Green home improvement: Time for an energy audit

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ June 30, 2011

It's a good time to talk about conducting your energy audit. It's summer outside, reasonably dry, and you may want to assess your energy efficiency before the winter rolls in. One of the best home improvement projects to consider during this flat home-sales era is to plan for efficiency remodeling.

Green building has become a staple component in new-home construction. If you intend to cut your own energy costs - especially if you hope to one day put your home on a more favorable market - consider increasing energy efficiency now. It can make your home more attractive to buyers when the time is right.

Performing an energy audit

The City of Seattle has created a fabulous template for conducting your own energy audit. The step-by-step audit guide leads you to upgrades that render your home tighter against invasive drafts, cut energy bills by as much as 30 percent and, best of all, determine which improvements now give you "the biggest bang for your energy efficiency buck."

An audit helps you evaluate insulation, air leaks, moisture control, space and water heating systems. If you can afford a professional audit, a trained contractor can perform blower door and duct pressure tests or perform thermal imaging measurements to detect thin or poorly insulated walls. You should check the charge in your air conditioning unit and measure air flow from the AC and heat pump.

If you're following the City of Seattle guide, you need eye protection, hand calculator, candle, ladder, tape measure, a pencil and paper. You're going to be measuring air flow around windows, doors, outlets and switches, fans, gaps in pipes and wire routing, vertical joints, and recessed lighting. You can hold your candle to the spaces, or use a stick of incense that leaves a trail of smoke to reveal your air leaks.

Be thorough in your green inspection

Be sure to look for light leaking in through gaps in crawl spaces, from the ceiling in attics and along the base framing in a heated basement. You can follow through by installing weatherstripping on doors and windows, using spray insulation foam behind leaky fans and electrical outlets. If your fireplace is a leaky culprit, use only a fire-rated sealant on it.

Going green doesn't mean you have to break the bank.

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