Evaluating the Energy Efficiency of Your Home: Simple Steps that You Can Take

Believe it or not, there are a quite a number of ways that energy and heat can sneak out of your house into the great wide open this winter. While keeping your house insulated and energy efficient involves such things as insulation installation, and using an efficient furnace, many people forget a very critical step. Before you go out to your neighborhood home repair store, remember to take just an hour and evaluate the energy efficiency of your home.

Despite what you might be told by those wanting to make a profit from you and your home, determining the energy efficiency of your home is a relatively easy thing to do. You only need a few items. The first, of course is yourself and about an hour’s worth of time. Next, you will need a thermometer, incense sticks, a cigarette lighter, a pen, and a few sheets of paper. Most people, in fact, have everything they need in their home already.

Once you have all your materials together, put on your coat and take a stroll along the outside of your house. Look for areas where two or three different materials meet. Not where the vinyl siding meet the concrete block of your foundation. Another example is where the exterior walls meet the windows of your living room. These are areas where leaks, and therefore energy loss are likely to occur. Make a note of all these “meeting areas” that you see during your exterior inspection. If you can reach any of them, take a sheet of paper and see if you can slip it between the two materials, or if you can look to see if any light is coming through. If you can do either of these two things, it’s a sign that energy and heat can also if you’re by a window, check for rattling by gently pressing on the window pane, or shaking the exterior door to your home when it is shut. Rattling, of course indicates an improper seal.

Once you determine where you’re home might be leaking based on the exterior inspection, the next step is to perform something called a depressurization test. Wait for a cool, windy day and close up the house as best you can. Then, turn on any fans, such as the bath fan or kitchen vents that move air to the outdoors. Finally, if you can safely do so, turn off the furnace. Keep in mind though that this test should be performed during a day where there is no danger of your pipes freezing due to lack of heat, and make sure all members of your family are well taken care of. Now, take one of your incense sticks, and light it. Move the incense stick around every door and window in your house. If the smoke flutters, you have a leak. Be sure to note each time you find a leak, either by placing a piece of tape on the window or by writing a note to yourself.

Another way to determine the efficiency of your home is to measure the temperature in different parts of the house, or even different parts of the room. Temperature differences of only 1 or 2 degree in the room can indicate that the room is poorly insulated, or that the air movement in the house is poor. If you correct your insulation problems and you’re still seeing the temperature discrepancies, you might have an airflow problem with your heating system. If so, check with your public utility company on ways to identify and correct the potential problems.

Another sign of energy inefficiency in your home is the presence of frost or condensation along the sashes and interior surfaces of the windows of your home. Condensation and frost formation indicates that hot air is escaping through a leak in the window area.

Once you have evaluated the energy efficiency of your home, the next step of course is to make it better. Use the information you’ve obtained by looking around the house and see if you can improve or replace the weather stripping. There are a number of steps that you can take in improving the energy efficiency of your home, and the first one is always determining where to start.

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