Home heating bills account for nearly half of the average U.S. homeowner’s energy usage, meaning the majority of your home’s utility costs go toward heating or cooling
. As cold weather sets in, you could save yourself money by performing a home energy audit, or having one performed by a professional. A home energy audit will help you discover where hot air is escaping your home during the cold weather months. Fixing these energy weak spots in your home can save you money on heating costs.
Track down air leaks
Air leaks are the number one killer of heating efficiency in the home, and the ideal starting place for a home energy audit. The most common points for air leaks are around windows and doors, gaps in baseboards, attic doors, wall switches, electrical outlets, junctures between walls and ceilings, foundation seals, existing weather stripping, and fireplace dampers. On a cold day, you will want to examine all of these places to determine if cold air is finding its way into your home. Rattling windows or sunlight streaming through door frames or window frames are another sign that you’re losing heat. Outside your home, you also should inspect any areas where two building materials meet, as there can be gaps that would allow your warm air to escape. If you do find air leaks, you will want to seal the gaps that are letting cold air in. That can be done using caulking, weather stripping, or the original sealing material. Some jobs, like a leaky fireplace damper, may require professional help to stop the draft.
Check your insulation
If your home isn’t well-insulated, the warm air quickly will find its way out on cold nights. Insufficient insulation especially can be a problem in older homes, but there are areas in all homes that are likely to be missing insulation. The areas around attic doors, light switches and outlets, ductwork, chimneys, and pipes are the ones that are most likely to lack insulations. If you inspect those areas and find uninsulated or poorly insulated spots, you can fill in those gaps with a foam insulator, or caulk around any electrical boxes in the ceiling. Especially if you live in an older home, you may want to check your walls for insulation. To do this, drill a hole in an exterior wall in a spot that won’t be seen, such as in a closet. Insert a screwdriver to see how thick the insulation is. An exterior wall should be filled completely with insulation.
Take care of your heating equipment
Your furnaces, stoves, and fireplaces should be cleaned and inspected annually to make sure they are running as efficiently and safely as possible. A heating appliance that isn’t functioning at its best will cost you money in energy bills. You also will want to check your ductwork for leaks — dirt streaks near ducts are a telltale sign of leaks. Make sure that pipes and ducts in uninsulated parts of your home are wrapped in their own insulation. A home energy audit takes little time and can ensure that you’re not spending more on your energy bills than you need to.