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Get an Energy Audit From Your Utility Company: Save Money!

Updated on November 21, 2013

Is Your House Cold, Hot, or Drafty?

Last week I contacted my gas company and requested that they perform an energy audit on my home. It was the best $60 I’ve spent in a long, long time, and I recommend that everyone should have it done.

A Video from the US Department of Energy

The Energy Audit: Seeking Out Air Leaks

The energy auditor did approximately two hours of inspection with me tagging along while he explained things along the way. He left no window, door, or vent untested.

The energy auditor sealed the house and then installed a “blower door”—a piece of plastic tarp with a hole in it--in place of my front door and turned on a large blower (fan) facing outward. This made it much more obvious where air was infiltrating the house and, therefore, where insulating or caulking would do the most good.

The "To Do" Lists from the Energy Audit

When the energy auditor left, I had a “to do” list of 10 specific items (most of which a contractor will need to do), a 42 page manual with more To-Dos, “Guide to Home Energy Savings”, a head full of new information about where my energy-saving dollars can best be spent, and some V-shaped window insulation with specific instructions on how to “do it myself”.

Most of the other tasks on the "To Do" list I will need to hire someone to do because of my limited time and asthma (inhaling ANY amount of insulation would be bad): the attic needs a LOT more insulation (the blown-in kind).

Repurposing Plumbing Pipe Insulation

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Regular plumbing pipe insulationThe end of a piece of pipe insulationPipe insulation out of which several wedges have already been cut to use for window insulation
Regular plumbing pipe insulation
Regular plumbing pipe insulation | Source
The end of a piece of pipe insulation
The end of a piece of pipe insulation | Source
Pipe insulation out of which several wedges have already been cut to use for window insulation
Pipe insulation out of which several wedges have already been cut to use for window insulation | Source

Sliding Windows Are an Unfortunate Energy Waster

Apparently my sliding windows are among the worst possible designs as far as air leaks are concerned. They are the kind that slide back and forth (left and right).

Curiously, the energy auditor brought in a plumbing pipe insulation tube and cut a wedge out of it—like a piece of pie cut out of a really tall pie with the tip of the pie cut off. He pushed the small end of the V into the gap in my bedroom window’s sliding track and the air leak stopped.

The energy auditor said that plumbing piping insulation like this would prevent air from passing through it because of its closed-cell plastic design. Plumbing pipe insulation is also very inexpensive; you can use one tube to weatherproof 5-6 windows, depending on how thick you need the pieces to be. Plus, you can open the window any time by just popping out the insulation piece, then popping it back in when you close the window.

Solid plastic V-shaped insulation with adhesive on one side will help seal the vertical air gap (it’s on my shopping list).

Sheer drapes
Sheer drapes | Source

Window Coverings Can Make a BIG Difference in Energy Savings

The energy auditor also talked about my bedroom window coverings. They are simply a bunch of sheer curtains in various colors—which look nice but provide little or no protection against the Minnesota winter winds and cold or, come summer time, against the oppressive heat—especially since this window faces west and will get the hottest part of the day.

So, I’ve decided to get a roller shade with a good R-value and put it up behind the sheer curtains. By adding a simple roller shade, I can have an energy efficient window that still looks pretty on the inside. Another plus: adding a heavy roller shade will dampen road and other outside noise, making the room all the more comfortable.

Energy Wasters, Likely Causes, and Solutions

Type of Energy Wasted
The Likely Culprit
Solution(s)
Heat or air conditioning
Air leakage
Add insulation, especially to the roof and around windows
Hot Water
High-flow faucets
Install low-flow shower heads and faucets everywhere
Electricity
Incandescent bulbs
Use LED or compact fluorescent bulbs to replace each broken standard bulb
Natural gas
Inefficient water heater, furnace
Check furnace and water heater. If nothing is wrong, turn town thermostat on hot water heater and use gas fire places less

The Energy Audit was Profitable and Educational

Some small modifications like the ones I've described will make my home so much more efficient that I’ll recoup the $60 cost in the next few weeks and be much more comfortable in my home—goodbye, drafts and cold spots in the rooms.

I highly recommend requesting this type of service from your gas or electric company as soon as possible, especially if you live in a very cold, very hot, or mixed-weather climate.

My energy auditor was qualified such that I am eligible for various rebates from the gas company as well as from the government, so be sure to check into that and verify the requirements before you have the audit done.

A Quick Survey

Have you ever had a home energy audit performed by a trained technician?

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Will you schedule an audit in the near future after learning about all of the benefits? (Even if you had one done years ago on the same house.)

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Comments

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    • profile image

      Mahen 

      3 years ago

      I have a tiny house. Sort of. It is actually an old tarevl trailer that I gutted and have been rebuilding from the inside out. I also have those dual axle fenders and they are not so sturdy and nice as the ones in THIS tiny house! I solved the cold problem by cutting 1/2 inch polystyrene to fit the fenders in two layers glued together. I then cut 3/4 inch plywood to make tight fitting covers over the blue polyboard insulation. So far. seems to have been a good fix. Naturally, if you are in a colder climate, you can make the insulation as thick as is needed. Your project is particularly inspiring to me, as I want to build an actual tiny house, but lack the money for all new supplies. I like how you have re-purposed much of your lumber. Plus, it improves, rather than detracts from, the overall beauty. Good work!

    • profile image

      Troy Jefferson 

      3 years ago

      I wasn't aware that having window coverings could make a huge difference in saving energy. It makes sense because they help insulate in the winter and keep heat from sunlight out in the summer. I just never thought that having a nice set of coverings for my house could save money. Thanks for your insights! http://www.myphoenixair.com/services-residential.p...

    • Laura Schneider profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Schneider 

      6 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

      Sorry, the second source link (above) should have been http://www.aaaai.org/ask-the-expert/ultraviolet-fi...

    • Laura Schneider profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Schneider 

      6 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

      Sources on my comment on air duct cleaning being non-beneficial from a health perspective (although I have seen this many places): American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology

      http://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/PDF%...

      http://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/PDF%...

    • Laura Schneider profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Schneider 

      6 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

      Thanks, Jon Ewall!

      Coming from an engineering background and living in Minneapolis, in a house built in the '70s, it was exciting, indeed, to learn about exactly where to spend my money in sealing the drafty "new" house I'd bought and where not to bother. Some simple, cheap solutions to drafty windows were provided and I was advised against some other measures as being not worth the payback. I am also excited to have this particular inspector analyze my house because I knew from a previous inspection that the house was desperately in need of attic insulation, and this second inspection by a certified inspector makes me elligible for government and utility rebates and loans that will allow me to insulate the attic and make several other major repairs.

      I'm surprised you're asking about heating duct cleaning, though... Unless there has been major reconstruction, such as drywall dust, that has caused objects or materials to simply clog the ducts and preventing airflow, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology and other allergy organizations have shown in numerous definitive studies over the last decade that there is no data supporting any allergy or other health benefit to duct cleaning.

      In any case, thanks for your feedback! I look forward to reading some of your hubs!

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 

      6 years ago from usa

      Laura Schneider

      You sound so excited that you found out that you have air seepage into your house. There isn't a house ever built that don't have air leakage. In the north one knows when the cold penetrates the house, the thermostat goes up.

      Now after you seal the house, it will be time to check the heating bills to see how much you are saving. I guess that the utility charges will go up much faster than the savings.

      The ideas are good and simple. If you have a forced air heating and cooling system, if you want to save money, keep the system in good operating starting with an annual inspection. Most important keep air filters clean and change on a regular basis. For allergies there are specialties you can add to the system. In the winter month a humidifier can be hooked up into the system. When was the last time the heating ducts were cleaned ( vacuumed professionally )? good luck

      VERY NICE HUB

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