Saving energy is on most people’s minds today. After all, we all want to take the best care of this amazing planet and not cause unnecessary pollution.
But if that’s not enough motivation for you to think about your energy use, how about this? As we save energy, we can save serious money on our electric bills!
Ready to see how to save energy now? It will be like giving yourself a raise!
What is energy efficiency for a house?
Energy efficiency just means that we have appliances and systems that help to minimize the amount of energy we use to live our daily lives.
Generally, older appliances and homes are less energy-efficient than newer models. They use more electricity to accomplish the same work.
Older homes tend to have single-paned windows, less insulation, drafty doorways, and ductwork with leaks under the house. Older kitchen and laundry appliances have to work much harder than newer better-designed appliances do.
An example of terrible energy efficiency
Our old washing machine in 2005 didn’t do a very good job of spinning the water out of our family’s clothes. In fact, the clothes were dripping wet when we put them in the dryer. Naturally, it took longer to get them dry, which used more energy. There were times we had to run the dryer through four cycles before the clothes were dry. That was not energy efficient at all!
When we replaced the washer and dryer, the washed clothes were just damp, not soggy. Then it only took one cycle through the dryer and the clothes were ready to hang. Not only did it take less time and fewer cycles, but the newer appliances used less energy and water for each cycle, as well. That was great news for our electric bill and a major time-saver, too!
This is the kind of thing we can try to catch during an energy audit.
What is an energy audit?
An energy audit is like a checkup for your home’s energy consumption. If you are wasting money, you want to know about it so you can fix it. To have an energy-efficient house, look for any problems that need to be addressed and correct them so you can lower your energy use and your monthly electric bill.
A great place to start your audit is to figure out how much energy you’ve used as a household based on the past year’s average electric bill. It’s good to compare those rates and ask yourself some questions:
- Has your electricity use gone up a lot compared to previous years?
- Do your bills run a lot higher than your neighbors?
- Or have they recently increased inexplicably?
If you do your own energy audit, you may check for things around your home like drafts, air leaks, insulation levels, condensation in windows, HVAC performance, thermostat settings, and lighting.
If you have your electric company come do an audit for you, they may do a visual inspection of these areas in your home, as well, and ask you some questions. The auditor will give you a list of general recommendations but probably not a lot of specifics because free audits don’t involve diagnostic testing.
Some companies offer to do free energy audits but they may actually want to sell you something like new windows or insulation. Be wary of these and consider paying for a professional audit for more reliable results. Or check with your energy company first, instead, about a free audit.
If you hire a professional to do a home energy audit, you can expect them to measure the size of your home and how many windows there are. They’ll ask questions about the average thermostat settings in different seasons, whether every room is being used, the number of people living in the home, and whether anyone is home during the day or not.
Then the professional energy auditor will perform several diagnostic tests to find any problems like air leaks or heat/cooling loss. They may do a blower door test, a thermographic inspection, PFT air infiltration measurement technique, and more. This type of inspection provides extremely valuable information and recommendations so you can get your home to peak energy-efficiency.
What types of energy audits are available?
- DIY home energy audits
- Free home energy audit
- Professional home energy audits
Energy audit cost
According to HomeAdvisor,
A home energy audit costs anywhere from $100 to $1,650 with an average of $409. Most homeowners spend between $207 and $659. You’ll spend anywhere from $0.08 to $0.50 per square foot with a minimum of $100 to $200.
A home energy audit checklist
Do you have an energy-efficient home? There is only one way to find out. Your home will need an inspection. Go through this checklist and follow the recommendations to save energy.
Add insulation if needed – to the attic, exterior walls, and under the living space floor.
If you have an older home, you may find the insulation in the attic to be woefully inadequate.
Make sure you have the minimum R-value for each area recommended by the government. For most attics, Energy Star recommends an R-value of 38 or around 10-14 inches worth of insulation (depending on the type of insulation used). Don’t forget the attic door insulation! It can keep the top floor of your home a whole lot cooler in the summer if it’s insulated, too.
Types of insulation:
Blown-in attic insulation
- Fiberglass – Cheap, made of shredded glass, doesn’t tend to grow mold, and fills in all the nooks and crannies
- Cellulose – Finely shredded newspaper, cheaper than fiberglass, can easily develop mold, mildew, and rot if exposed to moisture so requires a vapor barrier
- Spray foam attic insulation – airtight seals, waterproof, strengthens building structure, and provides a sound barrier—but is difficult to remove and very expensive
- Closed-cell – highest R-value
- Fiberglass insulation
- Mineral wool – fire-resistant, works even when wet, blocks sound
- Denim – made of recycled blue jeans
- Fiberglass batts – moisture resistant, easy to install, fire-resistant
- Rigid foam panels/Sheet insulation – styrofoam board or sheets work well in walls, basements, and under siding, also moisture resistant, easy-to-cut, and durable
- Radiant barriers – (not actually insulation) help reflect heat away from the house in the attic in the summer
Find leaks and seal them (10-20% energy savings). Have you noticed a drafty room or one that gets overheated more than others do? That is a good sign you have a leak somewhere.
- Open the fireplace damper, along baseboards, between walls and ceilings, along edges of windows and doors, around lighting, plumbing fixtures, electrical switches, electrical outlets.
- Invest in door or window caulking if your window seals haven’t failed and the windows are still in good shape. Replace old windows with energy-efficient windows. And replace old or drafty exterior doors for energy efficiency.
- Consider whether you notice condensation inside any windows or the glass panels in exterior doors that could indicate a leak.
- Look for cracks in mortar, siding, and foundation and seal them
- Consider backdrafts and make sure ventilation is adequate. According to www.energy.gov “When in doubt, contact your local utility company, energy professional, or ventilation contractor. Learn more about proper ventilation.”
Replace inefficient old bulbs with energy-efficient light bulbs like:
- LEDs – Light-emitting diodes are one of the most energy-efficient options. They use only 20-25% of the electricity of traditional bulbs and last 15-25 times longer.
- CFLs – Compact fluorescent lamps look like a small curled up fluorescent tube. They may pay for themselves in under nine months and use about a quarter of the energy of traditional incandescent bulbs. CFLs also last ten times longer than traditional bulbs. They must be recycled because they do contain a bit of mercury.
- Halogen incandescents – meet minimum energy requirements, can be used with dimmers
Consider reducing the use of old appliances or replace them with more efficient Energy Star models. An energy-efficient refrigerator could save up to $1,100 on your electricity bill payment over the refrigerator’s lifetime if you are replacing an existing model that is over 10 years old according to EnergyStar.gov.
Appliances with Energy Star options:
- Air conditioners
Heating and Cooling Equipment
Be sure to have your HVAC unit inspected at least once per year (unless the manufacturer recommends more frequently) and replace all filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Check ductwork for leaks and seal them. Consider replacing your unit if it is over 15 years old to dramatically improve energy efficiency.
If your area tends to have high humidity and heat, use a single room dehumidifier or whole-home energy-efficient dehumidifier to help reduce the strain on your air conditioner.
According to Energy Star, water heaters are the second highest energy users in the home. Check the temperature setting on your water heater (should be 120 degrees Fahrenheit) Or think about installing a tankless water heater to save on your electricity bill payment.
Energy Star water heater options:
- Heat pump water heaters
- High-efficiency gas storage water heaters
- Whole-home tankless gas water heaters
- Solar water heaters
What temperature do you set your thermostat on in winter and summer? The US Department of Energy has recommendations for summer and winter because heating and cooling account for about half of people’s energy bills each year.
The easiest way to save the most money is to be consistent by installing a programmable thermostat (unless you have a heat pump). You can save as much as 10% per year on HVAC costs by turning your thermostat back by 7-10 degrees F for 8 hours per day from its usual setting.
- For winter, set your thermostat to 68 degrees F or lower when you are home and lower when you are asleep or away.
- For summer, set your thermostat to 78 degrees or warmer when you are home and 85 degrees when you are away.
Energy-efficient thermostats include:
- Smart thermostats
- Programmable thermostats
Natural light control
Lots of direct sunlight enters your home in the east-facing windows in the morning and the west-facing windows in the evening. But it is the south-facing windows that are the most important. They experience direct sunlight all day long. This is great in the winter, you can open the curtains and blinds to let the sun in and help heat your home, allowing you to save energy.
But in the summer, direct sunlight pouring into your south-facing windows can increase the temperature of your home and put additional strain on your air conditioner. Consider installing energy-efficient curtains to reduce the heat coming into your home, giving you another way to save energy.
Energy-efficient interior window treatments include:
- Insulated cellular shades
- Window quilts
- Roller/Roman shades
- Window films
Exterior window treatments include:
- Shutters and shades
- Solar window screens
You can save 5-30% on your electricity bill if you implement the efficiency upgrades noted in your professional home energy audit. (Find out more at www.energy.gov.)
Are you looking for help with energy-saving ideas in the Columbia, SC area?
At Punch List Pros, we can help you with many of your energy efficiency needs. We can help with new window or door installation or installing new appliances. We also install window treatments, lighting fixtures, and new light bulbs. We’ll install new insulation for your attic. Need help with caulking to seal out drafts around windows and doors? We can do that, too!
Please contact us today.
Our service area includes:
Lexington, Irmo, Columbia, Forest Acres, Cayce, and West Columbia
Professional Home Energy Audits by www.energy.gov