ENERGY TIPS

How To Do a Home Energy Audit (Step-by-Step Guide)

What Are Home Energy Audits?

A home energy audit identifies where your home is operating efficiently, and where it’s wasting energy. It’s a detailed assessment of your home’s energy consumption that includes inspecting certain areas and features to identify opportunities for improving energy efficiency.

A home energy audit can help provide a complete picture of your home's energy usage, comfort and safety. And along the way, you’ll likely discover certain home improvements you can make to save energy and help save money on monthly utility bills.

Certain home improvements have larger impacts than others, but there’s no doubt that upgrading to energy-efficient light bulbs, sealing up air leaks, servicing heating and cooling systems, replacing windows and more can play a major role in improving your home’s energy efficiency.

Even if your overall energy usage is reduced by just 10% per month, the total savings can be significant over time.

Why Is A Home Energy Audit Important?

In addition to getting a better understanding of how your home uses energy, you’ll discover the many benefits of a thorough, professional home assessment, such as:

Energy Usage. Discover how much energy your home is using, and which equipment (such as heating and cooling systems) is using the most.

Unknown Issues. Uncover hidden problems (such as air leaks or uninsulated walls) that may be making your home less efficient, making you uncomfortable, and increasing your utility bills.

how to do a home energy audit

Health and Safety. Find out about potential health and safety hazards in your home, such as improper ventilation, which may degrade air quality, or areas with high humidity and cold surfaces that might support mold growth.

Opportunities. Get a report listing where your home is performing well and a prioritized list of potential improvements to help determine where your home improvement dollars would be best spent.

Savings and Comfort. Acting on audit recommendations will not only help you save on your utility bills, but also increase the comfort of your home by better moderating the temperature, eliminating drafts and improving air quality.

How Much Does A Home Energy Audit Cost?

The cost of a professional home energy audit really depends upon your home’s size and the company performing it, but the national average falls somewhere between $145 and $420. For a 1,200 sq. ft. home for example, most people pay around $250, including a blower test. At the low end of the spectrum, an energy audit on an 800 sq. ft. home can be as low as $80. Conversely, a level-3 energy audit on a 2,600 sq. ft. home using advanced tools and methods can be as high as $1,500.

self audit your home energy

Do Utility Companies Provide Home Energy Audits?

Some energy utilities offer home energy assessments to their customers at low or no cost. EPB Energy ProsSM are a team of energy experts available to assist EPB energy customers with anything energy-related. Whether it’s energy-saving tips, project advice, appliance comparisons, renewable energy options, billing questions and more, EPB Energy Pros are here to help.

This includes free EPB Home Energy CheckupsSM. They’ll conduct a complete analysis of your home, point out where you can maximize your energy savings and recommend quality contractors you can trust to get the job done.

EPB customers can schedule a free Home Energy Checkup online.

You can also do a home energy audit yourself to save money. EPB offers a free do-it-yourself Home Energy Checkup that will help you conduct your own assessment—or you can keep reading for the six steps you should follow to complete your own home energy audit.

Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit

A professional home energy assessment is the best way to determine where your home is losing energy and where you can save money. However, you can conduct your own simple but diligent walk-through of your home to spot potential areas of improvement.

While this "do-it-yourself" home energy assessment won’t be as thorough as a professional one, it can help you pinpoint some of the easier areas to address.

Start by walking through your home, keeping a checklist of areas you have inspected and problems you found. This list will help you prioritize the energy efficiency upgrades you plan to make.

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Don’t assume that just because your home is newly constructed that there aren’t any opportunities to save energy. Energy-saving technology has evolved rapidly over the past few years, outpacing the common techniques of many builders, including some of the most reputable.

It is important, however, that you know where to look for the signs of energy inefficiency and how to test for them. So here’s a step-by-step plan for examining potential energy waste in some of the more common areas of your home.

Step 1: Locate Air Leaks

Air leaks can result in elevated heating and cooling bills. That’s because air leaks can make it more difficult for your HVAC system to regulate temperature, requiring it to work much harder and consume a lot more energy to keep your home at a desired setting.

The first step in your home energy audit is to inspect windows and doors for air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window is leaking air. Run your hands closely around the edges to feel for drafts, and look for any damaged or missing caulk or weatherstripping.

Make a list of obvious problem areas. You may already know where some air leakage occurs in your home, such as through a drafty window, but you'll need to find the less obvious gaps as well. Then it’s time to seal them up.

Sealing cracks around doors and windows is something that’s low cost and easy to do yourself with caulking and weatherstripping supplies found at your local improvement store.

The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 10% to 20% per year, and your home will be much more comfortable afterward.

Step 2: Consider Ventilation

Like anything else, your ventilation systems can become dirty and damaged over time. Preventative cleaning should be done each year to ensure that the system does not become clogged with dirt and debris. Cracks and holes allow air to escape instead of being distributed throughout the home.

Inspect your heating and cooling vents and registers thoroughly. Clean where necessary to ensure better airflow, and identify any that are damaged and need replacing.

When sealing any home, you must always be aware of the danger of indoor air pollution and combustion appliance "backdrafts." Backdrafting is when the various combustion appliances and exhaust fans in the home compete for fresh air. An exhaust fan may pull the combustion gases back into the living space, increasing indoor levels of carbon monoxide. This can obviously create a very dangerous and unhealthy situation in the home.

audit your home energy

In homes where a fuel is burned for heating (natural gas, fuel oil, propane or wood), be certain the heating system or appliance has an adequate air supply. Burn marks or soot around the appliance burner or at the vent collar, or visible smoke anywhere in the room where the appliance is operating, indicate poor draft. When in doubt, contact your local utility company, energy professional or ventilation contractor.

Step 3: Check Insulation Levels

Insulation is crucial to energy efficiency. Proper insulation levels can keep heat out in the summer while retaining it in the winter. When insulation is old or begins to wear down, it doesn’t do its job as effectively, leading to higher energy usage.

Heat loss through your home’s floor, walls and especially ceiling, can be very significant if the insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum. When your home was built, the builder likely installed the amount of insulation recommended at that time. Given today's energy costs, the level of insulation might be inadequate, especially if you have an older home.

Take a look at the insulation in your attic. If it looks old, degraded, or worn down, it may be time to add more to get the level back up to the recommended rating for your area.

If you’re not comfortable with doing this, be sure to get a professional home energy audit because the insulation is a critical part of ensuring your home is not wasting energy.

Insulation ratings can vary, depending on what part of your home you’re insulating or where you live. Here in Chattanooga, you want to make sure your attic insulation has a minimum value of R-38. An R-38 level slows down the transfer of heat, so it doesn’t escape through your roof. If you don’t know what level you have, just take a look in your attic. If the insulation is pink or white and fluffy, and it’s about a foot deep, then you likely have enough insulation.

Step 4: Inspect Heating and Cooling Equipment

The next step in your home energy audit is to inspect the heating and cooling equipment. Heating and cooling systems are a home’s number one energy user. So inefficient and outdated heating and cooling systems can really drive up utility bills if left unchecked.

That’s because an older system needs to run more often to keep your home warm or cool. And the more it runs, the more energy it uses. So it’s important to have your HVAC system serviced by a reputable company twice a year.

It’ll cost around $100 a visit, but it can potentially help you save thousands in major repairs down the road. Things such as leaky refrigerant, failing parts or restricted airflow can damage your unit and drive up your energy costs. Preventive maintenance, on the other hand, helps you avoid expensive repairs by 95% — and can help you save up to a third of your energy costs.

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Another preventive measure that’s easy and inexpensive to do yourself is to replace your HVAC system’s air filters every month or two. Available at any home improvement store, air filters help your system run smoother and remove dust and bacteria — which improves your indoor air quality. And, changing them regularly also helps extend the life of your heating and cooling system.

If your HVAC unit is more than 15 years old, consider replacing your system with a newer, more energy-efficient unit. A new unit would greatly reduce your energy consumption, especially if the existing equipment is in poor condition.

Step 5: Assess Appliances and Electronics

Assess the age of your appliances and electronics. Older models tend to use more energy for the same tasks that a newer appliance could perform with a lot less energy.

Outdated refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines can use far more cold and hot water than is necessary, while old dryers can raise your energy costs significantly. Knowing your current usage levels versus what efficient appliances can offer today is key.

Replace older appliances with ENERGY STAR rated appliances and choose electronics that are rated most energy efficient. Then consider how using them can affect your energy consumption and costs. Unplugging an item when it is not in use can prevent phantom loads. And, consider utilizing smart home energy management systems to monitor and control the energy consumption of devices.

Step 6: Update Lighting

Lighting accounts for about 10% of your electric costs. Plus, in addition to the energy it uses to provide light, there’s also the heat incandescent bulbs give off during use and can make your HVAC run more often. Both of these factors contribute towards higher energy consumption.

Take a look at the light bulbs in your house and consider replacing incandescent bulbs with more energy-efficient LED bulbs. You can save as much as $8 a month on your energy costs just by switching to LED bulbs. They glow just as warm as standard light bulbs and can last 10 years or longer. In fact, you would have to replace an incandescent bulb 50 times before this one LED bulb burned out.

LED bulbs may cost a little more to purchase, but they can help you save up to 20% on your energy costs — so they pay for themselves in no time. Just look for the “LED” label wherever you buy light bulbs.

how to do your own home energy audit

Also, look for ways to use connected home devices or lighting controls such as sensors, dimmers, and timers to reduce lighting use. And remember, always turn off unnecessary lights to save even more energy.

Professional Home Energy Checkup

For a more thorough assessment of your home’s energy, there are professional home energy checkups available. Conducted by professionals with industry- accepted credentials, professional home energy checkups generally go into greater detail to assess your home's energy usage.

These knowledgeable energy experts thoroughly analyze your home's energy use by performing a room-by-room examination, checking energy systems as well as reviewing past utility bills. Assessors may also use equipment to detect sources of energy loss, such as blower doors, infrared cameras, furnace efficiency meters and surface thermometers.

The assessor will help you better understand how much energy goes into heating, cooling and powering your home. Most professional audits will include a detailed list of problem areas as well as recommended improvements that can be made to make your home more energy efficient.

Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit vs. Professional Home Energy Checkup

Once you’ve finished your do-it-yourself home energy assessment, consider calling in a pro to complete a more thorough assessment. Although it’s not mandatory to make your home more energy efficient, a professional home energy checkup can provide a more thorough roadmap to improving the comfort of your home — and saving energy.

Many utilities offer professional energy assessments at little or no cost to their customers. Your self-assessment can help the auditor better analyze your home, including addressing issues such as comfort and indoor air quality, and potential areas for saving energy and money.

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For EPB energy customers, EPB Energy ProsSM offer a complete, on-site EPB Home Energy CheckupSM. They’ll thoroughly analyze every aspect of your home’s energy use and inspect its energy efficiency, pointing out improvements that can potentially save energy and money. They’ll also provide a list of TVA and EPB-vetted local contractors to get the job done right.

Through the process, EPB Energy Pros will gather information and produce a report including characterizations of your home and action you can take to reduce your home's energy use while increasing comfort. Common recommendations often include:

● Caulking and weatherstripping doors and windows to reduce air leaks and drafts.

● Adding insulation to your home's attic, foundation or walls to prevent heat loss.

● Sealing and insulating ducts in unconditioned spaces.

● Removing or repairing any parts of the home with internal moisture or mold to improve air quality and reduce deterioration.

● Improving the efficiency of heating, cooling and hot water equipment.

● Installing home ventilation, smart thermostats, LEDs, smart power strips, ENERGY STAR appliances, solar PV, an electric vehicle charger, and other efficient technologies that improve home performance.

The right mix of home improvements will depend on the age and quality of current equipment, the local climate and your energy goals. So the best way of determining the most energy-efficient combination of home improvements is to get a professional assessment.

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