights, electrical outlets, chimneys, attic hatches, and pet doors. If you notice places where the incense smoke wavers or gets pulled in, you've found a draft that's increasing your energy use.
If you live in an area with snow, an easy and quick way to check if your roof is properly insulated is by taking a step outside and comparing it to other houses on the street. Does the snow on your roof seem to be melting quicker than all of the others in the neighborhood? Don't just assume this is all due to the angle at which the sun hits the roof. It could be a sign that your roof is letting out too much heat from your house.
3. Furnace Filters/ AC Coilers
Are your heating and cooling appliances inspected and cleaned regularly? If not, your filters could be full of dirt, forcing your systems to work a lot harder than might be necessary to heat or cool the same amount as a clean furnace or air conditioning. Replacing your filters once every month or two months can be an easy task that would be a worthwhile habit to make.
4. Attics and Crawl Spaces
There are easy and simple says to look for holes in the ceiling of the attic or in your crawl space. If you can see any leaks letting light into the space, this can be a clear indicator air leakage and perhaps of poor insulation. Additionally, look for any dark marks on the insulation or over pipes or wall top plates – these are areas where dust is being drawn through due to an air leak. Finally, you can also check the areas where anything penetrates the ceiling, such as chimney, piping, lighting, or wires. These areas especially can come with additional gaps or poor insulation.
Fires and fireplaces can both contribute as sources of inefficient heating. Chimney fires lost 90% of their heat up the flue, and can even suck out heated air from the inside of your house. When it's not in use, the fireplace can leak a great deal of conditioned air with a poor damper. Make sure your damper is completely shut when the fireplace is no in use. To check your damper, shine a flashlight up the chimney to assure it's closed tightly. As an alternative, try the incense trick to see how well your chimney is sealed when not in use!
So now you know where the leakiest areas of your house are. What’s next? For tips on how to begin weatherizing, check out our recent blog post here.
Do you have any cool or unique DIY energy audit tips? We want to hear your favorite methods! For a more detailed guide on how to complete your home energy audit, check out this report by the City of Seattle. And as always, feel free to check out WegoWise if you want an easier way to view and track your utilities. We love saving energy!