Auditing Your Energy Use
Is it just me, or is it something about the word “audit” that seems daunting? In most situations, an audit means someone coming in and poking around your stuff and finding out what you’re doing wrong. And then you normally have to dish out some money and fix whatever they found.
But audits can be good. They can be used as an improvement tool. By auditing your energy use, you can find areas of your home where you can improve efficiency and save money.
In a perfect world, your best option would be to hire a trained professional to conduct a full-blown, in-home energy audit. There are drawbacks to in-home energy audits: They can take several hours, they are costly, and they may not be offered in your area.
Luckily, there is an alternative: the online or “virtual” home energy audit. These online tools have come a long way over the past 10 years.
Today’s online energy audits are user-friendly and take only a few minutes to complete. An online energy audit can provide an assessment of your home’s energy efficiency and helpful tips on how to reduce energy waste. The audits use sophisticated computer models that use local housing types—factoring in local weather data with the age, size, flooring and construction materials of the home.
If you’re looking for an online audit, Medina EC recommends the Department of Energy website at hes.lbl.gov. You put in your ZIP code and can choose between entering detailed or simple information about your home. It will give you a snapshot of what it estimates your current energy expenses to be, and looks at what you could save with some recommended upgrades.
A word of caution if you find another online energy audit: Be careful when using online energy audit software provided by organizations other than utilities, government agencies or universities. Unfortunately, some companies might try to obtain information to sell their own products and services.
If an online energy audit doesn’t interest you, fear not. The Department of Energy offers a do-it-yourself energy audit section on its website. This gives a detailed checklist how you can improve efficiency in your home. You can also use some of these tips:
Temperature should be set no higher than 120 degrees.
Install a water heater wrap per manufacturer’s instructions.
Install low-flow shower heads and fix dripping faucets.
Wash clothes in cold water.
Minimize clothes drying time.
Set the refrigerator temperature to 34—37 degrees and freezer temperature to 0—5 degrees.
Use microwave cooking when possible.
If you’re heating water, use hot tap water instead of colds.
Use a slow cooker instead of simmering foods on the stove.
Only run dishwasher when fully loaded.
Use air-dry cycle instead of heat-dry cycle to dry dishes.
Replace any lightbulb that burns more than one hour per day with its equivalent CFL or LED.
Turn off lights when you leave the room.
|HEATING AND COOLING|
Install a programmable thermostat.
Change filters monthly.
Run ceiling fans only when you are in the room. Make sure they are blowing air down in summer and up in winter.
Check doors and windows for weather stripping.
Another great tool for a self-performed energy audit is SmartHub, which is available for free. SmartHub allows you to see your daily electric use, along with the weather data in nearly real time. By watching your use, you will realize how your behavior shapes your energy use and be more likely to find ways that you can save.
The bottom line? Whatever method you choose for your energy audit, the only way to actually see savings is to take as many of the recommendations as you can. Even taking small steps can add up to significant results, and you’ll see the benefits on your utility bills for years to come.
For more savings tips, visit MedinaEC.org/EnergySavings.