Thanks to my friend Sandy over at Modern*Simplicity, I had the brilliant idea to get a home energy audit. Technically, this was her idea... but still. Not only is this a free service offered by the utility company (at least it's free here), they also give you a free energy efficiency kit. Cool! So, Randy from the local energy company came by today to check out the house and give me some tips.
First we sat in the dining room and he asked me several questions. I'm embarrassed to admit I really didn't know the answer to some of them - things like, do I have a gas or electric water heater and furnace (both are gas, now I know). He opened the free energy efficiency kit and explained how to utilize all the items inside (things like efficiency bulbs, weather stripping, a low-flow shower head and faucet thingy, and these cool outlet insulating foam things.) Next, we did a tour of the house. He looked at the windows, peeked into corners, checked outlets, checked faucets, measured the water temperature...and a bunch of other things. All the while, I took notes and he explained what he was looking for and why. VERY informative.
Then, he went to the attic. I stayed in the garage. My attic freaks me out... I'm always afraid I'm going to fall through the ceiling into the living room! After that, he went outside to check out the exterior. Finally, we sat down again in the dining room while he completed a report for me to keep and refer to in the future.
So, want to know what he said??
First of all, the amount it costs to heat our home in the winter (tops out around $250) really isn't that bad, all things considered. So that's good to know. And for the most part, the house is relatively efficient...also good to know. But of course, there were some areas where we can improve. And ironically, many of them are simple things we can do ourselves with very little effort and cost. Yippee!
1) Seal leaks. He said we should caulk around the fireplaces in both the upstairs and basement, where the brick connects to the wall.
2) Insulate. We need to insulate the exterior outlet with the little foam plates that came in the kit. A box of them can be purchased for about $3 if we run out. Also, we need to wrap the hot and cold lines on the water heater with 3/4 pipe wrap insulation. And, a bigger project, the recessed lights in the ceiling on the main floor are visible in the attic - they need to have insulation boxes built around them so they can be insulated with insulation. HA! (how many times can I use a form of the word insulate in one sentence? Three.)
3) Keep it Clean. The exterior air conditioning unit needs to be cleaned. Apparently, it's pretty "gross", and that can affect the operation of the unit.
4) Turn it down. We are pretty good about keeping the thermostat set at a reasonable temperature, but it wouldn't hurt to dial it down a few degrees in the winter - especially during the daytime when nobody is home (assuming I get a job!) and overnight. Even a few degrees can make a difference. Also, our hot water coming from a bathroom sink measured 134 degrees, too hot! He recommends no hotter than 120 degrees, so we need to turn down the thermometer on the water heater too.
So all in all, I think for a 12+ year old house, we did pretty well! With a few minor adjustments, we will be on our way to (hopefully) a lower energy bill and certainly on the road to saving energy.
Check out Sandy's energy audit on her awesome blog, Modern*Simplicity. And while you're at it, give your local electric company a call and ask about getting an audit for your home!