Author Topic: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?  (Read 10451 times)

Kroaler

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Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« on: December 01, 2015, 03:18:23 AM »
Maybe IM crazy but IM thinking about getting a real home energy audit, not the free one where they go door to door and look at stuff. 

The one I want is from a independent third party consultant, they come in do duct blasting to check the ducts, door blower test and thermal imaging of the inside and outside of every wall of my house then provide a detailed list of what improvements have the best ROI. They will also develop a building envelope energy model with projected increase in efficiency. 

I think the one I want is around 250$, The Full HERS rating is about double, maybe a little more, I'm getting a quote today.     IS this just a silly waste, or does it make sense to have some measured data and a plan before I start throwing out insulation at random?  I would love to do it myself but the 3 specialty tools needed (not to mention others) to measure are already thousands of dollars.

Update:  I got a quote today,  550 for full modeling and hers rating.  250 for the basic.   I think I'm leaning towards the 550$.  It'll be my Christmas present.     
« Last Edit: December 01, 2015, 04:57:44 AM by Kroaler »

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2015, 05:55:30 AM »
What did you spend on heating and cooling last year?

deborah

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2015, 06:25:57 AM »
I think you might be wasting your money.

Where I live, the local Home Energy Advisory Team (part of the local government) did a check (not the full thing), and gave advice. It cost money, but if you did any of the top 10 things they advised you to do, you got a full refund and a rebate of up to $1000. They have since stopped the whole thing. The things to do ranged from putting bubble wrap in the skylights (virtually free, and one way of insulating a skylight), to installing double glazed windows, but most of the things they advised were really cheap to do, and when I did them, the outcome was excellent.

Later, they had a home energy kit available in the library, where you do it yourself with the supplied compass, kill-a-watt (a meter that you plug your appliances into and then plug them into the wall to see how much each appliance consumes), infrared detector (you move this across the ceiling, walls etc. on a very hot, or a very cold day, to see where you have different temperatures = bad insulation or any air leaks)... and a book that you fill out that has advice on what to do about what you find out.

Through discussion on this site, I have found that most libraries (here in Australia, in the US and in Canada) have some of the gadgets in the home energy kit available to anyone.

I suspect that you will get as much out of getting the gadgets that are available in your library as you will from your audit. Not only that, but you can borrow the gadgets multiple times, to check for problems and to check that they are fixed.

The infrared detector is a fantastic toy, and I know people who have really had a lot of fun waving it around inside their house. I might even go as far as to say that it has been difficult to pry it out of male hands to return to the library! And it is very informative.

Once you have used these things, and altered your house to address your findings (added insulation where it is needed, caulked, added pelmets...) it might be worth getting a professional to come and find the difficult things. Otherwise, they will only find the types of things you will find with the infrared detector, and you will have wasted your money.

Jeddy

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2015, 06:45:26 AM »
I had an energy audit completed - the price was $350 and I would gladly pay it again for the knowledge I gained. Yes, much of it you can figure out yourself (upgrade your bulbs, insulate behind all of your outlets, etc.), but for me, the price was well worth it for the knowledge about areas I had no access to and whether we had air leaks - we were able to find out that when our house had an attic converted into living space some 30+ years ago, the owners never insulated around an area in the roof (where we had no access to - so it wasn't something we could see or even know about without the audit) - so that 'hole' was acting as a vacuum and simply sucking out all the heat from the house. We ordered the audit because we knew something was wrong (the heat was running way too often and we were using way too much oil), we just couldn't figure out what was wrong without the audit.

You can read about (and see a few examples) our audit on our blog: My personal energy audit

The auditor was there for hours, took pictures and notes, he was a fantastic guy and talked through everything he was doing. Once it was completed he left and a week or so later we received a 20ish page report complete with all of his notes, pictures, suggestions, and information on local/state/federal incentives - he then followed it all up with suggestions to best maximize your improvement costs - doing X, then Y, and then maybe Z if you feel like it would cost $X.xx with $Y.yy in incentives and would provide X in savings.

The one thing I would recommend is to do a little research on the auditors - it's not hard to become a licensed energy auditor - you want to choose one who has a lot of experience in construction as a whole, with a pretty extensive focus on energy reduction.

justajane

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2015, 06:47:32 AM »
We've batted around the idea and almost pulled the trigger a few times, but $250 will buy you a lot of supplies to seal the cracks and insulate. $500 sounds like a ton, since they aren't actually fixing any of your house's problems. We have an old home, and it's not very hard to find the worst energy culprits in our house. And even in the new addition we built, it's pretty obvious. For instance, the vent in the new bathroom. One time I was in there and looked down. I could see the light on in the unfinished basement room! So clearly I need to put mastic on those duct joints.

I don't think it's a terrible use of your money, but some detective work on your own could lead you to similar conclusions.

GuitarStv

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2015, 06:53:19 AM »
We had one done a few years back, it was required to get some government rebates for eco-upgrades to our home.  I was kinda underwhelmed by the whole process to be honest . . . they didn't tell us anything that wasn't common sense.  Caulk everything, make sure your doors have proper seals, make sure your attic is insulated properly, etc.

Rubic

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2015, 07:01:29 AM »
I had one done earlier this year.  In my case it only confirmed what I already knew, so it wasn't of much value.  I think most people on these forums are probably adept at identifying their energy costs.

KCM5

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2015, 07:26:17 AM »
I just did the math the other day. I spend less that $1000 dollars heating and cooling my home. Less than $1200 in total gas/electricity use per year. And I'm in Iowa, so it's not like I live in an area with a mild climate. What do you spend?

I could see the value if you're really into efficiency and simply don't want to waste earth's precious resources. But purely dollars and cents, it'd be a waste of money. Sure, it might be interesting, though.

I did try to borrow a kill a watt from our library and they looked at me like I was crazy. So apparently not all libraries have such things! But maybe go that route first? Our energy company also does free audits.

Jeddy

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2015, 07:38:17 AM »
What do you spend?

In Maine, before the fixes, MUCH more than that

KCM5

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2015, 08:49:37 AM »
What do you spend?

In Maine, before the fixes, MUCH more than that

Ha. Yeah, I know our energy costs are pretty low. But the OP is in South Carolina ;)

Kroaler

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2015, 08:58:45 AM »
Alright,  I called the guy to schedule an appointment.   Over the phone after hearing my goals he specifically reccomeded the 250$ deal and not the 550$.   I don't actually need an officially documented hers rating and that's alot of the extra cost is for. He asked how big my house and what year it was made.   He said with that information he can get me a 40-50% energy savings with a few high roi additions I could do myself.   I still get a hers score for 250$  it just doesn't go on file witht the government office.

So I'm going to do it,  I'll let you guys know if I feel like the information I get was worth the 250$.    Also I'm doing this for comfort reasons, not for energy savings, but the two should go together.

Jeddy

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2015, 09:02:02 AM »
Ha. Yeah, I know our energy costs are pretty low. But the OP is in South Carolina ;)

Hah! - I didn't even notice that. Being from Maine, I can't imagine needing heat down there - just open a window! ;)

jengod

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2015, 09:08:10 AM »
Alright,  I called the guy to schedule an appointment.   Over the phone after hearing my goals he specifically reccomeded the 250$ deal and not the 550$.   I don't actually need an officially documented hers rating and that's alot of the extra cost is for. He asked how big my house and what year it was made.   He said with that information he can get me a 40-50% energy savings with a few high roi additions I could do myself.   I still get a hers score for 250$  it just doesn't go on file witht the government office.

So I'm going to do it,  I'll let you guys know if I feel like the information I get was worth the 250$.    Also I'm doing this for comfort reasons, not for energy savings, but the two should go together.

Can't wait to hear how it goes!

I just did a Kill-a-Watt (from the library) and learned we should really turn the router off when we're going to be out of the house for a while. I also just caulked around the bottom of our back door and I swear it's already made the kitchen warmer. Paying attention makes a difference. This is the "giving the tiniest shit" that MMM wrote about a couple of columns ago. GOOD LUCK!!

Kroaler

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2015, 10:16:59 AM »
Just as a side note,   for anyone who doesn't have a kill a watt or can't rent one,  or wants to measure 220v appliance.     You can turn off circuits and unplug stuff and just use the power companies meter, there easy to read and the power factor is correct. It takes a while and some arithmetic but its free.   I measured my hot water heater,   the ac system, the electric backup heat.     Pretty much everything.     It's pretty alarming how fast that meter starts spinning witht he hot water heater and the heat strips on at the same time.

Fishindude

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2015, 12:12:20 PM »
Take that same amount of money you would spend on the energy audit, and spend it on something that you already know is an energy drain.
You'll be money ahead.

TomTX

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2015, 06:17:28 AM »
So last year we replaced a bunch of CF bulbs with the 2 for $5 Phillips LED bulbs from Home Depot*, sealed all the cracks/penetrations with foam/caulk, tightened up the ducting, insulated a few outlets I had missed when we moved in and such.

Typically we're saving $30/month in electric. Total outlay was under $200.


*Admittedly this was mostly for comfort reasons. The light quality of a bunch of the CFs was mediocre, and they were slower/older ones in many places.

Goldielocks

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2015, 04:52:05 PM »
We did it just before a major ($200k) remodel...   about $350, with it being the "Before" and "After" to qualify for energy rebate program.

Boy was it worth it!  We really focused on things that we did not think were that important -- insulating the basement "headers" before some windows, the need for a vapor barrier.

The largest surprise?  The blower door test with everything closed... They said it was like a back door was still wide open.. Why?  TONS of air moving through gaps around the brick chimney and the rear dog flap from previous owner with large dog.   We had not even considered these things and immediately put a full chimney replacement on the to do list, ahead of plushier items.  (knocked out brick, put up B vents, and then refaced with stone over plywood for the look).   

Cutting the vapour loss is an immense improvement in the home, and we needed the Blower door test to show us the obvious.





reader2580

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #17 on: December 13, 2015, 07:40:47 PM »
My house had electric heat and electric water when I bought it last year.  There was also a masonry chimney from the basement to the roof for a wood stove that had been removed.  I found out after purchase that the roof was leaking around the chimney.  (The water leak explains why previous owners tore out the bathroom, but they didn't fix the leak!)  I demolished the chimney completely and closed up the hole in the roof to stop the leak.  I had the attic floor spray foamed so that fixed any air leaks around former chimney.  I had a new natural gas furnace and a gas water heater installed, but they vent through the wall.

If you have a chimney that is only used for water heater and furnace exhaust you can remove the chimney and just run an exhaust flue through the former chimney space.  This can help if your chimney needs repair and you don't want to have it fixed.  I had a new natural gas furnace and a gas water heater installed, but they vent through the wall.

Setters-r-Better

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #18 on: December 13, 2015, 07:48:07 PM »
This is good information.
I just found out that our electric bills are so high because previous owners bought an air conditioner that is too small for the house. Neighbors told me. Their electric bill is about half ours for the same floor plan. I'm not happy about this. I assume the energy audit would check something like that? If not, it's something to check out.

TomTX

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #19 on: December 13, 2015, 08:29:39 PM »
This is good information.
I just found out that our electric bills are so high because previous owners bought an air conditioner that is too small for the house. Neighbors told me. Their electric bill is about half ours for the same floor plan. I'm not happy about this. I assume the energy audit would check something like that? If not, it's something to check out.

That doesn't seem right. Too small of an AC won't be able to keep temps down, but it shouldn't be sucking double the electricity. Something else is fucked up.

Setters-r-Better

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #20 on: December 14, 2015, 07:28:11 AM »
This is good information.
I just found out that our electric bills are so high because previous owners bought an air conditioner that is too small for the house. Neighbors told me. Their electric bill is about half ours for the same floor plan. I'm not happy about this. I assume the energy audit would check something like that? If not, it's something to check out.

That doesn't seem right. Too small of an AC won't be able to keep temps down, but it shouldn't be sucking double the electricity. Something else is fucked up.

It doesn't really keep the temps down. So we pay more AND we're uncomfortable. yay! We have a separate in-room unit that we use to keep our bedroom reasonably cool (so I'm sure that added to cost)  The rest of the house stays pretty miserable. We'll look into it more in the spring/summer. Too many other things broke in the house this year for us to address it. I need to buy better window coverings for all the windows that get afternoon sun, those rooms are the worst, all they have is metal mini blinds. I put cellular shades in the dining room (previous owners had nothing at all) and that seemed to really help that room. A duplex we rented had super high heating bills because the furnaces were too small...I figured it would work the same if your AC unit was too small. But I'm definitely not an expert!

Our gas (heat) bill seems to be in line with normal though. Just a lot of things the previous owners did/didn't do is costing us a lot of money. The house is less than 10 years old, so you'd think it would be fairly energy efficient?

justajane

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #21 on: December 15, 2015, 06:54:54 AM »
I'm currently sealing my ducts with mastic sealant, and if they are not sealed with tape or sealant, then there's a 100% certainly that they are leaking in many, many places. You don't need an expensive energy audit to tell you that. I have to say this has been a very eye opening experience. We have a 3 year old addition with new ductwork, and the leaks in the new equipment were HUGE. I could see the basement through them.

The sealant is a pain in the ass to put on, but it's cheap and very effective. I was reading that wrapping them with insulation afterwards is not worth the outlay, though.

Caulk around windows, vents, and doors. Insulate and seal your attic. Seal your ductwork. If possible, spray some sort of insulation in your exterior walls. Boom! Now you owe me $500. :) 

maco

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #22 on: December 15, 2015, 08:22:14 AM »
I had one.

The deal in my area is that you pay $100 for the audit and your electric company pays $300. The audit tells you how leaky the building envelope is, and they make recommendations to improve it. If you get at least a 20% improvement, the electric company pays you back for 50% of the cost of the upgrades.

So what happened for me was that my air conditioner was dead when I moved in. Three attempts to repair it failed, so we were looking at a replacement. The HVAC person pointed out that we could get a smaller AC if we insulated first (you don't want to get a big AC, then insulate 2 years later and end up with the AC oversized, because oversized units burn out from cycling off and on too much), so suggested the energy audit and insulation happen first, then AC.

They did the audit. We got spray foam in the attic and the basement rim joists, did some weather stripping, etc. They retested. We had a 50% improvement! The electric company paid us back half what that stuff cost ($2000 of $4000).

End of the day, we went from a broken 2.5 ton AC to a working 1.5 ton AC. I don't know what the August electric bill would've been if the old AC had been working, but I can tell you that cooling the entire insulated house cost the same as cooling one room with a window unit in the uninsulated house.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2015, 08:29:19 AM by maco »

Rollin

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #23 on: December 15, 2015, 08:42:48 AM »
I had one.

The deal in my area is that you pay $100 for the audit and your electric company pays $300. The audit tells you how leaky the building envelope is, and they make recommendations to improve it. If you get at least a 20% improvement, the electric company pays you back for 50% of the cost of the upgrades.

So what happened for me was that my air conditioner was dead when I moved in. Three attempts to repair it failed, so we were looking at a replacement. The HVAC person pointed out that we could get a smaller AC if we insulated first (you don't want to get a big AC, then insulate 2 years later and end up with the AC oversized, because oversized units burn out from cycling off and on too much), so suggested the energy audit and insulation happen first, then AC.

They did the audit. We got spray foam in the attic and the basement rim joists, did some weather stripping, etc. They retested. We had a 50% improvement! The electric company paid us back half what that stuff cost ($2000 of $4000).

End of the day, we went from a broken 2.5 ton AC to a working 1.5 ton AC. I don't know what the August electric bill would've been if the old AC had been working, but I can tell you that cooling the entire insulated house cost the same as cooling one room with a window unit in the uninsulated house.

Also, the AC unit will last twice as long with all those improvements! 

Telecaster

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #24 on: December 15, 2015, 08:47:33 AM »
I took an energy auditing class, and as part of the coursework I conducted a number of audits.   The short answer is yes, it is almost certainly worth it.   The reason being is that the places where you think your house is losing energy are almost certainly different than where your house actually is losing energy.    And there could be, and very possibly is, some low hanging fruit that is easy to fix that you don't know about.   

An energy audit should definitely include a blower door and duct blaster test (which you are getting).  The only thing to be cautious of is that some companies use the energy audit as sort of a loss leader to get the more lucrative construction work. 
« Last Edit: May 22, 2019, 10:25:03 AM by Telecaster »

AMandM

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #25 on: December 15, 2015, 09:31:18 PM »
We had one like maco's, where it cost us $100 and the electric company paid the rest of the fee ($300).  It was almost a complete waste.  The house has leaks which we already knew about, but which the auditor didn't even mention.  The report they gave us was so unclear we couldn't tell what areas they were talking about, the suggested fixes were not consistent with the diagnosed problems, and the cost/benefit numbers seemed pulled out of a hat.  The only good thing was that they showed us an uninsulated wall space we hadn't known about.

EverySolarThing

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #26 on: May 22, 2019, 03:21:38 AM »
Hey! It's been a while since someone posted in this thread but I thought I'd put a reference to a blog post that lists energy audit companies in the US just in case someone is looking for this kind of info
https://www.everysolarthing.com/blog/energy-audit-companies/

P.S. No any ads or affiliate links whatsoever

GreenEggs

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #27 on: May 22, 2019, 05:26:29 AM »
Glad to see this thread.  We just bought a new home and I'll be looking for ways to make it more effecient.  I'm in the process of replacing all the incandescent bulbs with LEDs.  I couldn't believe the previous owner had incandescents everywhere. 


Next I'll be trying to figure out how to cool the attic better.  It gets very warm during the day so it seems improvng the ventilation and/or adding insulation should help.  The insulation is on the ceilings but none between the rafters, which I guess is a standard method, but it "seems" wrong to me that the attic space feels like an oven.  Maybe a simple layer of reflective foam board attached to the rafters would help shield.  I'll need to reasearch some about it.


I'll check with the power company to see if they offer any energy audit deals here.

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #28 on: May 22, 2019, 02:06:12 PM »
Glad to see this thread.  We just bought a new home and I'll be looking for ways to make it more effecient.  I'm in the process of replacing all the incandescent bulbs with LEDs.  I couldn't believe the previous owner had incandescents everywhere. 

Big win by replacing incandescent with LED's. Each bulb is approx a 55W saving (65W incandescent bulb has a 8W LED equivalent).

I just saw R-30 LED and regular LED bulbs on sale at Costco, approx $1 per bulb for a six-pack. Replaced the last few bulbs with compact fluorescents. This was the Enhance brand.

Quote
The insulation is on the ceilings but none between the rafters, which I guess is a standard method, but it "seems" wrong to me that the attic space feels like an oven.  Maybe a simple layer of reflective foam board attached to the rafters would help shield.  I'll need to reasearch some about it.

Check and see if there is adequate ventilation in the attic. Do you have a ridge vent? Do you have soffit vents? Are your soffit vents blocked by insulation? Do you have an attic fan? If these four are fixed, your attic temperature and your air conditioning bills should drop.

GreenEggs

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #29 on: May 22, 2019, 02:48:10 PM »
Glad to see this thread.  We just bought a new home and I'll be looking for ways to make it more effecient.  I'm in the process of replacing all the incandescent bulbs with LEDs.  I couldn't believe the previous owner had incandescents everywhere. 

Big win by replacing incandescent with LED's. Each bulb is approx a 55W saving (65W incandescent bulb has a 8W LED equivalent).

I just saw R-30 LED and regular LED bulbs on sale at Costco, approx $1 per bulb for a six-pack. Replaced the last few bulbs with compact fluorescents. This was the Enhance brand.

Quote
The insulation is on the ceilings but none between the rafters, which I guess is a standard method, but it "seems" wrong to me that the attic space feels like an oven.  Maybe a simple layer of reflective foam board attached to the rafters would help shield.  I'll need to reasearch some about it.

Check and see if there is adequate ventilation in the attic. Do you have a ridge vent? Do you have soffit vents? Are your soffit vents blocked by insulation? Do you have an attic fan? If these four are fixed, your attic temperature and your air conditioning bills should drop.


We're still moving in, but getting up into the attic is at the top of my list when I have the time.  There are ridge vents, but since it's a hip roof the vents aren't very long. 

Most of the lights I've swapped out were 100W incandescent floods in ceiling cans, 4 per switch.  So, 400W per group dumping a ton of heat.  It felt wonderful swapping them out with 9W LEDs!  :) 


The house has a gas cooktop & oven which pour massive amounts of heat into the kitchen.  I wish I could swap them out for electric ones, but the wife would divorce me (she loves cooking with gas), and it would be expensive anyway.  Oh well, can't win them all...  I'll try to cook on the grill outdoors most of the summer.








TomTX

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Re: Anyone Done a real home energy audit? Worth it?
« Reply #30 on: May 23, 2019, 03:24:34 PM »
The house has a gas cooktop & oven which pour massive amounts of heat into the kitchen.  I wish I could swap them out for electric ones, but the wife would divorce me (she loves cooking with gas), and it would be expensive anyway.  Oh well, can't win them all...  I'll try to cook on the grill outdoors most of the summer.
Get the induction hotplate from IKEA, we picked it up for $45. Good gateway to going electric.