- The average American can save an estimated $687 on energy bills this year by prioritizing home energy efficiency.
- Home energy audits evaluate the entire home for efficiency issues, from doors and windows to appliances and electronics.
- Remember to book a home audit and consult an energy expert before taking on large efficiency projects.
If you’re looking to save money on home-related costs, it may be time to schedule a home energy audit. In fact, the Department of Energy believes that all Americans could save up to 30% on energy costs if they prioritized home efficiency.
What does an energy audit evaluate?
An energy audit evaluates your home’s components, and then shares your total energy consumption and opportunities for energy conservation. According to the Minnesota Commerce Department, these are the most commonly inspected areas during an energy audit:
- Air sealing
- Windows and doors
- Home heating
- Home cooling
- Powering your home
- Water heating
Each home feature contributes to energy in a unique way.
Air sealing acts as a barrier between the home and outside elements. When performing optimally, air sealing keeps the home dry and energy-efficient. However, wind, temperature and pressure can impact how well the sealing in your home is functioning. The following methods can help mediate sealant issues:
- Spray foam
- Weather strips
- Airtight, recessed ceiling fixtures
- Patched drywall
Insulation slows down the heat flow in and out of the home. During the winter, insulation helps keep heat inside; whereas during the summer, insulation helps keep heat outside. Insulation can drastically cut heating and cooling costs, and a home energy audit focuses on the full home envelope, including both the attic and the basement, to assess the status of your insulation.
Windows and doors
While they are essential for home function, windows and doors can be a source of energy loss. Always check that windows and doors meet these requirements to ensure optimal functioning:
- Proper sealing
- Tight-fitting hardware
- Exterior flashing
- No missing or damaged hardware
- Door bottoms or sweeps
Heating can be achieved through three primary sources — furnace, boiler or space heater — and each of these sources provide unique advantages and costs. Your audit will identify issues in your home heating system’s consumption or efficiency.
To achieve a cooler home, you might reduce heat with insulation, sealing and closed windows. Alternatively, you may add cooling features, like fans and air conditioning machines. Home cooling is very customizable, and each method offers different costs and energy savings options.
Powering your home
Self-powered homes are becoming more common, as homeowners implement solar panels or attempt to go off the electrical grid entirely. High-efficiency lighting products, such as LED bulbs, are another great option to help offset energy costs.
Ventilation is essential for healthy indoor air quality. To optimize your air, be sure to use fans, refresh air filters and clean exhaust fans — along with any other maintenance specific to your ventilation system — regularly.
Water heating is known to be the second-largest energy expense in Minnesota. Homes use water heaters, which are fueled by electricity, natural gas or propane, to warm water. Water can be heated and stored in a tank or it can be heated on-demand in a tankless system. Water heaters require routine maintenance and typically need to be replaced every 10–20 years to run safely.
Thermostats are used to control the indoor temperature of your home. Manual, programmable and smart thermostats are all options for homeowners, and programmable and smart thermometers can lead to easy energy savings each month.
They aid in everyday home tasks, from laundry to cooking, but appliances can contribute to increased energy bills. Make sure that all of your appliances have routine maintenance and necessary repairs in order to function optimally. Keep an eye on these home appliances that can particularly increase costs:
- Refrigerators and freezers
- Laundry washers and dryers
- Cooktops, ranges and microwaves
Lighting accounts for approximately 10% of energy usage in a Minnesota home. So, it’s important to look at energy-saving lighting methods. By selecting LED bulbs and setting up timers for your lights, you’ll save energy and money.
While electronics like TVs, video game consoles, streaming devices and computers only account for a small percentage of energy usage in a home, many homeowners find that they can easily cut their electronic usage in half by:
- Unplugging devices when they aren’t in use.
- Unplugging chargers when they aren’t in use.
- Setting a timer when charging devices.
- Enabling “sleep mode” on computers when they’re not in use.
Why is it important to assess your energy usage?
Along with the opportunity for immediate savings benefits, an energy evaluation can identify weak areas in your home, which could lead to more damage if left untreated. For example, poor insulation and air leaks may go unnoticed because they usually occur in hard-to-find places (like the attic and eaves). Still, this lack of efficiency can bring about larger problems down the road, including </real-estate-advice/homeowner-tips-for-how-to-prevent-ice-dams">the dreaded ice dam issue.
Assessing your energy usage now can lessen the chances of issues later on, while also making your home more comfortable — and affordable — in the meantime.
How can I order a home energy audit?
To initiate your home audit, you’ll need to get in touch with an energy professional. Home inspectors, local utility companies and community energy organizations can typically evaluate your home’s energy efficiency or provide recommendations on where to find reputable home energy assessors.
During your search for a home energy auditor, look for a specialist with good reviews or references. Don’t be afraid to ask the auditor for specifics, including what exactly they plan to do during the audit and what technology they’ll use. By gaining a clear understanding of what the home energy audit will entail, you can ensure that you get the most out of the process.
Which fixes should I focus on first?
Take a look at your energy bills to identify opportunities for savings. These documents can serve as a guide regarding what renovations may be needed first. A home energy audit can provide further confirmation on needed repairs — and the inspector can offer a recommendation on where to begin.
If issues like uneven heating and cooling are troubling your home, it may make sense to begin with window or door replacements. However, excess moisture that could cause mold or mildew may be better addressed by dehumidifying and ventilating the space.
While home systems are complicated, both big and small home improvements can have a powerful impact on your home’s savings in the long run. From replacing large equipment to taking on DIY projects, any step toward a more energy-efficient home is a productive one.
Moving forward, efficiently
Through the process of auditing your home, you can start to identify any energy-related problem areas. Once you’ve resolved the issue, you’ll be rewarded with less energy use and lower bills to boot.
Moving forward, reach out to Edina Realty or your agent for expert guidance at any stage of your homeownership journey. Whether you’re implementing eco-friendly home practices or conducting a home energy audit, starting home improvements or listing your home for sale — Edina Realty is here to help.