MR. : In any season a leaky home costs money. How do you stop it? It starts with a comprehensive home energy checkup. That’s a series of tests and inspections to find out where your house could be more efficient. The end goal is to save energy, save money and make your house more comfortable. Installing energy-efficient lighting and appliances will help. So will creating a sealed barrier around your house, kind of like putting a blanket around the outside, minimizing the leaks. Upgrading your home to save energy can put anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of your energy bill back in your pocket. OK, to get a thorough home energy checkup, you’ll need some help from a professional. Look for a home energy technician, called an auditor, in your area. Now, in this cold-weather evaluation, the auditor starts on the outside, looking for problems around walls, joints and under the eaves.
If there’s not a tight fit, you’re losing energy and money. Next the technician might head up to your attic to check for leaks in the top of your home barrier. That trap door could be a culprit, letting cold air pass into the house. A big part of the checkup is determining how well the insulation insulates. Insulation should be correctly installed in between all areas of the house frame. That means it needs to be evenly applied and not just jammed in spaces. And of course, if the insulation has fallen down, it’s not working. Your energy auditor will inspect the holes where electrical lines pass through. If they’re not sealed, they’re leaking. Then it’s down to the basement. Your furnace and water heater could be wasting energy. The auditor will check to see how energy efficient the furnace is. Furnaces generally lose efficiency as they get older, and it could cost you more to keep yours running than to replace it with a new one.
Maybe all you need is a new filter. Some people haven’t changed their filter for months, even years. That gunk clogging the filter means your furnace has to work harder to heat your home. If the water heater is several years old, it may not be efficient, and if it isn’t insulated, it’s also losing energy. Now it’s on to the ductwork. The technician will inspect connections to make sure they make a tight fit. They have to be sealed to keep the warm air going where it’s supposed to go. If the screwdriver can go in the hole, it means one thing for sure: Money is going out. Now for the blower door test. The energy auditor will close all the windows and doors and anything else that let outside air in. This special fan will depressurize the home. The idea is to suck air out of the house, allowing outside air to rush into the home through all those openings you didn’t know about. OK, so with the windows and doors closed and the fan running, leaks are easy to spot with an infrared camera.
In winter the auditor will scan the interior of the home looking for cold air rushing in. Here the darker the color, the worse it is. These black spots mean one big air leak. It’s an eye-opening experience. For this house, the recessed lighting fixtures are big problems. The auditor will also take a look at the kind of light bulbs in those fixtures. If they’re incandescents, they’re using a lot of energy. Warm compact fluorescents are an energy-saving alternative. So the home energy assessment reveals ways that energy escapes your home, costing you money. The good news is you’ll have a comprehensive home energy report showing which efficiency upgrades are right for you and where to stop those pesky leaks..