March Project: How to Inspect Your Home for Energy Inefficiencies

Following the trend and truly “Going Green” means doing more than just recycling or buying environmentally-friendly products.

Many think going green simply means spending more for less. Fortunately, it doesn't mean that at all. Completing a simple home energy inspection will show areas where you're wasting energy. When you fix those areas, you'll notice a savings on your energy bills. And, as energy costs skyrocket, it's important to save money any way you can.

Perhaps the best way to identify sources of energy-wasting problems in your home is with a professional home energy audit -- including such techniques as a blower-door test and thermographic inspection. However, this may prove costly, so to save money, we'll show you how just inspecting certain areas of your home can pay dividends.

The Furnace:
You may want to have your furnce professionally inspected each year. At a minimum, it's important to have your furnace professionally inspected and tuned every other year -- or at least every several years. Some people even opt for an annual inspection and tuning. Cleaning dust from the airtubes and burners ensures that your furnace will run efficiently and safely.

Check your furnace filter to make sure it fits into a covered slot. Home furnaces are equipped with replaceable air filters designed to remove dust and other particulate impurities from the air as it circulates through the heating and cooling system. Some filter openings do not have a cover and allow air to penetrate the the furnace system. An uncovered filter can cause a safety issue.

If you decide to install a new furnace filter, make sure it faces the right direction. You'll see an air-direction indicator on the filter. Typically, the arrow will point toward the furnace.

Checking the Home:
Inspecting your furnace is important. It's important more for safety than energy savings reasons. If you'd like to improve your home's energy efficiency, here are some tasks you can complete without hiring a professional.

Items you may need:
Large window fan
Incense sticks

Create a list of areas which have a high potential for drafts. Then, close all exterior doors, windows and fireplace flues. Then, you'll want to turn off all combustion appliances such as gas-burning furnaces and water heaters. Just make sure you turn them all back on when you're finished checking your home.

Turn on all exhaust fans. If you don't have exhaust fans, use a large window fan to blow air out of the house. The air movement will highlight certain leaks in your home. You can use the lighted incense sticks to locate air drafts. Leaks will show because it will cause the smoke to waver or flow in their direction.

You can also use your damp hand to check for leaks. The air will feel cold on your skin.

Check for air leakage around wall switches and outlets – which is a sneaky spot for air leakage. Look at storm windows to ensure they fit properly and are not broken. All windows and doors are pretty vulnerable to air leakage. Make sure the doors and windows are snug on their frames. You may want to see if you can rattle them while they're closed. You can also inspect the cracks. If you see daylight, that means you're probably losing some air.

Next month, we'll outline some specifics to address these energy problems. Then, you can start saving money on your next electric bill.

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