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The average cost of residential utility energy has increased by roughly 4 percent annually over the past 10 years, and there are no signs of this trend slowing down anytime soon. As a result, many homeowners are taking a proactive approach towards reducing their energy usage. By consuming less energy, homeowners can save hundreds of dollars per year on their utility bills. The first step towards achieving a more efficient home, however, is to conduct an energy audit.


What Is an Energy Audit?


An energy audit is a thorough inspection, evaluation and analysis of a home’s energy usage. It’s performed with the goal of identifying wasted energy so that the homeowner can create a more energy-efficient home.


Thermal Energy Leaks


One of the first steps in conducting a home energy audit is to look for thermal energy leaks. According to research cited by Popular Mechanics, openings underneath door, windows, in floors and other areas account for 5 percent to 30 percent of a home’s energy usage. Openings such as these allow warmed or cooled air to escape, thus forcing the home’s heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system to consume more energy to achieve the desired temperature. After identifying thermal energy leaks, homeowners should seal them using caulk or weatherstripping.


Insulation Inspection


Homeowners should also inspect their home’s insulation when conducting an energy audit. Insufficient insulation in the attic, basement or walls allows thermal energy to escape. Rather than staying inside the home, warmed or cool air will escape through areas with little or no insulation. Adding extra insulation can protect against the loss of thermal energy while creating a more energy-efficient home in the process.


HVAC Inspection


Another important step in conducting a home energy audit is inspecting the HVAC system. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), heating and cooling accounts for just under half of the average home’s energy usage. Homeowners should inspect their HVAC system to ensure the ducts are insulated and intact and the filter is clean. If the HVAC system is older than 15 years, homeowners should consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.


Consider Professional Services


Alternatively, homeowners can seek the services of a professional energy auditor. While more costly than do-it-yourself audit, it provides more detailed insight into the home’s energy usage. Professional energy auditors use a variety of methods to identify energy leaks, the most of common of which involve a blower door test and thermographic scan.