Assessing your energy use in three steps
The average home or business has so many air leaks, it’s like leaving a window open all year long. This do-it-yourself energy assessment will give you a sense of where you are losing energy, and set you on a path to saving money.
Step 1 – Make a list of air leaks and insulation levels
You can greatly reduce your heat loss and lower your bills by improving air sealing and insulation. Grab a pad of paper and a pencil (or your smartphone), walk through your building, and make a note of any air leaks and missing insulation:
Air leaks. Look for evidence such as visible cracks, or drafts you can feel. Also check for gaps along floor edges, where walls and ceilings meet, and anywhere pipes or other hardware enters the wall. Next, search your building’s exterior for places where two different building materials meet—this often leaves a gap—or anywhere hardware or pipes pass through the siding.
Attic and basement insulation. Finished basements require insulation along perimeter walls; unfinished basements should have insulated ceilings and band joists. In finished attic spaces, look for ceiling and perimeter wall insulation. And in unfinished attics, check for floor insulation.
Wall and equipment insulation. Find an exterior wall with an electrical outlet. First, turn off the power to that outlet. Then remove the cover plate and probe behind the sheetrock with a screwdriver or similar tool to check for insulation. Also make a note of whether your water heater tank, hot water pipes, and air ducts are insulated.
Step 2 – Inspect heating and cooling equipmentIf your heating or cooling system was installed more than 15 years ago, it’s most likely inefficient. Consider a new energy-efficient system if it’s in your budget. Even if you don’t replace it, two things can help your current system operate more efficiently:
- Have it professionally inspected once per year (or as often as the manufacturer recommends)
- Check all filters regularly
Step 3 – Look at lighting and appliances
Do a room-by-room check of all lightbulbs, appliances, and electronics. Incandescent (traditional) lightbulbs use much more energy than newer LEDs, so consider replacing them. And look to see whether your appliances and electronics are ENERGY STAR® certified—these models use the least electricity with no sacrifice in performance or features. You can find ENERGY STAR certified washers and dryers, refrigerators, dishwashers, TVs, and computers.