When the monthly electricity, gas or water bill appears in the mail, the total isn’t always what families expect. Sometimes that final tally of energy use seems absolutely mind-boggling.
Often, we don’t take into account how little habits can make a big impact on our energy consumption and the bills that follow. Yet, every time we turn on the faucet, plug in a device or leave a light burning bright, energy is being wasted. And the homeowner is being billed.
Energy costs money. Usually the cost is measured in kilowatt hours or gallons. Every drop of water, every invisible puff of gas and each kilowatt of electricity is a charge awaiting to appear on the monthly bill. Fortunately, there are simple ways to save on utility bills.
If your energy bills are impacting your budget considerably—or just frustrating you!—it’s time to do an energy audit to account for how you’re allocating energy use in the home.
Doing one can even help you raise your home’s price if you are planning to sell. More and more REALTORS are using Homeselfe to show sellers how to increase home value and to show buyers how to save money!
But what is a home energy audit? A home energy audit evaluates your home’s energy use, where are you losing energy and includes recommendations on how to increase energy efficiency at home, and thus save money!
A home energy audit looks at:
- Electricity use/waste
- Water use/waste
- Gas usage/waste
Conducting a home energy audit doesn’t require a professional, although you have the option to hire one. Doing an audit is a simple process, so homeowners can do them following some simple steps. To carry out an energy audit, you’ll need:
- The last two (or three) bills for each energy source (water, gas, electricity)
- Time (to conduct the home audit…it requires a walk-through)
- A flashlight
- Additional tools (as necessary…like insulation for pipes, etc.)
- Software to monitor energy efficiency–like HomeSelfe.
Software to Gauge Energy Efficiency
Software and apps can help guide your home energy audit to make your home even more energy efficient!
HomeSelfe provides users with an analysis of each room’s energy output. This means that you can see the problem areas of your home, and start decreasing your energy costs. HomeSelfe can also help you find rebates in your area to snag even lower utility costs.
If you find that an area in your home is wasting energy because of a pipe leak or wiring problem, the app lets you find professionals in the area who can handle those repairs.
Previous Bills: Financial Information for the Audit
Look at the last three bills for each energy source. Has one bill started to climb suddenly? Comparing the last three months (or longer) helps you see how your monthly cost might have changed.
If the cost has remained about the same, you might not be concerned. However, if you’re suddenly paying a much higher price for an energy source, this might mean that something needs to change (or even be repaired).
Even if your cost isn’t rising, an energy audit can still help you make changes to lower your use. You might even catch a leak or a major issue during the process, too!
Conducting the Audit: H 2 Oh No!
Check out the water usage first, as this is an energy source that could be soaring because of a pipe leak or even a dripping faucet.
You’ll need to check all the valves and pipes of every faucet and water source. Look under sinks and check for any drips that could be leaking from plumbing (this is when that flash light could come in handy).
Check the plumbing near the toilets and bathtubs, too. Look at the walls. Do you notice any water spots or damage on the drywall? This might indicate a leak behind the wall; if you notice any evidence of a leak, you should call in a plumber. Family Handyman has a whole crash course on common leaks and how to spot them. The site even explains how to fix the leaks, but not everyone may be up to the challenge. Call a plumber if you’re not so handy.
Monitoring for leaks is only part of the water audit. Now you need to look at your habits and your family’s habits, too. If the water cost is high, there could be other reasons…like:
- Taking long showers
- Leaving the water running while brushing teeth/washing hands
- Doing too many loads of laundry each day (not fully loaded)
- Using the dishwasher too frequently
To lower costs, start limiting shower use or try a low flow showerhead to save water when you shower. You could try to set a timer in the bathroom and having family members set it between 5 to 10 minutes.
Make sure children and other family members are aware that they should turn the water off when they aren’t using it. The tap doesn’t need to run while you’re brushing your teeth or soaping up your hands. Leaving the water running when it isn’t needed is wasteful, and it can become expensive.
An energy audit is a great time to begin to track how often you run the dishwasher or the washing machine each day. Both the dishwasher and the washing machine should be full when in use because half loads or small loads of dishes or clothing waste water.
Conducting the Audit: Gas Guzzlers
Not all households feature gas appliances or heaters. Some only feature gas appliances and heat. Your gas bill may remain fairly consistent from month to month. However, during cold winters, you may be using more gas than normal.
To keep gas usage in control, you’ll need to check out the thermostat. Are you nudging the temps higher in winter? Your home shouldn’t feel like the tropics. The U.S. Department of Energy advises consumers that: “You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.”
Gas also powers your appliances. If you’re cooking at home a lot, you may be using more gas. That extra gas consumption is still likely much cheaper than eating out!
Any home that uses gas for heat or appliances should feature carbon monoxide detectors. These help to warn of any leaks, and even little leaks could be deadly.
Conducting the Audit: Electric Shock
For homes that run on electricity, the home audit may take a little more time. Why? You’re going to need to look at every appliance and outlet in the home.
Many of us keep random appliances plugged in just for the sake of convenience, but if you aren’t using it, don’t plug it into an outlet!
Some homeowners love smart plugs and smart power strips. These allow you to control what is in use and when from a phone or tablet. You may be able to set timers, too. Smart plugs may help homeowners track electricity usage.
Electric HVAC units also need to be reviewed during the audit. Heating and cooling can explode the budget during severe weather months. Make sure the thermostat is set to a moderate temperature. If your thermostat can be programmed for different times of the day, be sure to set the temperature higher or lower when you aren’t home (lower in the cooler months, warmer in the hot months). This helps keep bills down.
Remember that electricity and gas are used to heat the water. Insulation can help keep heat from escaping the pipes. Be sure to use insulation that’s safe for your energy source, though. Gas water heaters may require different insulation, and this depends on the insulation’s proximity to the flue. Always do your research before using any insulation on pipes.
Utility companies may offer programs that lower electricity rates during off-peak hours. Contact your utility company to find out about any special programs or rebates in your area!
What is a home energy audit? This is an opportunity for homeowners to examine all the energy use in their home to discover any sources of waste. Maybe that water bill soared because of a leak, or perhaps your family loves long showers.
Don’t be a victim of energy that drains your finances. Take control of energy use and conduct your own home energy audit. Make changes to eliminate wasteful energy consumption and repair any problems so your money doesn’t go down the drain.
Want to learn more about Home Energy Audits? Please watch our video!