Conducting a Home Energy Audit
courtesy of Lennox Industries
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Step One: Examine the Exterior
- Exterior Walls: When conducting a home energy audit, start by examining the outside-facing walls to identify cracks or holes where air might escape the home. Pay close attention to areas where brick or siding fits against another material, such as wood. To identify leaks, hold a candle near potential trouble spots to reveal drafts. Then, be sure to seal leaks with caulk or weather stripping to prevent air from escaping.
- Windows and Doors: In addition to examining exterior walls, look for cracks or holes around exterior doors, windows and electrical outlets, and apply a sealant where necessary to prevent air from escaping the home. During the summer, keep blinds closed to prevent sunlight from warming the house, and during the winter, be sure to keep blinds open during the day to allow sunlight to enter and heat the home.
- Landscaping: Trees, vines and other shrubs around a house can provide shade that will keep the home cooler and reduce your overall utility bills. Consult with a local nursery to see what type of vegetation will thrive in your area. In addition, it's important to remove any landscaping that is within three feet of the outdoor air conditioning unit to allow the system to take in adequate outside air and operate efficiently.
Step Two: Inspect the Interior
- Cooling and Heating Equipment: Set up an appointment with a local utility company or certified technician to inspect the home's air conditioning and heating systems. If the equipment needs to be replaced, homeowners should consider purchasing an ENERGY STAR labeled system, which will be more energy efficient and can save hundreds of dollars in utility bills. In particular, be sure to look for a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating of at least 13 on air conditioning units and an AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating of at least 90 on furnaces.
- Thermostats: Tremendous savings also can be found by installing an automatic setback or programmable thermostat, such as the Lennox SignatureStat Home Comfort Control, which not only reduces energy costs by automatically controlling the temperature at certain times of the day but can also add or remove humidity, depending on the homeowners desired comfort level.
- Indoor Lighting: Replace short-lived incandescent light bulbs throughout the home with lower wattage and fluorescent bulbs to save energy. In addition, evaluate the home's lighting needs and determine if there are areas where natural light can be utilized in place of extra light fixtures. Unnecessary lighting can be an added expense on utility bills.
- Household Appliances: Make sure appliances are clean and free of dust and lint to ensure proper ventilation and to increase their efficiency. In addition, check refrigerator and freezer doors to ensure they are sealed tight to prevent cool air from escaping. When washing dishes, use the air-dry setting on automatic dishwashers rather than heated drying to conserve energy. You also can use less hot water by washing laundry in cold water whenever possible.
Step Three: Top Off the Energy Audit by Going Up Top
- Attic Insulation: Insufficient attic insulation may result in the home's heating and cooling system having to work harder to regulate the indoor temperature. To ensure the home is properly insulated, take a look inside the attic to determine if additional insulation is needed. The amount of insulation you may need to add will vary with climate and the home design, but adding insulation to the attic is an effective, inexpensive and easy way to increase energy efficiency and provide an extended barrier against the elements. Although the attic may have some insulation, if there is less than five inches, it's a good idea to add more.
- Roofing Material: With high winds, snow and ice, the winter months can be particularly strenuous on the roof of a house. Thus, spring and summer are good times to examine your roof to ensure all shingles are intact and flashings around chimneys, skylights, antennas and vents are sealed. Be sure to replace broken, curled or missing shingles, and use roof caulking to patch any holes to prevent energy loss. For additional energy savings, consider using ENERGY STAR labeled roofing products, sometimes known as cool roofs, which reflect the sun's rays to keep the roof and house cooler and decrease air conditioning usage.
For more helpful information about energy-saving heating and cooling equipment, visit Lennox.com.
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