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Fix-It Chick: Do-it-yourself home energy audit

September 26, 2013

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Winterizing is not a once-and-done kind of job. Conducting your own energy audit each fall can save energy and money throughout the year.

Step 1: Test windows and doors for energy leaks by placing a dollar bill on the window ledge, between window sashes or in the door jamb. Shut the window or door. If the bill is easily removed, weatherproofing is in order.

Step 2: Use a flashlight to test exterior doors for energy leaks. At night, turn off interior and exterior lights. Stand outside and have someone shine the flashlight along the perimeter of the doors. If the light can be seen outside, energy is escaping.

Step 3: Examine the exterior and interior of all windows and doors. Look for gaps around the inner and outer edges of trim pieces.

Pay particular attention to any area where different materials meet — siding and concrete, drywall and wood, etc. Tag gaps and imperfections with blue painters tape to ensure problem areas won’t be missed once the actual task of weather proofing is underway.

Step 4: Check heating and cooling ducts for leaks, gaps or breaks. Use HVAC-rated duct tape or mastic to seal all joints. Homes with improperly connected or poorly insulated ducts can lose up to 60 percent of forced air before it reaches its destination.

Step 5: Check both the interior and exterior foundation walls for cracks, holes or gaps. Changes in weather can cause new problems to form each year. Look for damage caused by improperly place plants and vegetation as well.

Step 6: Calculate the home’s proper insulation needs by using one of the many online insulation calculating tools. Many of these calculators use ZIP codes to help determine the correct r-values required for optimal energy efficiency.

Step 7: Check attics for proper ventilation as well as insulation. The more air-tight a home is, the more important proper attic ventilation becomes. Several online resources are geared to help homeowners determine proper ventilation needs.

Step 8: Changing furnace filters on a regular basis is an integral part of home energy efficiency. Having furnaces and air conditioners professionally serviced before they break down is equally important to ensure optimal performance levels.

Step 9: Examine energy bills carefully and watch for unexplained spikes in usage as well as consumption patterns. Information is often the best line of defense when it comes to energy efficiency.

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