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Save Money with a Do-It-Yourself Energy Audit

By Michele Lerner

Some homeowners may want to opt for a paid professional home energy audit, but investors, especially those with multiple properties, need to maximize their profits by constantly monitoring costs.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says that homeowners can lower energy bills from 5% to 30% annually by following up on problems found during an energy audit. An easy energy audit to try for free can be found at DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energ "Energy Savers” home page.

Plan to spend a couple of hours on this step-by-step audit, starting with checking for indoor air leaks and invest in a tube or two of caulk.
Places to check to be sure they don’t have gaps that let in outside air:

  • Electrical outlets
  • Switch plates
  • Window frames
  • Baseboards
  • Weather stripping around doors
  • Fireplace dampers
  • Attic hatches
  • Wall or window-mounted air conditioners

Check windows and doors caulk or weather strip any gaps you can see. Outside, check the corners of the structure and places where the siding or brick meets a chimney or the foundation.

The next issue to tackle is insulation. If you can get into the attic, try to see whether openings for pipes and chimneys are sealed and see if you can add insulation. Seal electrical boxes in the ceiling with flexible caulk and make sure the vents are not blocked by insulation.

In the basement, see if there is insulation under the living area flooring. Your water heater, hot water pipes and furnace ducts should also be insulated. Purchasing a blanket for the water heater can save extra money, along with lowering the water temperature a few degrees.

Next, make sure you have an annual heating and cooling equipment inspection by a professional. This will keep the equipment running at its most efficient. Check and change or clean filters every month or so.

The final energy audit may not be appropriate for investors, but rather for residents. But certainly investors can check the light bulbs in their own home or any that are in common areas at property they own to see if a lower wattage or a CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) might work.

Taking the time for some inexpensive fixes on your property can save hundreds over the course of a year. Energy Star estimates that the average annual energy bill per household is $2,200. Saving 30% with some minor home improvements means a savings of $660 per year. If you own more than one property, that savings adds up to even more significant sums of money.

Michele Lerner, a real estate expert and freelance writer with 20 years of experience, is the author of “HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time”.


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