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Front Page - Friday, November 29, 2019

Assess home’s efficiency with an energy audit

Winter is on its way to the Chattanooga area, and if you want to save money on energy bills, a good first step is to conduct a do-it-yourself energy assessment, also called an energy audit. An audit can identify many of your home’s energy inefficiencies, helping you make simple improvements to save money in the long term.

You can conduct an inspection of the areas listed below in one day, then track your finding and immediately start making energy improvements. Some can be solved quickly with a bit of elbow grease and a trip to the hardware store. If you discover major issues, you might want to consider following up with a professional energy audit.

As you conduct your audit, you might identify personal and family habits that result in excess energy use and cost. Once you note these behavior patterns, you and your family can work to modify them.

Finally, you can track the benefits of your efforts. Monitor your monthly consumption and cost for the previous year of fuel bills.

Track your energy usage going forward and compare each month to determine your savings. You can also use this information to get a Home Energy Yardstick score from Energy Star at www.energystar.gov.

Thoroughly inspect the following areas and keep a checklist of the problems you find so you can plan your repairs.

Air leaks

By working to stop or minimize drafts, you can save big on annual energy costs. The Department of Energy reports that consumers could save 10% to 20% per year while making their homes more comfortable.

Search your home for air leaks. Once you have identified the leaks, seal them with caulk, weather stripping or the same material as the original seal. Note that when sealing your home, you should be aware of the danger of combustion appliance backdrafts (flue gases being pulled back into the house instead of exhausting through the chimney).

Check for gaps and see if existing caulking and weather stripping is in good condition. Some places to inspect are gaps under baseboards and doors as well as around windows, door frames, electrical outlets, switch plates and pipes. If you can see daylight around door or window frames, or you can feel the air moving, it leaks.

When inspecting the exterior of your home, look at areas where two different building materials meet, such as corners and water faucets. Look for cracks and holes in the mortar, foundation and siding. Check all penetrations through the outside walls (pipes, vents and wiring).


You might have insufficient insulation in the ceiling and walls, especially if you have an older home. Your attic door should be insulated and closed tight.

If you see that attic insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, you probably need to add more. Make sure your attic vents are not blocked by insulation.

Measure the depth of your insulation. A vapor barrier will also improve your home’s performance, if properly installed. You might want to consult a building professional for this upgrade.

If you have an unconditioned crawlspace, look for insulation under the living area flooring. If your crawlspace is enclosed and contains appliances, air ducts or plumbing, it might be better to insulate the entire crawlspace perimeter instead.

Checking for insulation in your walls is more difficult. You can make a small hole in a closet or other out-of-the-way place and probe into the wall with a long stick or screwdriver. If it’s an outside wall, the area should be completely filled with an insulating material.

You probably won’t be able to check all of your walls. To conduct a thorough profile of your wall insulation, you will need a thermographic inspection, which is typically included as part of a professional home energy audit.

Heating and cooling equipment

Inspect your heating and cooling equipment yearly and have your equipment checked and cleaned by a professional. If you have a forced-air furnace, replace your filters as recommended (generally every 30-60 days). See if your ducts and pipes located in unheated spaces are insulated. Dirt streaks around your ductwork, especially near the seams, are evidence of leaks.


Determine the types of light bulbs you use in your home. LED bulbs provide ample light, can be used in most applications and use the least amount of energy.

For specialty applications, use the lowest wattage that provides enough light for your needs. Consider motion sensors and timers to keep the lights off when not needed.

Energy vampires

An energy vampire is a device that continues to use energy and drain power even when it’s turned off. Energy vampires lurk throughout your home and account for as much as 20% of your electric bill.

Some examples are coffee makers, toasters and other appliances that are plugged in but aren’t in use all the time. Identify the culprits and unplug them or connect them to advanced power strips that will cut power when appropriate.

For help with your home energy audit or to find professionals that can fix your more complicated energy inefficiencies, visit the online directory of the Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga at www.HBAGC.net.