DIY Home Energy Audit Checklist

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

You are not alone if you are shocked and angry about rising energy costs. It seems like everything is costing more, and prices are hard to keep up with. While some of these costs are out of your control, there are ways to cut down on your energy usage. In fact, it is a good idea to conduct a DIY home energy audit once a year to make sure you are not spending money in areas where you shouldn’t have to.

When creating a DIY home energy audit checklist, start with insulation and air leaks. Inspect all windows, doors, the attic and other vulnerable areas for air leaks and cracks. Seal them accordingly. Inspect insulation, install additional insulation and sealant as needed. Check your home for phantom appliances that use energy even when turned off, and swap out old light bulbs for energy-efficient LEDs.

A DIY checklist is most likely not going to be nearly as thorough as a professional home energy audit. After all, most professional assessments involve specialty machines that can detect vulnerabilities and issues that your naked untrained eye can’t see.

But professional home audits can cost over $1,000, which is not always in the budget. Before calling on a professional to inspect your energy usage, use the DIY home energy audit checklist we have provided to see how much you can identify and address on your own.

Look For Air Leaks

The best place to start your energy checklist is with air leaks. Air leaks come from many places, can increase your energy costs year-round, and cause a variety of other expensive problems (like pest issues and rot).

Look along all your windows and doors. This is the most common and costly area for air leaks, as they are directly in contact with the outside. If you see cracks or gaps, seal them with the appropriate caulk.

Make sure you go room by room, checking all the walls for potential air leaks. Keep in mind these air leaks are also potential water leaks when there is a storm. Once you finish with the windows and doors, look downward.

Check the floorboards and even basement foundation for air leaks. Seal any noticeable cracks to help prevent cold or hot air from seeping in. This just makes your HVAC system work harder, which ends up costing you more money.

Inspect Your Insulation

After you seal up any air leaks, the next item on your checklist is an insulation inspection. Be aware that even if your home is fairly new, this does not mean the home is perfectly insulated. There could have been corners cut, or measures ignored that could help better insulate your home.

Check your attic, and make sure the attic hatch is sealed as well as the rest of the attic. Confirm there is a vapor barrier installed. If there isn’t, consider adding one, or at least painting the interior attic with vapor barrier paint.

Check for gaps in insulation, especially around duct work or other potentially vulnerable areas. You can seal these with expanding foam insulation.

Check crawl spaces and all wall areas to confirm they are properly insulated. Proper insulation is essential to make your home as energy efficient as possible. This is particularly true in areas with extreme weather.

Check Your Heating And Cooling System

Heating and cooling systems vary from home to home. Your home’s age, design and the climate where you live all impact the heating and cooling you have installed. But regardless of what kind of equipment you have, make sure you check it.

Make sure your thermostats are functioning properly and accurately. If you use wall unit air conditioners, check the energy usage, and consider upgrading to energy-efficient units if you haven’t already. Make sure you are using the right equipment for the square footage of your home. If you aren’t, then the machines are working extra hard and likely not achieving desirable results.

DIY Energy Auditing Your HVAC System

When you have an HVAC system, there are a few extra steps you should take when performing a DIY energy audit. For one, you should make sure you stick to a regular schedule of replacing your air filters. You should replace your air filters every 30 to 90 days, depending on how quickly they get dirty.

Next, check your return vent. This is a larger vent located somewhere on the wall in your home. You want to ensure there is no furniture or material blocking it. Changing the air filters and ensuring a clear path near the return vent helps keep your HVAC system from having to work harder than necessary.

Make sure you check along the duct work. If you notice any stains, this could be a sign of a leak, which you should address. Lastly, if your unit is older (15 years or more) consider investing in a new unit. The energy savings you could get from a new energy-efficient unit could be fairly significant.

Check Your Lighting, Switch To Energy Efficient LED Bulbs

The next phase of your DIY home energy audit checklist should involve lighting. With so many lights in the average home, you might be surprised how many bulbs you use on a daily basis. When you go through your home, check each light to see if it has an old style bulb or a modern energy-efficient LED.

The goal with this part of the checklist is to switch all your lights over to LED bulbs. Energy efficient LED lights use significantly less energy than a typical bulb. They cost a little bit more, but they also last significantly longer than a typical bulb, so you still save on the bulb cost in the long run.

In addition to switching bulbs to LEDs, see where you might be able to install dimmers, and even lighting timers. You might even want to change a few lights to smart lights, so you can control them from anywhere.

Examine All Plugged-In Appliances

Another item on the DIY energy audit checklist is to sniff out those pesky appliances that use energy even when they aren’t in use. These appliances are often called “vampire devices” or “phantom devices.” These are appliances and electronics that, when plugged in, may appear to be off but are actually using energy. Items like blenders, coffee makers, electronic charges are all examples of these such devices. The key is researching and identifying which ones use power when they are off.

Once you identify all the phantom devices in your home, make a list of them, and ensure you unplug them whenever they are not in use. One way to remember this is to actually store them away (if size permits) when they are not in use. This often frees up counter space as well as saving some money on your electric bill.

Investigate Your Refrigerator And Freezer

You should also give a good look at your refrigerator and freezer. Make sure there are no apparent leaks, and the seals are strong and tight. Also, if you have a separate storage freezer, or a mini fridge, consider cleaning it out and turning it off unless you absolutely need it. Minimizing the number of refrigerators you have plugged is essential when auditing your energy usage.

Fireplace Inspection

If you have a fireplace, you should give it a full once-over as well. Fireplaces are another area where air can sneak in. They are also a potentially great way to heat your home. But in order to benefit from this heat, you need to ensure the fireplace is fully functioning. Take a look at your fireplace damper. Make sure it is not damaged. Once you have completed your check of the fireplace, make sure you note whether or not you are due to have your fireplace cleaned.

Consider A Professional Energy Audit In The Future

If you did a lot of sealing, inspecting and unplugging, there is a good chance you will notice your more energy-efficient home reflected in your energy bills.

Still, there are likely some aspects of your home that you missed in your walk-through. This is because you simply do not have the tools that a professional energy auditor has. Energy auditors use a variety of equipment, including infrared technology to spot weaknesses in your home.

It is understandable that you want to make your home more energy efficient on your own. Inspectors cost anywhere from $100 to $1500. Still, once you have done all you can, consider calling in a professional, at least once, to make sure your home is safe and as efficient as possible. It will save you money in the long run.

Wrapping Up The DIY Home Energy Audit Checklist

As you start to make strides to make your home more energy efficient, creating and following a DIY home energy checklist becomes important. When you check your home for energy efficiency, start by identifying and sealing any air leaks.

Next, move on to the home’s insulation, and ensure the entire home is insulated correctly. Make sure your HVAC is running smoothly, and not working harder than it has to. Don’t forget to unplug any devices that use electricity even when turned off, and change out any old light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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