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Give Your Home a Checkup

A home energy audit will identify where energy escapes your home, costing you money

      In any season, a leaky home costs money. How do you stop it? It starts with a comprehensive home energy checkup, a series of tests and inspections to find out where your house could be more efficient.
      The end goal is to save energy, save money and make your house more comfortable. Installing energy-efficient lighting and appliances will help. So will creating a sealed barrier around your house, kind of like putting a blanket around the outside, minimizing the leaks.
      Upgrading your home to save energy can put anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of your energy bill back in your pocket.
      To get a thorough home energy checkup you’ll need some help from a professional. Look for a home energy technician — or auditor — in your area.
      The auditor starts on the outside of your house, looking for problems around walls, joints and under the eaves. If there’s not a tight fit, you’re losing energy and money.
 
Leaks and Insulation
      Next, the technician might head up to your attic to check for leaks on the top of your home barrier. That trap door could be a culprit, letting cold air pass into the house.
     A big part of the checkup is determining how well the insulation insulates. Insulation should be correctly installed in between all areas of the house frame. That means it needs to be evenly applied and not just jammed into spaces. And, of course, if the insulation has fallen down, it’s not working.
     Your energy auditor will inspect the holes where electrical lines pass through. If they’re not sealed, they’re leaking.
 
What’s in Your Basement?
      Then it’s down to the basement. Your furnace and water heater could be wasting energy.
      The auditor will check to see how energy-efficient your furnace is. Furnaces generally lose efficiency as they get older, and it could cost more to keep yours running than to replace it with a new one.
     Maybe all you need is a new filter. Some people haven’t changed their filter for months, even years. That gunk clogging the filter means your furnace has to work harder to heat your home.
     If the water heater is several years old, it may not be efficient. And if it isn’t insulated, it’s also losing energy.
     The technician will inspect ductwork connections to make sure they make a tight fit. They have to be sealed to keep the warm air going where it’s supposed to go. If a screwdriver can go in a hole in a duct, it means one thing for sure: Money is going out!
 
The Blower Test
     Next, the energy auditor will close all windows and doors and anything else that lets outside air in and then attach a special fan to a door to depressurize the home. This blower sucks air out of the house, allowing outside air to rush into the home through all those openings you didn’t know about.
     With the windows and doors closed and the fan running, leaks are easy to spot with an infrared camera. In winter the auditor will scan the interior of the home looking for cold air rushing in. Here, the darker the color, the worse it is. It’s an eye opening experience.
     Recessed lighting fixtures are often big problems. The auditor will also take a look at the kinds of light bulbs in those fixtures. If they’re incandescents, they’re using a lot of energy. Warm LED bulbs are an energy-saving alternative.
      Seeing all the ways energy escapes your home, costing you money, can be sobering. The good news is, you’ll have a comprehensive home energy report showing which efficiency upgrades are right for you and where to stop those pesky leaks.
      Information: www.energysavers.gov.
-U.S. Dept. of Energy, 
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy