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Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Assessment

While a professional home energy audit is the best way to determine where energy is being wasted, you can perform your own simple, but effective, walk-through assessment that will help to spot opportunities for reducing your energy bill and making your home more comfortable.

Air leaks. Indoors, check for gaps along baseboards, at the edges of the flooring and at junctures of the walls and ceiling. Look for gaps around wiring and plumbing as well. Outside, look for cracks and holes in the mortar, foundation and siding, as well as leaks around windows and doors. Seal all leaks with caulking, weatherstripping or other appropriate material.

Insulation. If your home is not insulated to recommended levels, energy loss through your ceiling and walls could be costly. Check your attic; if there is no insulation, have it installed as soon as possible. If you have insulation, make sure that the R-level matches the amount recommended for Alaska's climate zone; look for gaps around the attic hatch, or where the walls meet the roof. To check the insulation within the walls, remove the cover on an electrical outlet and probe inside with a screwdriver or crochet hook. Be sure to shut off power to the outlet before beginning your inspection. If you have a finished basement, the foundation walls should be insulated to at least R-19. If the space is unconditioned, make sure your living area flooring is insulated at a minimum of R-25.

Heating and cooling. Check your air filter and replace it if it's dirty. The filter should be replaced once per month during the summer and winter. When was the last time your heating and cooling system was cleaned and inspected? It should be checked annually by a qualified technician. Inspect accessible ductwork for leaks, and repair with mastic tape.

Water heater. If your hot water tank is warm to the touch, it may need extra insulation. Adding insulation can reduce heat loss by up to 45 percent. Pre-cut insulation blankets are available for approximately $25 or less. Also, insulating accessible hot water pipes that are located within 3 feet of the tank can raise the water temperature and reduce heat loss. Check for water leaks; you can save significantly on water heating costs fixing leaks in faucets, shower heads and pipes.

Appliances. The appliances you choose, and how you use them, affects your energy costs. Take a look at your appliances and estimate their energy use. There are numerous ways to save on appliance energy use:

  • Only run dishwashers and clothes washers when you have a full load
  • Air dry laundry whenever possible
  • Cooking or reheating food with a microwave uses less energy than an oven or stove top
  • If your appliances are older, consider replacing them with ENERGY STAR certified models

Once you have completed your assessment and implemented energy-saving measures, consider a professional home energy audit. Your auditor will have the tools and expertise to perform a more detailed analysis, including thermal imaging and a blower-door test, which may uncover more ways to reduce your energy costs.