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Blog Aug 1, 2016

How to Do Your Own Home Energy Assessment


Are you paying too much to keep your home cool in summer and warm in winter? There is a very good chance you are. Your Texas Retail Electric Provider has an easy way for you to find out, so that you can take charge and stop shelling out unnecessary dollars month after month.

In this extremely tight economy—with soaring prices on gasfood and other consumer goods—keeping your utility bills as low as possible has become an absolute necessity. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it is possible to cut your energy bill up to a whopping 25 percent by simply reducing the amount of energy that is wasted within the home.

That’s where a professional home energy audit comes in.

No matter if you choose the do-it-yourself approach to the Home Energy Audit or if you want a professional to perform the service for you, your Retail Energy Provider can help you cut and control your utility costs.

The do-it-yourself Home Energy Audit requires a simple walk-through of your home to spot and list energy-robbing problems. The list will help you prioritize needed changes that will boost your home’s energy efficiency. Some of these key changes are:

  • Installation of programmable thermostat
  • Preventing air leaks
  • Making sure you have the proper insulation
  • Improving operation of heating and cooling units
  • Using the right type of lighting

You see, you can be doing everything else right – turning down the AC when you’re not home, using a programmable thermostat, having energy-efficient appliances – but still be quite inefficient.

Energy Audit Checklist

Not every home energy audit is the same.

But whoever you do use should check for things like:

  • The quality of the insulation(if any) in your attic
  • The number of air returns throughout your home
  • Whether the AC/furnace you have is the right size for your home
  • How well your attic/home’s air envelope is sealed

So rather than just sell you a new AC unit, which may improve your efficiency a little, they check for all of these other factors that could affect your home’s energy efficiency. And they make a huge difference in your energy

Well, here are some tips for how you might do your own home energy assessment:

1. Start with the Biggest Savings Opportunities

Your biggest opportunities for savings will be in your heating and water heating. Doesn’t matter whether you live – here in Texas or up in Alaska. Of course, you’ll have more opportunity to reduce your cooling costs too around these parts.

First, start with the insulation in your attic. You’ll want to check the R-value of it. It’s not a simple procedure, so here’s a guide to help. If you need more insulation, adding more in is a quick way to improve your energy efficiency, and it has a fast payoff period too.

2. With Your Water Heater…

On this, make sure you have the temperature set to 120 degrees. That’s all you need. And since water heating’s used so much, it’s another quick win for you.

You might also consider a tankless or solar-powered water heater. Or, you might consider converting to a gas one from electric (if possible). Water heating has a fast payoff period of just a few years, while many energy savings tactics can take 5 years or longer.

3. Is Your Home’s Air Envelope Sealed?

Not only does sealing your home’s “air envelope” increase your energy efficiency, but it improves your indoor air quality (IAQ) too. IAQ is gaining steam because with a better IAQ, you get sick much less.

You should do the small checks – around windows, doors, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, and so on. Simply light an incense stick and pass it around the inside of your walls on a breezy day until you see the smoke noticeably disturbed.

4. How Do You Keep the Sun Out?

While the sun’s good and healthy and necessary for our survival, it can also make you quite uncomfortable. This is one check many home energy audits forget to account for. Blocking the sun from hitting your home’s exterior or from entering your windows can make a huge difference on your energy bills. You can use window awnings, blinds, or even plant trees that block the sun. It can be a huge and inexpensive opportunity to save that pays off for you fast.

That’s not a complete home energy audit. But, it hits some of the biggest opportunities you’re going to have for savings. So, you’ll be off to a good start when you follow it!

5. Check Your Furnace’s AFUE Rating

It’s easy and fast – you can’t miss it. Look for a big yellow sticker with a number on it. Say the rating is 88. That means your furnace is 88% efficient.

You can get efficiencies as high as 97 and 98. But, you pay a lot more up front for that. You should have a furnace in the 92-95 range.

6. Check Your AC’s SEER Rating

Sorry, this isn’t as straightforward as your furnace. SEER is a bit more confusing. For starters, the higher the number, the better the efficiency.

The minimum number a central AC Unit can have today is 13. For example, an AC with a SEER of 13 is 30% more efficient than one with a SEER of 10.

So, consider a more efficient central AC if yours is getting old (15-20 years), or if you’d like to buy a more efficient unit.

7. Check Your Home For Drafts

This is one of your biggest, and most cost-effective, wins. You might know of some already. To find major leak sources, wait for a windy day, and close all your windows and turn off your gas furnace and water heater. Shut all your windows and your fireplace flue.

You can either wet your hand or light an incense stick. Pass your hand or the stick around baseboards and windows. If the smoke wavers or your hand feels cold, you’ve found a draft and an area to seal off.

8. Water Use

You should have a low-flow shower head, low-flow toilet, and low-flow sink faucet aerators. That’s what you need for optimal efficiency anyway.

9. Insulation

This one’s harder to check on your own because you don’t look at insulation every day and learn what’s good and what’s not. When you go up in your attic, you should notice insulation piled as high as the tops of your floor joists. If it’s fallen lower than that, then it’s settled. And it’s time to have some new stuff blown in.

If you notice your house feeling unusually hot during summer or strangely cold during the winter, that’s another sign you need insulation. If you’re one of the rare Texas homes with a basement, it should be heated. If it’s not, you should have insulation.

So those are some of the areas for the biggest wins. Give them a check, and see which fit your budget.

Is a professional energy audit worth it?

You can also have a Home Energy Audit conducted by a specially trained technician using professional equipment, such as a blower door test to determine how airtight your home is, a thermographic scan to detect air leaks and moisture problems in your home, a combustion safety test for your heating system, plus an insulation, lighting and appliance survey. The results of this professional audit will lead to the best options to improve energy efficiency in heating and cooling your house.

So, are you and your family ready to save money?  You can stop paying too much for home energy today. Your REP can show you exactly how a Home Energy Audit can help you keep more cash in your pocket!

Sometimes 20%, 30%, or even much more than that!

And you should have this done even if you own a brand new home. In many cases, contractors cut corners on how they build new homes to increase their profit margins. Even homes that are supposed to be the “model of efficiency” can in reality be highly inefficient!

For whatever reason, home energy audits don’t get marketed heavily and aren’t as well known in the general public.

But as you can see, they can make quite a difference for many homes. They also often pay back for themselves within the year (but no guarantees here).

In some cases, they’re totally free too, so you’ve got nothing to lose by having one performed.

We don’t have professional relationships with other organizations that offer these, so we can’t advise who you should use to do this task.

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