Here’s a conservation project for all you do-it-yourselfers: Set aside a weekend and perform an energy audit on your home or business. Why? You may be wasting energy and not even know it. The audit will help you pinpoint problem spots and make easy changes that could significantly lower your usage. So grab your tool box, and let’s get started.
1) Are your windows single-, double- or triple-pane? Do you also have storm windows?
Conservation tip: Double- and triple-pane windows offer more insulation than their single-pane counterparts. But don’t worry if you can’t afford to completely replace your windows. Just add interior storm windows instead.
2) Is the caulk around your windows in good condition?
Conservation tip: If you see cracks, bubbles or receding caulk, it’s time to reapply. Clean the surface first, then apply latex-based caulk in a single straight line up the window frame. Wipe away any excess, and make sure you applied enough caulk to fill the void.
3) Do trees or awnings shade your windows?
Conservation tip: Plant a tree on the side of your home or business that gets the most sun and/or has the most windows. Buy opaque awnings to block direct sunlight.
4) What do you use to cover your windows inside? Curtains? Blinds? Do you keep them open or shut?
Conservation tip: If you can see through your curtains, they’re not thick enough to absorb sun. Try lining them with a neutral fabric. Keep your blinds shut during the hottest part of the day. Remember to shut them upward, though, so the blinds’ inside edge points toward the ceiling.
5) Do you have window tinting or solar screens?
Conservation tip: Window tinting and solar screens prevent the sun from heating up your home or business. A bonus: they reduce fading of your furniture or floors caused by the sun’s rays. Of the two, solar screens are the more expensive choice, but they also block more light.
6) Is the weatherstripping around your doors in good condition?
Conservation tip: If weatherstripping is damaged, replace it. Refer to manufacturer recommendations to find the specific kind (foam, plastic, metal, etc.) that’s right for your door.
7) Check between the door and the jamb. Does the door close snugly, or can you see sunlight peeking through? Do you feel a draft?
Conservation tip: Your external doors should close tightly, with no drafts and no visible sunlight coming through the crack. Otherwise, replace your weatherstripping. If you still experience problems, call a handyman to adjust the door’s fit.
8) Do you have a storm door?
Conservation tip: Storm doors add insulation. Plus, those with a screen allow you to skip the A/C and enjoy the breeze on warm days.
Heating and Cooling Unit
9) Is your indoor unit in good condition?
Conservation tip: Your unit should have no noticeable air leaks. There shouldn’t be standing water in the drip pan. (If there is, contact a qualified HVAC repairman right away.) Elevated ductwork should be securely fastened to the frame of your house. And, of course, the filter should be clean. (Remember to change it regularly, per manufacturer recommendations.)
10) Is your outdoor unit in good condition?
Conservation tip: Your unit shouldn’t have any clutter around it, so air can pass through on either side. It should sit on a firm, level surface. If you’ve ever considered building an awning to shade the unit, don’t. That won’t help your energy-efficiency.
11) How often do you have your unit serviced?
Conservation tip: To keep your unit running efficiently for years to come, schedule a routine maintenance appointment twice a year with a qualified HVAC technician.
12) What kinds of lights do you use outside—incandescent, halogen, HID (high intensity discharge) or compact fluorescent?
Conservation tip: Fluorescent lighting is the most energy-efficient choice. But don’t be scared away by the higher price tag on compact fluorescent light bulbs. They more than make up the extra cost by using two-thirds less energy than incandescent. If you can’t get fluorescent lighting, though, halogen and HID lighting are the next best option.
13) How do you control when your landscape lights turn on and off?
Conservation tip: Lights operated by timers or photo cells (i.e., the sun) work best, because you never forget to switch them off.
Central Heating and Cooling Unit
14) Where is your thermostat?
Conservation tip: For the most accurate reading, your thermostat should be on an interior wall away from direct sunlight. Otherwise, the temperature is likely inaccurate, causing your A/C or heater to run more than necessary. A qualified HVAC technician can easily relocate your thermostat. A bonus tip: If you have a mercury thermostat, replace it with a programmable digital version, which is much more accurate.
15) At what temperature do you set your thermostat in the summer? What about the winter?
Conservation tip: Set your thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter. For every degree you move in the right direction, you’ll reduce your monthly usage.
16) Check your thermostat again. Is your A/C fan set to “auto”?
Conservation tip: A continually running A/C fan needlessly elevates your bill. Choose the “auto” setting instead. Your fan will only come on when the unit is in cooling mode, which saves energy.
17) Do you keep all interior doors open?
Conservation tip: Take care not to isolate rooms by keeping some doors shut. You eliminate circulation and air flow from one room to the next, which is necessary to efficiently cool or heat your location.
18) Take a look at the vents on your ceiling. These are called “supply registers.” Are they open?
Conservation tip: By opening all supply registers, you keep air circulating throughout your home or business, ensuring that each room is cooled or heated properly.
19) How often do you replace your air filter?
Conservation tip: Some filters last longer than others. Check manufacturer recommendations on the packaging for how often to replace your filter.
20) Do you keep the flue to your fireplace closed when not in use?
Conservation tip: You might be surprised how much air can escape through your chimney, so keep your fireplace flue tightly closed—except when you’re enjoying a warm fire, of course.
21) Does your fireplace have glass doors on the front?
Conservation tip: Glass doors block heated or cooled air from escaping through the chimney. Remember, the fireplace flue is not air-tight.
22) Is your water heater in good condition?
Conservation tip: If you see rust, leakage, condensation markings or any other signs of deterioration, consider replacing your water heater with a new one that has the Energy Star seal.
23) What is the temperature setting on your water heater?
Conservation tip: Adjust the water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. That should be more than adequate to keep your water warm. Any higher, and you may be wasting energy.
24) Do you have a water heater blanket or jacket?
Conservation tip: If your tank is warm to the touch, you need additional insulation. Buy a water heater blanket or jacket for just $10 or $20, and you’ll save money in the long-run.
25) Are your appliances in good condition?
Conservation tip: There’s no magic number for when certain appliances should be replaced. The more you use them, the shorter time they will last. In general, refrigerators, clothes washers/dryers, dishwashers and stoves/ovens are fine for 10 to 15 years. Other appliances that run shorter cycles, like microwaves and toasters, may last longer. The bottom line—when you replace an appliance, do so with an Energy Star version for maximum efficiency.
Indoor Lighting & Fans
26) Do you use mostly incandescent or compact fluorescent light bulbs?
Conservation tip: They cost a little extra, but compact fluorescent light bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent. They also last up to 10 times longer, making them the least expensive choice long-term.
27) When do you use ceiling fans?
Conservation tip: Fans are a brilliant way to save energy but only when you’re in the room. That’s because fans don’t actually heat or cool the air. They only move it around. Remember to set your fans to spin counterclockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter.
28) Is the insulation in your attic sufficient?
Conservation tip: Attic insulation will be the biggest “bang for your buck”. Sufficient attic insulation should be anywhere from 12-24 inches deep and cover the entire attic. If yours is not this deep, has areas that are uninsulated, or worse has no insulation at all, this is a tremendous waste of energy and money.