Can an energy audit save Texas consumers money?

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By Terri Williams

An energy audit could lead to savings for Texans.

The U.S. consumes more energy than any other country, and in 2018, it consumed more energy than ever before, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Texas leads the nation in energy consumption. But can a home energy audit help those in the Lone Star state save energy and money?

According to Ken Summers, vice president of training at Aeroseal, it’s not the audit that saves consumers money. “An energy audit identifies problems, so it’s the first step, but it’s how you act on the problems that will make an impact,” he says.

For starters, there are two types of energy audits consumers should know:

Basic clipboard audit:

“This audit can be performed by most anyone,” Summers says. “Lightbulbs, water heater setting, and a few other, basic evaluations are made with a quick walk through of the home.”

Advanced energy audit:

For an advanced energy audit, you’ll need to call in the pros. According to the Department of Energy, a local home energy technician – also known as an auditor – will conduct the energy audit.  The auditor will look for problems around walls and joints, go up to the attic to examine the trap door and see if air is escaping, and will check to see if the insulation has been property installed.

The energy auditor will also inspect the holes that your electrical wires pass through, since these holes can allow a significant amount of air to escape. The auditor will inspect the furnace and water heater as well. It’s important to note that older furnaces may not be as efficient, and the same goes for an old water heater – especially if it’s not insulated.

The auditor will also conduct a blower door test. This consists of closing all the windows and doors – and any other area that allows air to escape. Using a special fan, the auditor will depressurize your house – meaning all the air will be removed from the home. At this point, outside air will blow into the house, and the auditor will be able to use an infrared camera to detect where air is coming in.

According to the Department of Energy, air leaks can also be found around outdoor water faucets, switch plates and electrical outlets. Some of the other sources include door and window frames, baseboards, fireplace dampers, and around dryer vents.

“A more thorough and helpful energy audit also includes a heating and cooling system evaluation, including a home’s ductwork.” Summers says this type of audit is conducted by a certified HVAC professional. “They use infrared equipment to identify ductwork leaks and conduct blower door tests to identify ductwork air tightness.” Afterwards, homeowners can follow up by having their ducts sealed. “In addition to energy savings, the home will have cleaner air and a more comfortable environment.”

Following up on the audit

Whether opting for a DIY audit or call in a professional, homeowners can handle many of the solutions on their own. (However, homeowners will need a pro for duct sealing and perhaps to insulate the attic.)

“The truth is that small changes around the home can help you save big on energy costs,” says Marla Mock, VP of operations at Aire Serv. “And the best part is that most of them are simple DIY techniques.”

Following are some of the steps homeowners can take:

Install a programmable or smart thermostat

This will help you adjust temperature settings based on occupancy, and you can reduce your energy bill using this tactic,” Mock says.

Tame your largest energy sucker

“The heating and cooling system typically accounts for more than 40% of energy bills, that is why a bi-annual system service can pay you back many times over in improving performance and operation efficiency,” Mock explains.  If the system is more than 10 years old, Mock says it may be time to upgrade to a SEER Energy Star rated model. “This can save energy, returning hundreds of electricity dollars to your pocket annually,” Mock says.

Upgrade your light bulbs

“You magically achieve up to 75% savings on lighting,” Mock says. Many forget about recessed light fixtures, but if they’re incandescent, they may be using a lot of energy. Consider replacing them with compact fluorescent lights.

Unplug or use power strips

“Cutting power to appliances and chargers when not in use guards against vampire energy drain,” Mock says.

Watch your water

Summers recommends using a lower water heater setting and also using low-flow aerators.

Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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