DIY Energy Efficiency Audit

A DIY energy efficiency audit is one of the BEST things you can do when preparing to GO SOLAR!

With just a small investment of your time, you can perform a DIY home energy audit. A DIY energy audit will...

  • Help you understand your energy consumption better
  • Help you understand your home systems better
  • Identify areas where you can make home improvements that can make your home more energy efficient and save you money
  • Reduce the cost of your solar electricity applications

Eliminating energy waste in your home is important if you are installing a solar power system. By making your home more energy efficient, you can significantly reduce the cost of your solar power system since you will be able to size a smaller system.

You can perform your own home energy audit in three steps...

  • Step 1: Review Your Energy Bills
  • Step 2: Perform a Web-Based Energy Audit
  • Step 3: Inspect Your Home

Step 1: Review Your Energy Bills

The first step in a DIY energy audit is to review your energy bills. This will help you identify any trends and spikes in your energy use. This will also be helpful to create a baseline of your energy usage so you can see how any energy efficiency home improvements you make impact your energy consumption.

Ideally, try to go back at least 2 years so that you can compare year-to-year changes. If you don't have copies of these older energy bills any longer, you can call your local utility's customer service department and ask them to provide you with this information.

Energy Efficiency Audit: A graph makes it easy to spot trends.

You should note both the amount of energy used in kWH as well as the cost per kWH charged by your utility. If you list these values in a spreadsheet, you can create a graph that will make it easy to identify any trends or spikes.

Step 2: Perform a Web-Based Energy Audit

The second step in a DIY energy efficiency audit is to perform a free web-based audit. There are many websites that provide this type of free service. The one I use is Home Energy Saver (HES).

HES was the first internet-based tool for calculating energy use in residential buildings. It was developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under sponsorship of the US Department of Energy.

To get started, you simply enter your zip code in the calculator that is on their homepage. It will then show you the energy costs for the average home in your area and compare it to the energy costs of an energy efficient home in your area.

Now comes the good part. From here, you will need to answer a few questions about your house, location, energy sources, and so on. Once you've input your data, it will analyze it and provide a report that estimates your energy costs and potential energy savings. It shows the costs and savings for these areas...

  • Heating
  • Cooling
  • Water Heating
  • Major Appliances
  • Lighting
  • Small Appliances

The report will also recommend specific items to upgrade in order to realize the potential energy savings it calculated. Finally, the report will summarize your potential savings in terms of dollars, energy usage (kWH), and CO2 emissions.

Remember, the more accurate the data you enter is, the more useful the results will be.

Step 3: Inspect Your Home

The third step in a DIY home energy audit is to actually walk through your home to identify any items or areas that can be upgraded.

In addition to the areas of your home that the web-based energy efficiency audit recommended, you should also perform the following checks...

  • Check for air leaks: The US DOE estimates that by reducing drafts in your home you can save 5-30% on your energy costs per year! Areas to look at include weatherstripping around doors, caulking around windows, attic hatches, and electrical outlets.
  • Inspect your heating and cooling systems: Check when your furnace was last inspected and cleaned, that filters are clean, duct-work joints are sealed, and that pipes and ducts traveling through uninsulated areas are insulated.
  • Analyze your appliances: Check to see how much energy your appliances actually use. Some appliances, like refrigerators and freezers, can be adjusted to use less energy. If your appliances are more than 10 years old, you should consider replacing with newer, more energy efficient models.
  • Identify energy vampires: Many electrical devices such as computers, televisions, and stereo equipment have "phantom loads." This means they use energy even when they are not on. Phantom loads can be eliminated by plugging the devices into a power strip and then turning the power strip off when you are not using them.
  • Analyze your home's lighting: Lighting accounts for about 10% of a homes energy use. By identifying those lighting fixtures that are used more often and replacing their bulbs with energy efficient compactfluorescent light bulbs (CFL), you can save money. You may also be better served with low-wattage task lighting instead of large overhead lighting.

This three-step audit can be completed in an afternoon. But if you don't have time to do your own audit, or if you'd like a more comprehensive inspection, take a look at our home energy audit page for more options you can take.

By following this three-step DIY energy efficiency audit process, you're sure to identify home improvements that will reduce your energy use and help you save money on your solar power system.

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