As seasonal temperatures heat up, utility bills will also inch up as homeowners try to beat the heat. What can you do to prepare your home for the hot summer months and minimize the cost of keeping indoor spaces comfortable? A “do-it-yourself” (DIY) home energy audit can be a good starting point to help determine what areas to prioritize for energy efficient repairs and upgrades. By following the simple steps below, you can uncover the most obvious spots where your home is losing energy and where you may have opportunities to improve your home’s performance.
Locate Air Leaks
You can often feel air leaks by simply dampening your hand and placing it in front of potential leakage spots such as exterior corners, outdoor water faucets, electrical outlets, switch plates, vents and fans, and door and window frames. An even more effective method is to create negative pressure in your home to draw more air from outside to the interior and create stronger drafts to make leaks more apparent. The smoke from an incense stick can be used to more clearly indicate air movement. To create negative pressure to help locate air leaks you must:
1. Close all exterior doors, windows, and fireplace flues.
2. Turn OFF all combustion appliances such as the water heater and furnace.
3. Turn ON all exhaust fans and even the dryer on a no-heat setting.
Seal Air Leaks
Depending upon the location, you can seal air leaks with caulk, sealant or spray foam. Caulk can be used where you need a flexible seal at narrow joints. Use weather stripping for areas where two surfaces move against each other, like a window. Spray foam is the ideal choice for irregularly shaped gaps because it expands to fit any opening.
Evaluate Ventilation and Control Moisture
The exchange of indoor and outdoor air (also known as ventilation) is critical to the health, safety and performance of the home. A properly ventilated home allows for consistent airflow that prevents gases and excess moisture from building up in the home. Inspect exhaust fans in bathrooms and laundry rooms, as well as range hoods over stoves, to make sure they are in proper working order and are directly vented to the outside. Check caulking and flashing around windows, doors, tubs, and showers. Keep gutters clear of debris so that moisture can drain away from the home.
It is recommended that all of a home’s exterior walls have insulation and be fully filled. You can check the insulation in exterior walls by taking a peek behind electrical outlets. To do so, turn off the power to the outlet. Use a voltmeter or voltage tester to confirm that there is no power at the socket. Remove the outlet cover and shine a flashlight into the crack around the outlet box to see if there is insulation in the wall and how thick it is. Check outlets on all floors, as well as old and new parts of your home. It is also recommended that you check insulation in floors and ceilings if possible. Look for any stains that could indicate moisture leaks.
A self-audit is a simple but important process that can make you a more informed homeowner and consumer. Understanding your home’s strengths and weaknesses is the first step toward making educated decisions – before you crank up the AC!