Give Your House the DIY Home Energy Audit It Deserves

Even small improvements can lower your monthly energy usage.

No matter how low your energy bill might already be, you're always looking for ways to actively lower your bill. A do-it-yourself (DIY) energy audit is the first place to start, and it doesn't require you to hire an outside professional. So grab your flashlight, some paper, and a pencil, and start your energy audit by looking for these common problems.

Identify Air Leaks

Whether it's the blistering heat of summer or the coldest winter night, air leaks in the home make it more difficult to maintain a stable temperature, which ultimately leads to energy. Air leaks are commonly found in the gaps along baseboards or junctures in the floor and ceiling. Locate these air leaks, seal them with the appropriate material, and feel your home and energy become more comfortable.

Check Attic Insulation

Sealing those air leaks will have little effect on your energy bill if your home is poorly insulated - which is especially true for older homes. Start in the attic and check current insulation levels. Homes with cellulose insulation should have insulation to a depth of 10 inches (R-10) at minimum. Use this time to check the area has proper weatherstripping and to ensure the gaps around the chimney and other heat-producing objects are closed tightly.

Use Light Efficiently

Lighting accounts for about 14% of your electric bill. Are you using it wisely? Start by recording your light usage and examining the light bulbs in your home. Next, replace older bulbs with ENERGY STAR rated bulbs, as these use 70-90% less energy than old-school incandescent bulbs. Shopping for new bulbs is also a great time to determine how much light you actually need. Lastly, review the plans available from your local utility. Some utilities offer rebates or incentives for using energy-efficient bulbs, thus increasing your savings.

Inspect Your Heating and Cooling System

Heating and cooling equipment account for nearly half of your home's energy usage, so it's important your Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system runs optimally. Inspect your system annually — unless recommended otherwise by the manufacturer — to ensure it is running as efficiently as possible. It's also best if you change your air filter every month.

Update Old Appliances or Electronics

If you're in the market for an new appliance or electronic device, research your options to replace your existing model with an ENERGY STAR option instead. You may spend money in the short run, but you'll start using less energy, which leads to greater long-term savings. If you are not able to afford a new model, there are other ways you can cut the energy usage. Start by unplugging non-essential items when they are not in use to prevent drawing and wasting energy. Next, find ways to use your appliances more efficiently. For example, avoid running the dishwasher or laundry machine unless it is completely full, and don't use the television while scrolling through Facebook on a tablet — make it an either/or decision.

An energy audit doesn't have to be a grand event, as even the smallest changes can have a big impact in lowering your monthly energy usage. Find simple steps to conduct your own home-energy audit and set yourself up for future energy savings.

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