With a few simple changes, homeowners can easily convert a house into an energy efficient home, reduce their carbon footprint and, more importantly, save money heating and cooling their home.

The first step to creating an energy-efficient home is to determine where your home may be losing energy. A do-it-yourself energy audit will go a long way toward helping you find areas where you are losing money.  Here are 10 places to check throughout your home for an energy audit.

1. Cooling and Heating Habits

Nearly half of your utility bill goes toward heating and cooling your home every year, according to the U.S. Department of Emergency. While relying on your AC or heater may be necessary on some days, you can also cut cooling and heating costs with these easy energy-saving adjustments:

  • Install ceiling fans
  • Close windows, blinds and shades during the day to block direct sunlight
  • Use windows and doors for natural ventilation during cooler morning and evening hours 

By reducing the energy usage of air conditioners and heaters throughout the year, you can also reduce your bills.

2. Your Thermostat’s Temperature

Get in the habit of resetting your thermostat when you leave the house. Energy.gov notes that homeowners can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling, simply by turning the thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours a day. To make it easier, get a Smart Thermostat which can be programmed to a pre-set schedule. 

3. Mitigate Water Usage

Heating the water you use on a daily basis can be the largest energy expense in a home – after heating and cooling, according to the Zero Energy Project. Between the clothes washer, dishwasher, kitchen faucet and shower, the average homeowner is using 64 gallons of hot water a day. Reducing water usage can reduce the cost of heating your water, here’s what you can do:

  • Take a shower instead of a bath or take a shorter shower. Reducing your shower time by 4 minutes per day can save 3650 gallons annually
  • Install a low-flow showerhead or toilet
  • Repair a leaky faucet, which can waste gallons of water 
  • Consider the location of your water heater. Shorter pipes can save energy and water
  • Insulate hot water pipes

4. Your HVAC System Maintenance 

Remember to schedule regular maintenance check-ups for your heating and cooling system. A regular tune-up will help improve energy efficiency and keep it operating at peak performance. Regular check-ups can help prevent larger, more costly issues in the future. 

5. Windows and Doors 

Inefficient windows can allow heat (in the winter) and cool air (in the summer) to escape, which can increase your utility bill by 10% to 20%, according to Energy.gov. Consider replacing older windows. The initial investment will go a long way to saving you money and making your home more energy efficient. 

Also, check to see if your windows and doors sealed properly. Air leaks are a common cause of poor energy efficiency but are also very easy to fix. Your home energy audit should help you identify cracks and seams that need weather stripping or caulk. 

6. Change Your Air Filter Regularly

Remember to check your air filter every month, especially during the winter and summer when you are relying heavily on your HVAC system. Air filters should be changed a minimum of every three months. Dirty air filters will slow airflow and reduce energy efficiency in your cooling and heating system.

7. Insulate Properly

If your home does not have the recommended minimum levels of insulation, you could be losing heat through your ceiling and walls. You can reduce your energy bills by adding more insulation to older homes, according to Energy.gov.

Adding insulation to your home can help increase comfort, as well as reduce your annual energy bill by 10%.

Energy.gov recommends proper insulation from the roof down to the foundation, including:

  • Attic insulation
  • Duct insulation
  • Exterior wall insulation
  • Foundation insulation
  • Crawlspace insulation

8. Energy Efficient Lighting

One of the easiest places to start creating an energy efficient home is with lighting. ENERGY STAR Certified lights use 90% less energy and produce about 70-90% less heat than traditional models. They also last 15 times longer which also saves money on replacement costs. 

9. Use Appliances and Electronics Responsibly

Appliances and electronics account for up to 20% of household energy bills, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. A few simple steps can reduce your energy consumption:

  • Locate the refrigerator away from heat sources, such as the stove. They will be required to use more energy to remain cool.
  • Turn computers off when not in use.
  • Consider ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and electronics, which can reduce carbon emissions and your energy costs.
  • Unplug unused chargers. The average charger consumes 0.26 watts of energy when not in use and 2.24 watts when connected to your phone.

10. Check Air Ducts

Air ducts are the backbone of your home’s HVAC system. Maintaining and checking that they are working properly will ensure an energy efficient home. Duct leakage can account for 20%-40% loss of energy, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). You should periodically check for leaks, joints that may have separated, stuck dampers and for blocked registers.

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