Colorado DIY Energy Assessment: 5 Things You Can Check On Your Own

It pays to have a professional energy audit; but there are a lot of things you can check for on your own that may save energy and money.

1.  Find and seal leaks.

Look for drafty spots. Some could be obvious holes in the wall that you can see through around pipes or other fixtures. Others could be smaller cracks and imperfections along your trim and around your windows. Seal them with caulk.

You will also be able to spot gaps in doorways. Sometimes they can be fixed by adjusting the door on its hinges, but you will often need to use weather stripping to fill the gaps and keep the cold Colorado air from seeping through.

Fireplaces are often major sources of drafts. If you do not use your fireplace, consider getting an inflatable stopper that will fill the space and keep outside air from leaking in.

2.  Check your insulation.

Many Colorado homes, regardless of age, are inadequately insulated. Checking your own insulation levels isn’t easy, but you can do it. And making improvements here can result in the biggest energy savings.

  • If your basement is not heated, you should have R-value 20 or better insulation between the two floors. If your basement is not drywalled, it will be easy to see if the ceiling is insulated and to determine if you think it’s thick enough to shelter the upper floors from the cold in the basement.
  • If your basement is heated, the walls should be insulated. If it’s not drywalled, the insulation will be in plain sight. If your basement is drywalled, you will have to check the insulation there the same way you do in upper floor walls.
  • To check the insulation in your walls, turn off the power to one of your outlets at the circuit breaker. Remove the faceplate from the outlet and use your finger or a tool to probe into the wall. If you meet significant resistance, it’s probably insulated. There is no way to know how insulated it is, or what condition the insulation is in, using this method.
  • Check the thickness of insulation in your attic and make sure there is a moisture barrier like tarpaper, craft paper or paint between the floor of the attic and the insulation.

3. Assess lighting.

Most of Colorado’s utility companies offer rebates for lighting upgrades. That can help you offset the expense of switching your lights over from inefficient standard bulbs to energy-saving incandescent, compact fluorescent lights (CFL) or light-emitting diodes (LED).

Making the switch can save you dramatically in the long run. During your home energy audit, look at how many lights you have and how many you would need to replace. Decide if you want to do it all at once or if you want to replace the bulbs as needed.

4. Measure appliance and electronics usage.

The best way to measure the amount of energy your appliances are using is to get a kilowatt meter. You can plug your appliance into it – and it into the wall – to see exactly how much energy is being consumed. Meters typically cost $10 to $25.

This is a thorough way to evaluate your appliances’ energy use.  If you don’t want to buy a meter, you can also use estimates based on common energy usage statistics found on the internet. Unplugging appliances using power strips to make sure they’re only drawing power when you’re using them can save a lot in the long-run, even if the pennies don’t seem like much one appliance at a time. 

5. Evaluate your heating and cooling.

Most furnace and air conditioner audits will need to be completed by a professional; but you can look to see if there are any dirt streaks on your ductwork, suggesting leaks. Seal any you find.

Also be sure to replace or clean your furnace filters frequently – once a month is a good general rule.

What the professionals do.

You can only get so far doing your own energy audit. When the Energy Resource Center conducts a home energy audit, our technicians use thermographic inspection to determine your insulation levels and sophisticated measuring equipment to identify the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems. What our technicians can do with advanced equipment in about an hour goes far beyond what you can do on your own.

If you can’t afford an energy audit…

We have offered these DIY tips because we know not everyone can afford to hire a technician to conduct a thorough energy efficiency audit. The Energy Resource Center offers free energy audits, and even free winterization upgrades, to income-qualified residents of Elbert, El Paso, Douglas, Fremont and Teller Counties.  As of July 1, 2013, we now are serving Alamosa, Saguache, Conejos, Costilla, and Mineral counties in the San Luis Valley.

Contact the Energy Resource Center today if you have questions about how you can reduce your energy bills.