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Illinois Country Living

Energy Efficiency Through Due Diligence

Performing a home energy audit is the first step to saving money on utility bills

By Mike Federman, contributing writer for Ruralite Services

Homeowners can avoid the chill of winter by making their homes more energy efficient.

The first step to lowering your utility bill is to do a home energy audit. An audit will help locate areas of energy loss that cost you money. You can conduct the energy audit yourself or seek the help of a professional. Some co-ops provide this service to their members.

Below are some tips recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Check the insulation in your home. You can reduce your heating and cooling needs by investing in proper insulation.
  • Check for drafts around walls, windows, fixtures and electrical outlets. Sealing air leaks can create energy savings of 5 percent to 30 percent a year.
  • Make sure your appliances and heating and cooling systems are properly maintained. Lower utility bills can defray the cost of replacing older models with newer, more efficient ones.
  • Do a survey of your family's lighting needs. Look for ways to use lighting controls, such as timers or dimmers, to reduce energy use. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are recommended.

In-Depth Analysis

To get a more detailed evaluation of your home, you can hire a professional energy auditor. Some professional auditors do a blower door test, where a large fan is mounted in the frame of an exterior door to draw out air from the house. The auditor uses the test to determine the air infiltration rate inside your home. A calibrated test is recommended because it not only locates air leaks, but measures the amount of air pulled out.

Good Balance Required

When upgrading your home, it is critical to balance weatherization with proper ventilation. You want to control air infiltration but also provide adequate air exchanges and ventilation for good indoor air quality and moisture control. All ventilation equipment such as range hoods, vent fans and dryers should have back draft dampers installed in the duct system and be vented to the exterior. All kitchen range hoods and bath fans must be vented through the roof or sidewall to the outside. Clothes dryers should not use vents that can be vented to the interior. The additional moisture introduced into the home can be excessive.

In a tightly built energy-efficient home a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV) may be necessary. It will exhaust stale air, but recover most of the BTUs to pre-warm or pre-cool incoming fresh air. The HRV can also help control excess moisture, and expel radon gas and odors.

Self-Help Tools

For more information about home energy audits, go to the U.S. Department of Energy's Web site at www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/energy_audits or call the Energy Information Center at 877-337-3463. You can also take advantage of the free Touchstone Energy® Home Energy Saver Audit at www.touchstoneenergy.com.

© 2007 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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