Your ultimate goal may be:
- Replacing old equipment with more energy efficient air conditioners and heaters
- Or you want to achieve significant energy efficiency improvement
A great place to start for either of these is with an energy audit.
Energy audits have gained popularity in recent years because, for one, air conditioning and heating equipment have significantly improved and to realize those improvements — either on the monthly utility bill or through energy conservation — homeowners must understand how their homes perform energy-wise.
Will the cool air stay inside? Will the hot air stay outside?
Will the warm air stay inside? Will the cold air stay outside?
This post looks at energy audits and what homeowners can do themselves. The next post will go deeper by understanding what professional energy audits are and the benefits.
The information presented is meant to give homeowners a better understanding of energy audits when working with an Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor to implement change.
Where to Begin
You can begin by purchasing new air conditioning and heating equipment with absolutely no consideration to the energy performance of your home.
But your Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor will want to know:
- Is there sufficient insulation in the attic?
- Are you losing cold air and warm air through leaks at the doors and windows?
- Is the ductwork in good shape? Or are you losing cold and warm air in the attic through small rips or punctures in the ducts?
Or, maybe, you bought newer, energy efficient air conditioners but your monthly utility bills are still high. Is the home energy inefficient?
The only way to answer any of these questions is to conduct an energy audit. An audit will help pinpoint where your house is losing energy and what you can do about it.
Do not assume there are no opportunities to save energy or money in a new home or in a home with newer, energy-efficient equipment.
By making efficiency upgrades identified in a home energy audit, you could save 5 to 30 percent on your annual energy bill, according to Energy.gov. Smartly paired with new or upgraded equipment, the savings can top 40 percent.
You can conduct an energy audit yourself (the remaining subject of this post).
Or you can hire an Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor and energy specialist (the subject of the next post).
There are advantages and disadvantages to both:
The Homeowner Energy Audit
- It doesn’t cost as much as a professional audit.
- If you are comfortable working around the house, you should be able to do a basic home energy audit.
- You do the work. You will need to compile basic information about your home — something you would need to do for a professional auditor anyway — but it can be time consuming and frustrating. Do you know where the electric bills are for the last 12 months?
- Regardless of how thorough you are in your data collection, your inspection still will be simple, more of a walkthrough than a comprehensive analysis that will inform larger decisions down the road.
- A homeowner energy audit is not considered “official” and will not do you any good if you want to use it for selling your home later.
- You’re mostly on your own if you want to understand what you’ve collected and learn about your home’s energy profile and what’s best to do next.
Professional Energy Audit
- A skilled Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor and energy professional will be trained and certified in any number of building inspection and energy assessment methodologies and processes.
- The service tech owns tools and instruments the average homeowner does not keep in his toolbox. The tech also has access and training in analytical modeling software.
- In return, you will receive a detailed report that chronicles your home’s HVAC system, its overall condition, its physical environment, and how it’s impacted by local weather conditions.
- A professional also will provide the homeowner with context and an interpretation of the findings, what it all means, and what the recommendations for improvements mean — what needs to be done immediately, what can be put off a bit, and what’s coming in the future.
- A professional energy audit report is considered “official” and can be used to profile the home’s energy performance if you ever consider selling it.
- Hiring a professional energy auditor costs money, ranging from $300 to $500, depending on market conditions in the Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area. Check with your Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor about rates; chances are, as a loyal customer, you may get a discounted price.
- In some cases local government or utility companies offer substantial subsidies for energy assessments, so check with government officials or your energy provider.
Homeowner Energy Audit
According to energy provider TXU, the first step is to “walk around the house, look for signs of energy loss and make a checklist of any problems you find.” TXU suggests prioritizing your findings into projects and deciding which ones you want to start first.
TXU also suggests hiring a service professional if you can’t crawl into your attic or problem areas, or if you want to use advanced technologies.
What To Look For
Locate and Seal Air Leaks
Check doors, windows, chimneys, attic hatches, electrical outlets on external walls. Once you find problem areas, the products you use to create solutions can easily be bought at home improvement or hardware stores in Arlington. These include: window sealing products, storms and panels, caulks and foam sealants, duct sealing products, door weatherizing, electrical air and chimney sealing products, and AC and register covers.
Don’t Forget About Ventilation
When sealing a home from air leaks, be aware of the danger of indoor air pollution and combustion appliance “backdrafts.” Backdrafting is when combustion appliances and exhaust fans compete for air. An exhaust fan may pull the combustion gasses back into the living area and create a dangerous and unhealthy situation.
We’ll be looking at insulation in future posts, so we will deal with this improvement then.
Inspect Heating and Cooling Equipment
Obviously you wouldn’t do this yourself, but you should be aware of the condition of HVAC equipment. If the unit (or units) is (are) more than 15 years old, consider replacing the system(s) with newer, energy-efficient models available from your Arlington, TX heating and cooling contractor.
What you can do yourself is make sure a service or repair tech comes to the home in the Spring (or Fall) to inspect the cooling and heating equipment. You can also check and replace air filters, examine ductwork for dirt streaks near the seams (indicating air leaks) and seal with a duct mastic. Insulate any ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces. If you are unsure of doing any of this yourself, ask the service tech when he’s there for the semi-annual checkup.
Analyze Lighting Design
Check to see where you can use daylighting to replace artificial lighting. See where you can switch to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) because they use 25 to 30 percent less energy used by incandescent light bulbs. Check recessed lighting “cans” in the attic for air leaks, which draws warm air (bad in the winter) and cool air (bad in the summer) into the attic. Lighting products are easily purchased in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas home improvement centers and lighting specialty stores. These include: energy saving lights and light bulbs, energy saving light fixtures and night lights, and dimmers, timers, and motion sensors.
Install a Whole House Energy Monitor
A whole house energy monitor (a subject for a future post) is a device that displays in real time energy usage numbers based on a signal it receives from the electricity meter. It’s helpful because, as you make each improvement, you will see the difference it makes per kilowatt hour and in dollars and cents. It’s interesting to see what energy is saved by unplugging a DVD player and other electronics, for example, which use “phantom loads” when turned off.