Interior Heating & Cooling Heating

The 1-Hour Home Energy Audit That Can Save You Money Every Month

Winter's right around the corner, and with those falling temperatures come rising energy costs. But don’t despair—a few quick and easy solutions to common household energy problems can help you save energy and money this winter. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most homeowners can save anywhere from 5 to 30 percent on their utility bills by making small changes and upgrades around the house. One way to identify common problems is to perform a short do-it-yourself energy audit. The process should take less than an hour, according to Bobby DiFulgentiz, energy efficiency expert for Lennox Industries, a supplier of heating, cooling, and air quality systems. To give you a head start on the job, DiFulgentiz offers the following simple solutions to some common home comfort challenges.
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Problem: Attic Heat Loss

Without adequate attic insulation to retain warm air, your heating system must work harder in order to maintain a comfortable temperature. Older homes, especially those built before 1980, often don’t have enough insulation.

Solution: Add Insulation

Attic insulation should be approximately five inches deep. Check with a local home improvement store or a contractor to determine the optimal R-value for insulation in your region. You can hire a professional or install the additional insulation yourself, making sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Problem: Air Leaks

Air leaks caused by cracks or holes around windows and doors allow warm indoor air to escape, lowering your home’s overall efficiency while raising your heating bill. Examine all windows, doors, and exterior walls to identify weak spots in need of attention.

Solution: Fill in the Gaps

Bobby DiFulgentiz, energy efficiency expert for Lennox Industries, suggests sealing cracks with caulk or weatherstripping, particularly where siding meets with another material, such as wood. To seal cracks within and around windows (wherever wood meets glass), use putty. If you need an extra dose of energy efficiency, install drapes or insulating shades over windows and exterior doors.

Problem: Inefficient HVAC Equipment

A home’s heating and cooling system can account for more than 50 percent of the utility bill. A clogged air filter can hinder your unit’s efficiency by reducing airflow and in turn, causing the system to work harder. Check and clean HVAC filters monthly.

Related: How To: Change a Furnace Filter

Solution: Regular Professional Maintenance

Lennox’s DiFulgentiz recommends having your HVAC equipment thoroughly inspected by a certified technician. Do so before Old Man Winter arrives. A professional inspection reduces the likelihood of a system breakdown during the coldest days, when losing heat would be more than a little inconvenient.

Problem: The Forgotten Fireplace

Fireplaces and chimneys need to be checked and cleaned regularly to ensure that they are operating safely and efficiently. Always keep your fireplace dampers closed when the fireplace is not in use; that prevents warm indoor air from escaping through the chimney. Check for soot buildup as well as cracks in the mortar between bricks.

Solution: Bring In a Pro

It’s a good idea to hire a professional to inspect the chimney, chimney cap, and fireplace, making repairs where necessary. Also, consider installing heatproof glass doors to improve your fireplace’s energy-efficiency.

Problem: Shorter Days, Darker Homes

Because winter brings shorter days, now is a good time to evaluate your home’s lighting needs and decide if natural light is insufficient in any areas. Once you’ve determined your lighting needs, add lamps where necessary. While you’re at it, check to see if you are still using inefficient incandescent light bulbs.

Solution: Replace Old Bulbs

To save money on lighting, replace old-style incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. CFLs use less energy and last up to 10 times longer. Replacing the bulbs in your five most frequently used fixtures can save you up to $65 each year.

Related: Your Guide to Navigating the New World of Light Bulbs