Beat Cooling Costs #1: Do Your Homework

The Woodlands, Air Conditioning, Cooling Costs, Summer Cost, Energy, Saving Energy, Lower, Bills, Real Estate, Buying, Selling, Home, AuditWriting about the benefits of storm windows last week got me thinking about how valuable it is to save energy–especially in the summer. As the temperature starts to climb, so do the costs of air conditioning. Trying to beat triple-digit heat can really weigh on your bank account, but sweating in your home is not the most desirable alternative. I decided to do some research into cutting energy costs, and found too much for one post! So here begins a mini blog series on cutting summer (and year-round) energy costs.

If you have any interest in lowering your energy costs, the place to start is with an energy audit.Either professionally performed or done yourself, a complete assessment of your home’s energy usage tells you where to focus your efforts to make the most difference. Outfitting your home for ultimate energy efficiency not only saves you money on your bills, but also increases the value of your home to potential buyers. A professional energy report is a valuable real estate tool–buyers can perform one to know what they’re in store for regarding bills, and sellers can use them to show off how efficient their home is, a competitive statement in the hot summer selling months.

Sometimes utility companies will offer discounts or rebates for energy audits, so before hiring a professional you should contact your provider and find out if they have any deals. If not, there are many local auditing companies everywhere (to help find one in your area, check out the ENERGY STAR Partner Locator). Some can be a bit pricey, depending on how thorough the inspection. But often professionals have equipment like blower doors and infa-red cameras to detect air and heat leaks with extreme accuracy.

These audits can run you anywhere from $50 to $500 dollars, depending on the services you get and the size of your home. Following their recommendations can end up paying back a lot of those costs, and a lot of local governments offer tax incentives for such assessments (and appliance upgrades!). But if you’re looking for a simpler (and cheaper) alternative, you can perform a basic and useful energy audit yourself.

Websites like Energy Star offer “yardsticks” to see how your home’s energy costs compare to others that are similar. There are also simple checklists that you can go through to assess your efficiency and find problem spots. All you need is a notepad for records and a keen eye. You’ll do things like look for gaps below doors and around sockets for air to escape, check insulation, inspect your heating/cooling equipment, and take stock of your lightbulb situation. Here’s a list of some sites with helpful and detailed instructions on DIY home energy audits:

So before you start throwing money at new windows and new insulation in hopes of lowering your bills, take the time to really consider where the most effort should go. There’s nothing worse than putting a lot of effort into a big fix and realizing that your bills aren’t any lower. If you find the spots with the biggest problems, you can make the most difference with the least work (and cash).


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