Do you wait for the first heat wave?
When that first high usage power bill statement comes out?
Budget billing cycle renews with your power company?
When it gets miserably uncomfortable in your home?
We all have different trigger points on why we start searching the internet for ways to save energy, beat the heat and to save money. The most important thing is you take your first steps towards energy efficiency. Check out our Energy Saving Tips as a good starting point. You won’t start saving until you take action and the sooner you take action the better.
Hire an Energy Auditor: The best way to supplement hours of internet searches? Energy Auditors have the tools and training to work with you to find the primary issues in your home causing your higher energy usage. A good internet search is great for research, but you need an expert to help you apply those findings to your home. Most of the investments you make to your home have long life times, say 15 years or more. If you make an uninformed decision, you could be living with it for many years to come. Information based off facts is the most critical component to good decisions. If you research energy efficiency long enough you will likely find articles telling you to do the opposite of each other. Some of this can be for opinions or age of the article, but often it is the context for which the improvement was made. For example the pros and cons of radiant barrier are very different for Southern versus Northern homes.
Most of us have a budget of some type we are working with, and some improvement projects can be very expensive, i.e. new windows or a new HVAC. It is critical you have a understanding of what drives you and your home’s energy consumption. A professional Energy Auditor will analyze your home through a series of observations and tests to determine what projects will have the most impact. Some Energy Auditors can also perform a rating on your home, either HES or HERS and with it develop an energy model of your home. With an energy model, your auditor can give you more accurate returns for your energy projects and perform some ‘what if’ scenarios to see the relative impact on your utility bills.
If your still not convinced you need an Energy Auditor, check out this post “Why get an Energy Audit” for more great reasons.
A Cascading Effect of Efficiency: If you perform projects to improve your home’s efficiency you will likely find that when it is time to replace your HVAC it will cost you less. A more efficient home needs a smaller HVAC unit to maintain comfort. A reputable HVAC company will confirm the size of the unit being installed is appropriate for the home (manual J calculation). It is common to install too big of a unit, most folks don’t realize how bad this can be. Or to assume no change is necessary, but haven’t you been making some improvements since you’ve lived there? If your HVAC unit is too big; it will run for shorter windows of time, but will tend to have more starts and stops. This is where the wear and tear occurs on the unit. If the unit doesn’t run long enough it also won’t dehumidify your home. That is sticky enough, but when the humidity is higher in your home you have to lower the thermostat to gain the same comfort, causing more money to be spent. The final and most obvious is the larger the unit the more power it consumes while it is running.
Where to look first, Heat: So if you are thinking about energy efficiency in your home, the best place to look for inefficiency is heat. Do you have a gas pilot on in your fireplace on all summer? How about the plug-in transformers that are hot? A few halogen light bulbs? Electrical items that are warm to the touch are wasting electricity and your dollars (except ovens, toasters,…) Did you know most traditional light bulbs are about 5% efficient, the other 95% comes off as heat. Anybody that had an Easy Bake oven can attest to that. Some appliances and devices use electricity even when they are off, consider putting them on a switched plug when they are not in use. All of these items raise your bill directly, but also indirectly. All of that added heat has to be pumped out of your home by your A/C, meaning more electricity consumed.
What next: By now you’ve read about many ways to save energy and be more comfortable. But what next, you need to develop a plan or have one developed for you. An Energy Auditor is a great resource for either. Energy Auditors are glad to work with DIYers to show them what needs to be done or your Energy Auditor can just make it all happen for you. Until you do make that call, consider some behaviors you can change to reduce your utility bills. Turn off lights when not in use, unplug unused appliances, buy only Energy Star appliances, operate anything with an exhaust fan early in the morning (that includes the clothes dryer), operate anything that adds heat to the house early in the morning, keep garage doors closed if attached to home, use window blinds tilted down towards outside to prevent the sun’s radiant heat from entering your home, plant shrubs and trees on the South side of house to provide Summer shade, keep the equipment you have in good condition – get annual service performed on HVAC units.
How to Finish: You probably know where I’m going with this one. The testing provided by your Energy Auditor should be repeated after all of the projects are done to ensure they were done as expected. Finding out during the next heat wave that the improvements weren’t successful would be very frustrating to say the least. Most Energy Auditors include test out in there proposals.