Is Your Home Wasting Energy?

Like most homeowners, you have probably found yourself wondering if you might be paying too much for energy bills. Whether your home is a new construction, or was built a while ago when energy was inexpensive and abundant, your home is most likely not a “green” certified home so there is no way to tell if your systems are working at top efficiency.

Yet, most of the time that concern stays on the back of your mind. You trust the builder to have done it properly, and as a homeowner, you have been doing the “right” things to save energy: you’ve been replacing your incandescent light bulbs with CFLs and LEDs, caulking your windows and doors, taking shorter showers, washing your clothes in cold water, turning the thermostat down, etc.

It seems like things are as they are meant to be… until you have to write that check to pay for your heating or cooling bill.

Studies show that the typical U.S. household consumes 2 to 3 times more energy than would be needed if they were working at top efficiency. Since the bulk (40%) of energy consumption in an average home goes toward heating and cooling, most of the energy is wasted due to lack of proper air sealing, and poor insulation, especially in areas like the attic, basement and crawl space.

So how can you tell if you are paying more than you should for your energy bills? Here’s a list of ten tell-tale signs of an energy-wasting home. While some are pretty obvious, others might really surprise you.

  • 1. Cold Drafts

This is probably an obvious sign, after all, you can feel the air leaking in and it must be coming from some place. The source of these drafts, however, might not be as obvious. Most people mistakenly believe that drafts come from windows and doors, and caulk them, only to find out that the problem still persists. Cold drafts can be generated by other leak sources and also by convection currents.

  • 2. Uneven temperatures around the house

Energy efficient homes are by definition, very comfortable, because they are easy to evenly cool and heat. If your home has rooms that are too hot during the summer or too cold during the winter, your home is wasting energy and can use some improving. Causes for temperature difference may include lack of air sealing, poor insulation, and imbalances between HVAC returns and supply ducts, as well as dirty or unsealed air ducts.

  • 3. Mold and musty smells

Musty, unpleasant odors indicate the presence of mold. Mold is a sign of high relative humidity levels and moisture control issues. Mold is quite common in basements and crawl spaces, because ground moisture is constantly seeping in and evaporating into these areas. It can appear elsewhere, in localized spots, due to a plumbing or roof leak, but consistent mold, mildew and musty smell problems, and mold appearing in areas like the attic or the drywall ceiling, can be a sign that the humid, unconditioned air from the outside, from your basement of crawl space, is leaking into your living area. It can also mean that things like dryer and bathroom vents are not venting to the outside. A home energy audit can help pinpoint any air leakages and moisture sources.

  • 4. Indoor Allergies

An energy-efficient home usually has great indoor air quality because there is a greater control over the amount of unconditioned air that is coming into the house, and that means less moisture issues, less pollutants and less allergens in the air you breathe. If you or anyone in your house suffers from allergy symptoms that seem to get much worse indoors, outside air or air from your damp basement or crawlspace could be carrying mold spores and dust mite pellets — the two main triggers of indoor allergies in the U.S — into your home. Poor ventilation can also create the moisture conditions that allow mold and dust mites to thrive.

  • 5. Dusty Rooms

Household dust is comprised of a mix of many different particles, including soil, paper and fabric fibers, insect pellets, pet dander, human skin cells and industrial pollutants just to name a few. The amount of dust in a home is also determined by many factors, including how often doors and windows are open, and occupant activity. While every home has some level of dust, homes that are very dusty or have especially dusty rooms are usually wasting energy too. All that dust has to be coming from somewhere. An improperly sealed home, leaky ductwork, and/or an improperly balanced duct system are all potential culprits.

  • 6. Pests

If insects and rodents are finding their way into your home, they are usually doing it through small openings in the building envelope. A lot of air is also leaking through these same openings.

  • 7. Paint Peeling and Blistering

Peeling and blistering paint indicates moisture control issues. Your home might be either too dry or too humid. Moisture imbalances in a home are always a sign of larger issues that also impact your home’s energy efficiency.

If you find yourself unable to walk barefoot around the house due to very cold floors in the winter, your home is most likely wasting energy. Cold floors are a symptom of air leakage and poor insulation in areas like the basement, crawl space, the rim joists, as well as adjacent garages, cantilevers, bay windows, and similar architectural features. While ceramic tiles, stone and concrete floors tend to feel a little colder, they should never feel unbearably cold inside your home.

  • 9. Dirty Around Registers

Dust collecting around the registers is a sign of condensation. The moisture is causing the dust to stick.

  • 10. Icicles and Ice Damming on the Roof

As pretty as they look, icicles are a sign of heat loss. The air that you are paying to heat is leaking out through the attic and roof. Icicles and ice damming are usually related to poor attic insulation and improper air sealing.

A comprehensive home energy audit, performed by a certified home energy conservation expert, will look into these and many other less obvious signs of energy loss and help you build a plan of action to improve your home’s energy efficiency, prioritizing the upgrades that will bring you the best results per dollar invested.

A green, energy efficient home gives you more than that great feeling you get from doing the right thing for the environment. It gives you a healthier, more comfortable home, without any of the above problems, and some extra cash in your pocket every month! What’s not to love?

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