I recently started looking into ways where I could find out if I was leaving any money on the table regarding my monthly heating and cooling bills. I don’t think that I pay a whole lot for electricity in the summer, but my gas bills in the winter can really be through the roof sometimes. From my novice experience, I think I have a fairly energy efficient home, but I am just not sure. What I wanted was to have some professional come to my house to give it the “once over” and make appropriate recommendations.
Where to Look?
I had envisioned getting a list of HVAC experts and getting a list of estimates and then making my choice. It was then that I found a “gem.” A diamond in the rough so to speak.
What I found out was that in most states…
Your energy provider will come out and do an energy audit of your home for free.
Yes, free. At first I didn’t believe it. My thought always was that these companies would want you to use as much energy as possible to drive up their profits. It seems the opposite is true. What I learned was that as we the consumer use more and more energy, it requires energy providers to have to go out and build more power plants. This is the last thing that they want to do.
So I had one scheduled, they came out and did it yesterday, and I‘d like to outline for you how it works and what they found.
One Phone Call
All it really involved was making a simple phone call to my electricity supplier and scheduling an appointment. These audits normally take about an hour, but depending on how thorough you want them to be, they can take less time or more. Mine lasted right about an hour.
It started off with a consultation. The rep came in and asked me a series of questions, mostly about where I thought I was losing money and anything in particular that he wanted me to focus on. He brought with him a print out of my energy usage for the last several months and a basic comparison for other houses of my size. As it turns out, I was pretty much on spot. My electricity use in the summer was quite good; my energy usage in the winter time was high.
A Walk Through
He then performed a walkthrough of my house. He checked the general condition and workability of my AC unit, my hot water heater, the condition of my windows, and so on. He made several notes along the way about smaller things he noticed in the house, and then went upstairs to check out my insulation. All the while making verbal recommendations and giving me the costs of different repairs and improvements that I could potentially make.
He then put together a pretty comprehensive report, along with booklets and brochures on various pieces of equipment. To make one thing clear, he was not there to sell me anything. He made his recommendations without promoting any particular product or company.
I was very impressed with the results. I have outlined here what he came up with for my particular energy audit.
- Buy Energy Star appliances only.
- Switch to energy efficient bulbs.
- Check all exterior doors for proper weather stripping and replace where needed.
- Check all window frames and other potential “crevices” for proper caulking. Caulk as needed.
- Keep AC unit as free and clear from any obstructions as possible. Also, keep it clean.
- Change the air filter in your AC unit regularly—every three months is recommended.
- Lower hot water heater to 120 degrees or lower.
- Keep thermostat at 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter, or as close as you can.
- Seriously consider adding more insulation in my attic.
- Consider installing a programmable thermostat.
- Seal minor leaks in duct work stemming from AC.
Just Do It!
I would highly recommend you check and see if your energy company offers this service, and if they do it for free I would jump all over it. They may find much more glaring opportunities in your home, or they may find minor repairs that potentially could be fixed for pennies on the dollar. That’s what he found with my home. Of all the actual repairs or replacing of things in my home, he said that I could do most of them for a total cost of less than $100, and I would make this up in savings in the first year. To me, that’s a no-brainer. Adding insulation in my attic is a little more expensive and time consuming, but he also said that I would make up that cost in about a year as well, especially in the winter time, and after that I would see increased savings on my winter heating bills.
All in all, I couldn’t have been more impressed. I got a wealth of common sense and low cost recommendations to save on the energy costs in my home given by an expert for free.
What else could one ask for?
Have you had an energy audit of your home? What did they find? Feel free to share.
(photo credit: rockinfree)
Good to hear you again! It’s great to know that your energy provider offers this service for FREE and they don’t try to sell you anything. I’d like to have one done on our rental, but I’m afraid they’d come back with some mighty expensive repairs that would need to be done by our slumlord; i.e. nothing would ever get done. Maybe on our next house we’ll ask for an energy audit right away. Thanks for the tip!
Thanks! You’re planning on moving soon anyway, right? How is that going for you two?
By the way, check your local city website for Energy Star Product rebates. Our city is teamed up with California Cash for Appliances to offer pretty good rebates. So, it can be worth it to replace the water heater and dishwasher (oh ya, that is something I need to do). We were going to do an Energy Star washer…um, you need to buy special laundry soap that costs an arm and leg. LOL.
We had an energy audit in April. It was offered via our electric company, but they outsource. It cost us $25, but we got about $400 worth of stuff.
Two guys came through and hooked up a vacuum fan to the door to figure out how inefficient our windows and doors are. Next they went through the entire house and caulked, installed weatherstripping, barriers. Replaced ALL our lightbulbs with CFL ones. They did the fan test again, and our number went down 25%….the maximum they were allowed to do as part of the audit.
They made some recommendations, and if we had the money, we would have done some of that work. There were some great rebates! But it wasn’t in the budget at the time.
Well worth the money.
How do you like the CFLs? They do make them much better than before. However, I still can’t put them in the bathroom. I still like my soft incandescent light bulbs. 😉 (baby steps)
We had an energy audit done a couple of months ago. The same sort of process but our rep gave us coupons of Energy Star appliances, talked about tax credits and local offers for recycling old appliances. All in all a great experience.
Our utility company will even offer to haul away the old appliances, too. Sometimes makes it worth the effort both in moving and saving money.
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Good to know that you have a free energy audit. I would ask our electric companies here in Australia if they have such a service. I would love to have one too since I don’t have the technical know how about these electrical things. As long as I have a good running appliance I’m good. But lately we do have higher energy bills that get me worrying a lot. Maybe our house need caulking too or maybe some of the other stuff you mentioned. But I do know that CFL’s are environmentally friendly. My professor stressed that to us in one of our subjects.