An Energy Audit Saves Electricity and Money

The shock of your last utility bill may have prompted a crusade to keep lights off in unoccupied rooms or to unplug idle electronics. But will these small tactics ensure any significant long-term savings for your home? According to the Department of Energy, having an energy audit performed and fixing the problems that are found can reduce your energy costs by as much as 30% per year.



What is a Home Energy Audit?


An energy audit is a home inspection performed by a certified technician who provides a report detailing where energy is being lost, how systems are operating inefficiently, and what changes can be made to save energy, water, and money.


The easiest and often cheapest way to get an energy audit is through your local utility company or government agency. Typically, they will offer two audit options that vary in cost and thoroughness.



Basic Energy Analysis


Description: A budget-friendly option providing a personalized utility bill analysis and a walk-through inspection that identifies energy inefficiencies.
Time: 1 Hour
Cost: FREE to $50
• Home and utility usage consultation
• Window/door air leaks
• Heating, cooling efficiency
• Appliance age and condition
• Water temperature settings
• Lighting inefficiencies
• Visible health and safety issues
• Electrical device usage

Result: A report of DIY no-cost or low-cost ways to save energy. You may receive free energy-saving items such as pipe insulation, door sweeps, low-flow faucet aerators, CFL light bulbs, and high-efficiency showerheads. Some companies perform free installation.



Comprehensive Energy Audit


Description: Diagnostic testing with specialized equipment to uncover hidden energy costs and air quality issues. Ideal if you’ve identified mold, condensation, cold spots, or old insulation and plan to make large improvements for significant reductions.

Time: 3-4 Hours
Cost: $300-500 (Check your utility company website for cost reduction options)
• Basic Energy Analysis
• Blower door test: depressurizes home with calibrated fan to allow auditor to locate less obvious air leaks
• Thermal imaging scan: scans walls and ceilings to pinpoint cold spots, air leaks, missing insulation, and moisture problems
• Duct leakage testing
• Meter testing of wood moisture
• Combustion testing: detects carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks
• Mold and asbestos check

Result: A detailed report of results and analysis of total home energy usage. A prioritized list of recommended improvements with a cost/benefit analysis. Approved contractors and tax credit/rebate information to help cover upgrade costs identified in the audit.Tackle your energy use head-on by scheduling a professional energy audit with your local utility company and take the guesswork out of creating lasting home energy savings.


5 Ways to Reduce Your Air Conditioning Bill – Now!

Summer is here, and with it often comes sweltering heat, high humidity – and the near-constant operation of air conditioning equipment. Electric kilowatt hours consumed to power your cooling units do accumulate quickly, and as a result your electric utility bill may careen out of control unless smart measures are taken to manage costs.


Here are five tips for keeping your air conditioning bill reasonable, without having to sacrifice too much in the way of comfort and convenience:



1. It all starts at the thermostat.


78 degrees is the sweet spot setting where energy efficiency and acceptable comfort intersect, for most folks. Yes, 72 feels nicer, but the U.S. Department of Energy says those six degrees will cost you close to 20% in cooling costs. Remember: the smaller the differential between outdoor and indoor temperatures during the cooling season, the lower your bill. Programmable thermostats pay for themselves by reducing your cooling costs when you’re away or asleep.



2. Be a fan-atic.


Those in Northern climates know the term “wind-chill effect,” when 30 degrees feels like 20 due to the feel of moving air on the skin. Wind-chill works the same way with warm air, so get a cool feeling by moving the air in your home with fans. That 78 degree thermostat setting can feel like 72 degrees with fans creating a cooling breeze. Turn fans off to save energy when you leave the room, of course.



3. Avoid generating heat inside.


How? Your clothes dryer, oven, and dishwasher are prime culprits. Air-dry clothes, cook on the grill or in the microwave oven, and hand-wash dishes, and you’ll give your cooling system a break, while taking your share of pressure off the electric utility grid at the same time. Use large-wattage appliances in the evening, if possible. Even TVs and computers generate heat, as do incandescent light bulbs (90% of their energy is given off as heat).



4. Inspect and maintain the equipment.


Cooling units work harder when their filters are clogged with dust and grime. Cleaning and/or replacing an air conditioner’s filter can cut cooling costs by 10-15%. Registers for central air systems should be kept clear of dust, and unblocked by furniture. Check the central air system’s outdoor condensor/evaporator coil unit to make sure branches, leaves, or other debris don’t block air flow.



5. Windows: let the sun shine in?


In a word, no. Bare window glass permits not just light (both visible, and harmful UV) to enter a building; it also transmits heat. Cooling costs for any building with glass can be cut significantly through the installation of a quality window film product, performed by a window film professional. Keeping curtains and shades drawn on any window will also reduce solar heat gain inside the home.