Residential energy auditing and improvement: DIY or hire a certified energy auditor?
The list of environmental issues and concerns is surprisingly long. People are mostly aware of the consequences that overpopulation causes on the environment. Couple overpopulation with misuse of already depleting resources and the human race might as well look forward to worsening conditions. Overpopulation may not be easily controlled, but home owners can start doing their part by undergoing residential energy auditing and improvement.
A more conscious use of energy is what is necessary. Every person is, in one form or another, a consumer of the Earth’s natural resources so a more efficient way of consumption is really important to protect the environment. Just imagine how much water a person will use in his or her own lifetime. The trash he or she could potentially produce and contribute to the already overwhelming garbage being created by humans every day. Housing will be necessary for these people, so this would mean more agricultural land will be converted into residential areas. With residential energy auditing and improvement and efforts on how to save electricity, there would be more energy efficient homes, hence minimizing the humans’ impact on the environment.
Residential energy auditing and improvement is being carried out to eventually discover ways for the home and its occupants to know more about how to save energy and how to save electricity. The home energy audit is actually a cycle. It is a loop of a set of activities that have to be continually done in order to optimize the home’s and its occupants’ use of electricity. The activities involved are setting up an appointment for the energy audit, the conduct of a review and survey, analysis of required expenses, listing down recommendations, until finally the actual implementation of the audit results.
The energy audit process focuses on checking the home insulation through a blower door test, whether the home makes use of energy efficient heaters and cooling systems and energy efficient light bulbs. The home’s envelope – the ceiling, floor, and walls – will be checked for any air leakage through a series of tests including the blower door test and infrared scanning while electronic appliances will be assessed through combustion safety tests. Air leakage can result to heat or cool air loss, which means that the home owner is spending on energy that he or she technically has not made use of. Energy saver appliances and light bulbs can also provide energy efficient homes the same level of comfort and lighting to the occupants and the home, respectively, without utilizing as much energy.
Aside from these, to live in energy efficient homes have plenty of advantages over residing at non-energy efficient ones. For instance, they can offer the home occupants a safer environment. Unbeknownst to many, carbon monoxide and moisture are common issues in the indoor air quality of non-energy efficient homes that pose a health risk to its occupants. Poor indoor air quality promotes mold and mildew growth, which can bring diseases when continually inhaled. Further, poor indoor air quality affects the efficient operations of cooling and heating systems in maintaining the comfort of the home’s occupants.
To know how to save energy and how to save electricity while maintaining the level of comfort for the occupants in their respective homes, one can either hire the help of a certified energy auditor or conduct their own preliminary home energy audit. Here are some do it yourself energy assessment tips to get you started:
- Review the home insulation. This includes checking the ceiling, attic, basement, floors, walls and crawl spaces for any air leaks. There are a lot of factors affecting the quality of a home’s insulation, the top of which are the design, age, construction, and materials used. The quality of the home insulation should also complement the climate in the area. Checking the home insulation is the single most important thing that one can do in a home energy audit as the cooling and heating systems comprise a huge portion of a home’s energy bill. In order for one to know how to save energy, first, he or she must know where it is losing energy.
- Check for air leaks around the home’s envelope – the walls, ceilings, windows, entry and exit points, as well as the quality of the home construction surrounding the lighting equipment, plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets. Also check the insulation of the electrical switches and outlets. To identify whether there is a leak, first remove the plate. Use a soft ply of tissue and attach to the wall with a painter’s tape to cover the opening. The tissue will most likely be moved by a blast of air in case there is indeed an air leak.
- Study the home occupants’ energy usage habits. Reinforce the family’s commitment to saving energy by revisiting tips on how to save energy, starting with the most basic ones such as unplugging appliances when not in use.
- Review the energy efficiency ratings of the home appliances. As time goes, consumer appliances that are being manufactured are becoming more and more energy efficient. Perhaps it would be an investment to dispose of old appliances to replace them with newer, more energy efficient ones. Particularly, the refrigerator tends to be the most overworked and abused home appliance. The door’s rubber gasket is important to gauge the appliance’s energy efficiency as it keeps the cool air inside well protected from the outside environment. The coils can be filled with dust and dirt that can cause erosion and cause the refrigerator to use more energy to sustain its operations.
- Regularly check the appliances and the cooling and heating systems for any maintenance related issues. Maintenance checks for all appliances seems like hard work but these are required not just to keep the appliances performing optimally but to prolong their lifespan.
A home energy audit is a daunting task, especially if one lacks the knowledge and understanding of how the entire home energy efficiency thing works. Fortunately, there are certified energy auditor whose services are catered to the size and configuration of different types of home structures. What a DIY home energy auditor cannot provide that a certified energy auditor can are apply their years of experience and the use of tools and testing equipment in the conduct of the assessment. They will be able to come up with ideal recommendations whose cost of investment equates or even exceeds the potential savings in electricity bills. Apart from saving on electricity bills, the certified energy auditor will also be able to recommend rebates and other incentives that your home might be qualified to apply for.
Further, home energy audits are considerably based on mathematics. The cost of home improvements versus its perceived energy savings will serve as a basis for return of investment. In short, a certified home energy auditor will not recommend to a home owner impractical or excessive home improvements. He or she will be able to balance energy conservation, and the comfort of the home’s occupants, with the customer’s ability and preference to implement the home energy auditor’s suggestions.
But even without a home energy audit, individuals can already make the necessary baby steps towards becoming more environmentally responsible. Apart from energy saving tips, there are also water conservation tips that may initially appear as insignificant but can actually bring so much benefits for the environment. Considering the fact that the earth is composed of 75% water, even the small actions, when multiplied by the number of people who does it, can mean so much.
Hopefully, people would start accepting the fact that water is also a depleting resource. It is not infinite. Not to mention the fact that water pumping stations and delivery companies and waste water treatment facilities use a significant amount of electricity to sustain its operations. With all these said, conserving water is a must. Water conservation as one of the measures for energy saving can be done through the following:
- Try to utilize only one drinking glass daily. Instead of using and washing every time you would drink a glass of water, refill your glass every so often and keep it in a clean place in between use. By decreasing the number of glass people have to wash each day, they can save about 150 gallons of water in a month in total.
- Don’t know where to put excess ice from your drink? Throw them on plants. Whether you are having a drink at home or at a restaurant, try to find a pot or plant boxes where you can put the ice left in your cup. This way, you are also helping in watering the plants instead of wasting water.
- Avoid using running water to defrost items from the freezer. Premeditate on what needs to be defrosted the following day. Defrost frozen meat or foods overnight in the chiller or if you are really left with no other option, soak them in warm water as too much wastage will occur when using running water.
- Lessen the amount of baths you take in a day or shorten your bath time. Reducing the amount of time you spend taking a bath can already significantly reduce the amount of not just the water consumption but the electricity required to operate the water heating system. Further, opt for shower instead of using the bath tub.
- Control your flushing habits for the toilet. You may either use a dipper or customize the flushing mechanism by putting a bottle with water or sand inside to minimize the amount of water usage for every flush.
- Collect and use rain water. Put it in a pail or other container with cover. The collected rain water can be used as an alternative in watering plants and cleaning windows and floors.
- Find a plant that badly needs water. Bathe your pets near that area to double the use of water without having to use twice the amount. You can also wash your car on the dry areas of your garden.
- Water your garden when temperatures are cooler. Avoid watering plants from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on windy days. Do it in the morning or evening to minimize water evaporation.
- Check the water system every so often. Immediately call your water supplier or plumber to fix leaks in the water system if there is any to avoid extra charges on your water bills. You will also help conserve water.
- Start teaching your children about how to save energy early on. Nurture environmental awareness and consciousness in children. Doing so will help create a brighter future for them.