A “How-to” Home Energy Audit

Nov23 2009 // By: RESCUE GREEN // Categories: Sustainability, Green Building No Comments

A house is meant to provide families with shelter, protection, and comfort. We heat our home in the winter, turn on the AC during summer months, and use electricity for lights and appliances all year round. This constant and excessive use of energy goes unnoticed in most households. What many also don’t realize is that their homes are inefficient at maintaining the pre-set temperature (weather by heating or cooling) which leads to a loss of energy and higher bills. Realizing the bargain in increased energy efficiency isn’t the only reason to conduct a home energy audit; energy use also contributes to 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Take ownership of your home’s ecological footprint and in the process enjoy the return on your green investment.

The do-it-yourself home energy audit is a step-by-step guide for identifying possible improvements and upgrades to a home’s heating system and enclosure. The comprehensive guide developed by the City Green Building Program of Seattle, Washington allows homeowners to develop a plan for prioritizing possible improvements.

First it is important to know what a professional home energy audit usually includes:

Blower door test: allows for the overall air leakage of a home to be measured.
Duct pressure test: finds areas of leaks in the duct system.
Heat pumps and A/C commissioning: to assure correct air flow and refrigerant charge.
Infrared camera scans: identifies inadequate insulation and sealants in ceilings and floors.

Here are two examples (from the City Green Building Program) of what you can do yourself before calling a professional:

Problem 1: Air leakage

Where to look: visually look for air leaks by conducting a walk-through of the interior, make sure to close all doors, windows, and shut off all combustion appliances. Using your hand feel for air movement. Below are notorious locations within a home for air leakage:

Windows and doors
Electrical outlets and light switches
Other problem areas include: recessed lights, pipe and wire penetrations, main attic, fireplace, crawl space, and basement.

What to do:

Windows and doors: weatherstrip and caulk all window and door frames. Install a door threshold if one doesn’t already exist.
Electrical outlets and light switches: install rubber or foam gaskets for swithes on outside walls.
Recessed lights: make sure they are IC (insulation contact) rated.
Fireplace: Use caulk or spray foam to cover leaks.

Problem 2: Moisture. Excessive moisture can lead to mildew and mold and deteriorate surfaces.

Where to look:

Inspect the outside of your home as well as attics and crawlspaces for leaks and moisture.
Check to see if vegetation is too close to the home.
Look in the attic to see if fans are ducted to vent to the exterior.
Check for a plastic ground cover in crawl spaces, and make sure all vents are free of debris.
Inside your home visually look for mold/moisture, especially closets.
Check all plumbing fixtures for leaks.
Check exhaust fans to see if they work.

What to do:

Seal all leaks in the building envelope.
Repair any roof, gutter, or wall flashing issues.
Repair broken vent screens.
Install vent fans – to the exterior.

For a more detailed list of typical efficiency issues in the home and how to fix it yourself please visit the City Green Building Program guide.