Do an au­dit to save on heat­ing ex­penses

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - Nathaniel Sillin

Do you turn the ther­mo­stat a notch higher or put on an ex­tra sweater when it gets cold? It’s a com­mon house­hold de­bate as fam­ily mem­bers try to main­tain a bal­ance be­tween com­fort and sav­ings dur­ing the win­ter. It’s also a de­bate you may be able to put to rest by in­vest­ing in en­ergy-sav­ing main­te­nance and up­grades.

You can start with a home en­ergy au­dit, an in­spec­tion that fo­cuses on find­ing ar­eas where your home wastes en­ergy. Pro­fes­sional au­di­tors can cost $300 to $800 de­pend­ing on the type of au­dit, but you could con­sider tack­ling an au­dit and some of the changes your­self. Do­ing so could make your home more com­fort­able, lower your eco­log­i­cal foot­print and save en­ergy and money.

See if you qual­ify for state­funded weath­er­iza­tion as­sis­tance. Look into state-based fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance pro­grams be­fore go­ing at it alone. Con­tact your state’s weath­er­iza­tion agency to re­view el­i­gi­bil­ity guide­lines, find a lo­cal ser­vice provider and start an ap­pli­ca­tion. If ap­proved, you could re­ceive a pro­fes­sional en­ergy au­dit and im­prove­ments. On av­er­age, about $4,000 worth of en­ergy sav­ing-re­lated work was com­pleted over one or two days for the 2015 pro­gram year.

If you can’t or don’t want to

pay for a pro­fes­sional au­dit and don’t qual­ify for as­sis­tance, con­sider con­duct­ing a do-it-your­self (DIY) au­dit.

A DIY en­ergy au­dit can help you iden­tify ways to save money and stay warm. A thor­ough in­spec­tion of your home can un­cover op­por­tu­ni­ties for im­prove­ment, and you be able to rent an in­frared cam­era to help you spot trou­ble ar­eas. Look over the DOE’s Of­fice of En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency and Re­new­able En­ergy’s guide to con­duct­ing

a DIY home en­ergy au­dit, and cre­ate a log of your find­ings as you go. Keep in mind, where you live can im­pact what fixes you want to fo­cus on, the type and amount of in­su­la­tion you’ll need and even your heat­ing sys­tem.

Typ­i­cal trou­ble spots and sim­ple so­lu­tions. The fol­low­ing are com­mon trou­ble spots and po­ten­tial im­prove­ment you might want to make.

• Keep the cold out­side air out. The DOE es­ti­mates that you can save 5 to as much as 30 per­cent on your en­ergy bill by just re­duc­ing drafts. Check for leaks around your doors, win­dows, plumb­ing, cab­i­nets

and other po­ten­tial out­lets. Also look for dirty spots on your wall, ceil­ing and floors as that could in­di­cate air or mois­ture is get­ting in. Use foam sealant to fill in large gaps you find and caulk­ing or weather strip­ping for smaller leaks. Cov­er­ing drafty win­dows and door­ways with storm win­dows or doors could also be a worth­while in­vest­ment.

• Con­sider adding more in­su­la­tion. The in­su­la­tion in your walls and ceil­ing may not meet to­day’s rec­om­men­da­tions. Rein­su­lat­ing or sup­ple­ment­ing what you have could help your home stay warm, or cool, and might not be as

dif­fi­cult as you imag­ine in easy-to-ac­cess at­tics or base­ments. How­ever, you may want to check with a pro­fes­sional who can rec­om­mend what type of in­su­la­tion to use and warn you of po­ten­tial ven­ti­la­tion, fire or mois­ture haz­ards dur­ing and after in­stal­la­tion.

• Reg­u­larly in­spect your heat­ing sys­tems. Heat­ing sys­tems can cost thou­sands of dol­lars to re­place. While it may not be a DIY job, you may be able to pro­long your sys­tem’s life by hir­ing a pro­fes­sional HVAC con­trac­tor to in­spect and tune up your sys­tem be­fore each win­ter. Some util­i­ties also

of­fer free in-home in­spec­tions of gas ap­pli­ances. A job you can take on is check­ing the air fil­ter and re­plac­ing it to the man­u­fac­turer’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions or when it looks dirty. You could also check for, and seal, holes, leaks and poor con­nec­tions in the ducts.

• Weigh the costs and ben­e­fits be­fore in­vest­ing your time or money in a win­ter­i­za­tion project. Some of the items on your check­list could be no­brain­ers, but oth­ers might re­quire more thought.

Bot­tom line: A home en­ergy au­dit can help you iden­tify ways to im­prove your en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and make your

home more com­fort­able. Whether you hire pro­fes­sion­als, ap­ply for gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance or do it your­self, pre­par­ing be­fore win­ter hits means you can en­joy a warm home with­out stress­ing over the en­ergy bill.

This ar­ti­cle is in­tended to pro­vide gen­eral in­for­ma­tion and should not be con­sid­ered le­gal, tax or fi­nan­cial ad­vice. It’s al­ways a good idea to con­sult a tax or fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor for spe­cific in­for­ma­tion on how cer­tain laws ap­ply to your sit­u­a­tion and about your in­di­vid­ual fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion.

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