During the extreme months of the year our energy bills really make us think about what improvements we could make to reduce our utility costs and improve the comfort of our home. Unfortunately the middle of winter or hottest days of the summer really aren’t the best time to perform the work but we will go over a few things that might help until temperatures are better.
The first thing you want to do is compare your energy use from month to month and year to year. Some utility companies will provide you your usage for the previous year in the same month right on your bill but if they don’t you can either view your bills online or hopefully you have been keeping them.
Use of heating oil, electric, natural gas can vary by how cold or hot the season is. In my area we have had some winters where it will warm up for a few days when moisture comes through so we end up with rain but on other days it can get very cold. Just because you didn’t get a lot of snow doesn’t mean the winter was warmer overall so you have to be aware of that when you are thinking back a few years to compare use. You may be able to find historic temperature charts from NOAA the government agency that collects data and predicts weather forecasts.
Now that you understand your history of use you can address your needs when an audit is performed.
Ask Your Utility For A Free Energy Audit
Your natural gas company will likely offer a free energy audit for your home. Unfortunately if you are using heating oil or propane those companies are normally small independent suppliers and do not offer this service or at least not for free. You can ask your other utilities or maybe your local or state government has a program that can provide a free or discounted energy audit.
On the day of the audit a technician will visit your home and install a full door fan that creates a vacuum by drawing air out of your home. This means any crack or gap around windows, doors or your foundation or other places will have air flow at a higher rate that you can actually see.
Under normal conditions air will slowly escape your home but with a full door fan those air gaps become really visible.
The technician will then use a inferred camera to see the temperature changes in your walls and attic where insulation should be buffering heat loss.
Finally they will perform a few tests on your heating system to check its efficiency.
Once they are done they will have a conversation with you about the worst areas that you should address immediately and some things that you could do to improve your energy use.
Energy Audits can take half a day if the technician is doing their work properly. If you have someone that just comes out and briefly looks at your home for 30 minutes and then gives you a list of things to do which they sell like a new furnace then you know you are not getting good advice.
They should inspect your attic and basement, your windows, doors and perform a test of your heater not just a visual inspection. Having the audit performed in cooler months when your heating system is operating is probably best because they will be able to see differences in insulation in your exterior walls with an inferred camera.
The costs of improvements should be within your budget if you are simply improving your situation. If you have a good operating heater then replacing it should not be suggested unless you are considering it because of repeated maintenance problems or if you are moving from one fuel type to another like oil to natural gas.
There are normally tax rebates that can be used to improve your home and it is probably best to use them over a number of years to get the best benefit. Max out your deductions each year as a limit on your investment instead of paying for it on your own.