Local electric and gas companies offer free residential energy audits. These audits are paid for by all customers through an assessment on their monthly energy bills. Such audits provide important and useful recommendations that help reduce current and future energy costs.
Property owners can also conduct energy audits themselves. The investment of a few hours can pay big dividends in energy savings. For example, drafts can be a major source of lost heat. Experts indicate that reducing drafts in a home result in savings of between 5 and 30 percent per year. They advise checking for indoor air leaks and drafts throughout the home or building, including gaps along the baseboard or edge of the flooring and at the corners of the walls and ceiling. In addition, owners and occupants can check to see if air can flow through these places:
- Electrical outlets
- Switch plates
- Window frames
- Weather stripping around doors
- Fireplaces and attics
- Wall or window mounted air conditioners
- Home insulation (walls and ceilings)
- Basements and attics for leaks near electrical wires, pipes and windows
Weatherization and Insulation
Property owners should annually inspect their heating and cooling equipment, and heating and cooling filters should be replaced once a year. Similarly, though every home needs proper ventilation, cracks or openings may allow too much cold air in the winter and too much moisture in the summer, causing mold and mildew. The following are some useful tips to help alleviate these problems:
- Insulate rooms and replace old windows. Temperatures inside the house will be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Weatherizing will also prevent mold and mildew, which may cause health concerns.
- Use caulking and weather-stripping on all doors and windows.
- Insulate the first six feet of hot and cold water pipes that are connected to the water heater.
- Use locks on windows and doors to make them tighter and draft resistant. Also, close curtains and shades at night to keep the home warmer.
- Install carpet or roll out more rugs in the winter to prevent heat loss.
- Replace light-material curtains with heavier ones to help prevent air from leaking in.
- Remove air-conditioners from windows and cover air conditioners to prevent cold air from seeping through.
- Seal any fireplaces not in use
- Close doors and vents in rooms not in use.
As part of long-term planning, property owners should consider an investment in energy efficient windows, heating systems and appliances if economically feasible. Although there is an initial "front end" cost, replacing older systems can pay off by reducing energy bills and cutting air pollutants. Consumers should calculate how long it will take to recover their costs through future savings to determine if a major energy efficiency investment makes financial sense.