Is your home using energy efficiently? There are likely areas of your home where you can improve efficiency and save money.
In a perfect world, your best option would be to hire a trained professional to conduct a full-blown, in-home energy audit. There are drawbacks to in-home energy audits: They can take several hours, they are costly, and they may not be offered in your area.
Luckily, there is an alternative: the online or “virtual” home energy audit. These online tools have come a long way over the past 10 years.
Today’s online energy audits are user-friendly and take only a few minutes to complete. An online energy audit can provide an assessment of your home’s energy efficiency and provides helpful tips on how to reduce energy waste. The audits use sophisticated computer models that use local housing types—factoring in local weather data with the age, size, flooring and construction materials of the home.
If you’re looking for an online audit, Medina EC recommends the Department of Energy website at hes.lbl.gov. You put in your ZIP code and can choose between entering detailed or simple information about your home. It will give you a snapshot of what it estimates your current energy expenses to be, and looks at what you could save with some recommended upgrades.
A word of caution if you find another online energy audit: Be careful when using online energy audit software provided by organizations other than utilities, government agencies or universities. Unfortunately, some companies might try to obtain information to sell their own products and services.
If an online energy audit doesn’t interest you, fear not. The Department of Energy offers a do-it-yourself energy audit section on its website. Go to energy.gov and search for “do-it-yourself home energy audits.” You can print off that page as a checklist for checking your own home. You can also use some of the tips contained in the side bar.
Another great tool for a self-performed energy audit is SmartHub, which is available for free at MedinaEC.org or as an app. SmartHub allows you to see your daily electric use, along with the weather data in nearly real time. Try setting your thermostat a degree lower for a day or two, then go in and look at your use in SmartHub and decide if the savings were worth it. Check out your use after laundry day. By watching your use, you will realize how your behavior shapes your energy use and be more likely to find ways that you can save.
The bottom line? Whatever method you choose for your energy audit, the only way to actually see savings is to take as many of the recommendations as you can. Even taking small steps can add up to significant results, and you’ll see the benefits on your utility bills for years to come.