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How We Reduced Our Energy Bills with a DIY Home Energy Audit

Updated on October 5, 2014
A DIY home energy audit helps us to save energy over a long, cold winters.
A DIY home energy audit helps us to save energy over a long, cold winters.

Save Money With A Home Energy Audit Checklist

5 Things You Can Do Yourself To Save Energy (and save money!)

The cost of energy to heat, cool and light the lights in our homes continues to rise, and even if energy prices have flattened out recently (at least temporarily), conserving energy is still the best way for most of us to reduce our energy bills.

Whether it is the cold weather of winter that increases heating bills or the summer heat that drives up air conditioners and electric bills, a simple home energy audit checklist with 5 home energy saving tips will improve its energy efficiency and can reduce your energy bills. While there are large scale projects with long term pay backs, such as replacing windows and doors, upgrading heating and cooling systems, and adding alternative solar and wind energy sources, there are also many smaller proactive steps which are easy and inexpensive to take, yet will help to conserve energy and pay you back quickly with real dollar savings.

Here are 5 home energy saving tips to help reduce your energy bills.

Photos by the Author

5 Energy Saving Tips

Energy Savings Tip #1:

Keep the Cold Out, and the Heat In (or the Heat Out, and the Air Conditioning In

Poor insulation and tiny openings let the cold air in and allows the heat to escape. Many of these small cracks and openings can be closed up simply and permanently with a can of expanding foam, which is available at nearly every hardware store.

From the outside, check around the parameter of your house and look for every cable or pipe that enters into your home. In most cases, the hole drilled into the side of the house is slightly larger than the pipe or wire. The resulting gaps not only allow heat to escape, but might also enable insects and mice to enter into your nice warm home. Examples include telephone, cable TV and Direct TV access points, the filler pipe to your oil tank, and outside faucets for lawn sprinklers and garden hoses. In some cases, there may be a sleeve or collar covering the hole which can be removed to access the gap. Use the expanding foam to seal these areas completely.

Fill the Gaps: Before

Energy Savings Tip #2:

Fill The Gaps

Check for gaps around -- and under -- the moldings of exterior window frames, door jams and garage door frames, especially if the door opening was made in a poured concrete foundation. Even where the concrete foundation meets the wood of the home (known as the sill plate) can have small gaps and openings.

Also check the dryer vent; chances are good that the light plastic cover is hiding a large gap where the hole was cut through the side of the house. Fill these gaps with the expanding foam.

Fill the Gaps: After

Our home had several small gaps where holes were cut through the siding for telephone and cable wires, sprinkler pipes as well as the plastic outflow pipe for the air conditioner's condenser. There were also small gaps along the side edges of the garage door.

A can of expanding form quickly filled the gaps, eliminating drafts and closing off potential entrances into our home for mice, spiders and other creepy crawlies. The expanding form i.e. cheap to buy and easy to use. Just follow the manufacturer's directions on the side of the can.

One can of expanding foam was enough to fill all of the gaps that I found around the windows, doors, pipes, wires and foundation around our house. Shoot enough foam into the holes to fill the gap until it begins to overflow, and let it expand past the opening.

Let the foam set for at least 30 minutes before you try wiping away any of the excess. The foam is exceptionally sticky, and trying to wipe it off before it begins to cure just makes a sticky mess. After it dries, the foam solidifies and can be cut away with a sharp knife.

Heating and Cooling Costs: Up to 40% of the Annual Energy Costs for the Average Home

Brrrr, it's cold!
Brrrr, it's cold!

Energy Savings Tip #3:

Insulate For Savings

Inspect the insulation in your attic. . Chances are, the building contractor installed just enough insulation to meet the local building codes in your area.

Wear gloves while checking for areas where ductwork and wiring penetrate the ceiling below.

If the insulation was pulled back, carefully and neatly replace the insulation to keep the rising warm air from the living space from escaping into the colder attic.

Adding another layer of insulation is relatively inexpensive and can be done by most DIY types, but you may want to contract with a professional. This minor expense will pay you back quickly, both in energy savings and in increased comfort of warmer rooms.

The extra insulation will also help keep your home cooler in the summer, trapping more warm air in the attic before it enters the living spaces below.

Save 5% (and more) on Your Home Heating Bill by Installing a Programmable Thermostat

Energy Savings Tip #4:

Schedule Your Heat

Installing a programmable thermostat is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of energy used to heat (or cool) your home. Most programmable thermostats have only a few, color coded wires and include detailed instructions to simplify the installation. There are many makes and models available to match your heating and air conditioning system, and most of the large home centers offer a wide selection with the instructions on the outside of the box to help guide you in selecting a compatible thermostat for your specific heating system.

A seven day programmable thermostat offers the most flexibility, and allows you to set up schedules to heat your home comfortably while you're there, yet allow the inside temperature to drop slightly while you are at work. We use a schedule to lower the heat every evening at 9:00 PM, and then schedule the heat to kick up at 5:30 AM the next morning. This gives the furnace enough time to take the chill out of the air before we get up. The schedule drops the temperature several degrees during the weekdays, and kicks it back up late in the afternoon before we get home from school and work. Using the seven day schedule, we set different time schedules for the weekend.

Just using a programmable thermostat saved us more than 5% off of our heating bills -- without changing the comfort level of our home. Lowering the thermostat just a few degrees will save even more.

7-Day Touchscreen Programmable Thermostat

7-Day Touch Screen Thermostat - Easy Touchscreen programming for each day of the week. Compatible with Single Stage Heating and Cooling, Multistage Heating and Cooling systems.

Energy Savings Tip #5:

Turn Off, Unplug or Convert

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CLFs) use less electricity and last longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs. Using approximately 75% less energy, the pay back for purchasing CLFs is typically less then a year. And because CLFs last five to ten times longer than a standard bulb, the savings is increased -- as much as $50 over the lifetime of a Compact Fluorescent Lamp.

No longer limited to just the curly spiraled look, CLFs are now available in styles designed to fit many types of lamp and ceiling fixtures, track and recessed lighting, and for use outdoors. Some models even work with dimmers - just be sure to read the labels carefully before making your purchase.

Innovations in CLF design has improved the brightness and the lighting spectrum (the color of the light) over the early Compact Fluorescent Lamp. Not only are the new CLF much more energy efficient, they also look good when in use around your home.

LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are the latest trending interior lighting. While still very expensive, costing as much as $50.00 or more per bulb, LEDs are more energy efficient than CLFs and can last for a decade. Prices will likely drop as manufacturing production and consumer demand picks up. Imagine, changing a light bulb only once every ten years.

Lighting Accounts for up to 10% of Your Home's Electric Bill

Energy Smart Spiral 3-Way Light Bulb

Energy Smart Spiral 3-Way 6 Year Life Light Bulb. Specifically designed for 3-way lamps in your home or office, GE 3-way bulbs offer a range of light levels. Choose the low light setting for energy savings, higher settings for general and activity lighting. Choose the low light setting for energy savings, higher settings for general and activity lighting. Saves $121.00 in energy costs.

Continue the Audit

5 More Energy Saving Tips

There are many, many other small changes which can help to conserve energy and save money. Here are 5 more Energy Savings Tips:

  • Look carefully around your home for unnecessary lights, especially in electronics and appliances, and turn them off whenever possible.
  • Reduce 100 watt bulbs to 75 watts. Better yet, replace standard light bulbs with LED lights or compact fluorescent lamps.
  • Lower the temperature on your hot water heater.
  • Replace the filters in your forced hot air heating system every two months.
  • Check faucets for small drips and replace the washers.
  • All of these relatively small and easy steps will add up to significant savings, and help to put a few dollars back into your pocket.

How do you heat your home?

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Save Heat by Insulating Your Windows

Thermal Leak Detector

The Thermal Leak Detector helps you increase the efficiency of your home's insulation by finding leaky areas that can lead to higher heating and cooling bills. You'll instantly identify problem areas around drafty windows and doors, and uncover hidden leaks and insulation "soft spots" around your home.

Check windows, ducts, and walls with the thermal reference light that indicates hot and cold spots. You can even use the detector to diagnose engine misfires or check your refrigerator and freezer settings.

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Only Three More Months Until Spring....

Only Three More Months Until Spring....
Only Three More Months Until Spring....

Tell Us About Your Energy Saving Tips

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      Koukou 3 years ago

      We have a 2-level home (split entry one set of stairs goes upsraits from a landing by the front door, another set of stairs goes downstairs). We have forced air furnace heated by natural gas (we live in the Western US). The downstairs, of course, gets colder than the upsraits. We've learned, though, to get along with a 68 degree Fahrenheit setting most of the winter. (Like I was weaned off of whole milk to 2%, then later to 1% the others taste too rich for me now).A friend of mine some years ago used an insulating additive mixed with paint on perimeter walls (those next to outdoors) and the ceiling (if the roof is right above that). I felt a wall he had painted with the insulating additive, which was right next to a wall that had not yet been painted with the same insulating additive. The difference in temperature was incredibly big!I recommended this tip (just above) to a friend with a large (3-story home) who has been out of a full-time job for a year now (as of today, 2009.12.31). His natural gas bill is around $400 per month in the winter! His brother-in-law works at a coal mine in East Central Utah. The mine owners allow their employees to so much free coal to heat their homes. His brother-in-law is sharing some with my friends (who drove 150 or more miles each way to bring back a pick-up load of coal). They'll probably need one more load to help them get through the winter. Coal, of course, can burn hotter & longer than the wood they've used in their stove.Closing bedroom doors, especially at night, seems to keep the bedrooms somewhat warmer, especially downstairs for our girls downstairs.

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      AllenCruise 5 years ago

      This is quite a lens. Liked the style of the lens very much. Great quality. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Awesome Blog!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      We are all looking to save money these day and your energy saving tips translate to money saved for sure!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Enjoyed stopping by this article of yours too.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Energy conservation is a great need of the hour subject. Very nice and handy tips here to save an extra buck. Nicely done!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You are providing great common sense tips to reduce home heating costs. I've lived in cold country all my life and know a penny saved is a penny earned and those pennies do add up!

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