Spend An Afternoon Conducting A DIY Home Energy Assessment

With the high cost of energy, you've probably spent more than a little time wondering if your home is as efficient as possible. Perhaps you've even considered having an HVAC company come in to conduct a home energy audit.

While this is certainly a good step to take if you're in the position to make improvements or upgrades, you can get a pretty good idea of how your home's energy use measures up without calling in the pros. The next time you have a spare afternoon, follow these steps to conduct your own DIY home energy assessment. If you don't like the results, then it's probably time to consider a few upgrades.

Step #1: Look over your furnace and air conditioning systems.

How old are they? Older, less-efficient furnaces and air conditioners are pretty costly to run. Most furnaces with pilot lights installed prior to 1992 are only about 65% efficient, whereas systems today tend to be 90% efficient or more. Old air conditioners, dirty duct work, and old, non-programmable thermostats also sap your energy needs. Look over your heating and cooling systems, and assign yourself the following point values if you spot any of these issues:

Point Values:

  • 10 points if your furnace was installed prior to 1992.
  • 8 points if your air conditioner is more than 10 years old.
  • 4 points if it has been more than 2 years since you had your ducts cleaned
  • 4 points if you have a non-programmable thermostat
  • 3 points if you have furniture placed over or in front of heating vents
  • 2 points if you haven't changed your furnace filter in more than 2 months

Step #2: Assess how well your home is sealed.

To identity air leaks in your home, begin by closing all of your exterior doors and windows. Open all of the interior doors in the house, and then light a stick of incense. Give it a minute to start burning, and then pass it along the areas where air leaks are possible. This includes along window frames and door frames, and in front of vent fans such as those found in bathrooms and kitchens. If you see the incense smoke blowing into the room, you have found an air leak. Assign points as follows:

Point Values:

  • 2 points for every air leak you identify along a door frame
  • 1 point for every air leak you identify along a window or vent

Step #3: Evaluate your insulation situation.

The amount of insulation your home needs for maximum energy-efficiency depends on the climate where you live. Visit the United States Department of Energy website, and enter your zip code in their calculator tool to figure out how much insulation your home should have. Then, take a ruler up to your attic. Measure the thickness of your insulation, and also look over the general state of the insulation in your attic. Assign point values as follows:

Point Values:

  • 10 points if you have less than half the insulation recommended by the Department of Energy for your zip code
  • 8 points if you have between half and three-quarters of the recommended insulation
  • 5 points if you have more than three-quarters, but not all of the insulation recommended
  • 3 points if your insulation appears to be compacted, wet or disintegrating
  • 3 points if gaps around wires, ducts and pipes are not sealed with insulating foam or another type of sealer

What Your Score Means

If your score is 15 or less... your home is pretty energy-efficient. You can look back at where your points came from and make minor changes to boost your efficiency if desired, but you're not loosing too much energy.

If your score is between 15 and 30... it's time to consider making some upgrades. Look back to see where your points came from. Perhaps it's time for a new furnace, or maybe your windows are incredibly leaky. You'll notice a decline in your energy bills after making these changes, because right now, your home is not too energy efficient.

If your score is more than 30... don't wait to call an HVAC specialist, like one from A Bailey Plumbing, window company, insulation contractor or all three. Your energy bills are probably way higher than they need to be, and your home is literally bleeding out wasted energy.

An energy-efficient home is not only good for your wallet, but also for the environment. Even if your DIY home energy assessment results in a low point value, it will identify areas for improvement. Making a few changes at a time is a good way to make your home more efficient without taking out a huge loan or emptying your bank account.