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November/December 2010
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Do an Energy Audit On-Line

There are several things that cost little or nothing that will save big dollars in your heating costs this winter. To determine areas where energy is being wasted, conduct a home energy audit. This can either be accomplished by having a professional energy audit or by using an online energy audit calculator. The following is from the Home Energy Saver website.

The Home Energy Saver (HES) website (http://HomeEnergySaver.lbl.gov) is an interactive decision-support environment for residential consumers. The site is developed and maintained by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory with past and present sponsorship from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and others. HES is easy to use, and it gives you the option of entering a few basic facts or a lot of detail about your home. Starting at the HES top page, this is the general process you will go through to evaluate your house:

  1. Input your ZIP code. The Home Energy Saver's top page prompts you for your ZIP code. Once you have entered it and selected "Go," the Energy Advisor will give you a breakdown of the energy use of an average house in your region and the same house after energy-efficient improvements.
  2. Input key facts about your home. Below these initial results you will find an input page with about two dozen basic questions about your home. Most of these you will be able to answer from memory. A few may require you to look up information in your records. Answer as many questions as you can, and hit "start calculation" or "save answers." The Energy Advisor will recalculate the energy use and costs, this time, based on your home. Now you have a breakdown of energy costs in your house, not an average house; and you can look at recommendations for saving energy tailored to your own home, ranked by payback time.

If you do not or cannot provide everything that the Energy Advisor asks for, do not worry—the software automatically adds in default values drawn from a database of typical housing characteristics. However, the more information you can give the Energy Advisor, the more accurate its calculations.

  1. If you want to know more about the specifics of your energy costs, go to the modules and enter detailed information. Home Energy Saver performs detailed calculations for the energy use of your home's space heating, cooling and water heating systems, appliances, lighting and miscellaneous energy use. You can focus on any one of these areas by clicking on the particular module that interests you and filling in the blanks. For example, if your home has high winter heating bills, you can enter more detail about the parts of your home that affect heating (roof, walls, windows, heating system, etc.). When you go through the detailed input modules, the Energy Advisor will calculate your heating energy use more accurately, give you appropriate recommendations about energy-efficient heating improvements and suggest ways of insulating your home.

If you have the time, work through all the modules, and answer as many questions as you can. You may be surprised by energy guzzlers in your home that you did not know about. When you have finished entering information, you can select the "calculate" button to get your full results. The calculation is very detailed and will take a minute or so to complete.

Depending on how much time you spend collecting information about your house, it can take from 10 minutes to an hour to completely describe your house in the Energy Advisor. Generally, the more time you spend to accurately gather the information (measuring, checking product name plates, etc.), the more accurate your energy bill estimate will be.