Auditors ferret out funky accounting at corporations. Can they also find the energy culprits in my home?I thought I'd find out. Home energy auditors come to your home and take a look at your boiler and hot water heater, pipes, windows, inside and outside walls and appliances and issue a report advising what improvements you can make in your home to lower your energy consumption and your bills. I found my inspector through a private company called
Replacing an old refrigerator in particular can cut your electric bill by 30%, Christoforou says, because it's the one major appliance that runs 24/7. If you use an air conditioning unit, as opposed to central AC, he says that you know it's time to replace it when your electricity bills soar more than they should -- $50 is definitely too much -- during the warm weather. A clothes washer uses 85% of the energy it consumes to heat water. So washing in cold or warm water instead of hot saves energy, too.
Bob Vila does a good job of explaining them. These windows can reduce energy loss by 10% during the winter and reduce the need for air conditioning by 25% during summer.
But they're costly and not the slam-dunk investment that many people believe them to be. These high-performance windows often carry Energy Star approval. Energy Star
estimates that upgrading from old single-pane glass can save homeowners $125 to $450 a year. But replacing double-paned windows like mine might save as little as $25 a year -- not much of a return on an investment that can run into thousands of dollars for a whole house. Off-the-shelf low-e replacement windows run from $120 to $180 apiece at Lowe's ( LOW). Custom replacement windows can cost around $1,000 apiece or more.
Some of the building's living space is above this unheated, uninsulated basement, and is likely to be colder than the rest of the building during the winter. Adding insulation between the basement ceiling and the floor above it wouldn't provide as much in the way of savings as it would cost to do, unfortunately, but it would make the living space warmer, and might allow us to turn the thermostat lower than we've kept it in the past. The programmable thermostat we have allows us to automatically turn the heat down while people are at work and sleeping and turn it up in mornings, evenings and on weekends, when we're home. These gadgets can knock $15 to $20 off of your energy bills if you have both central air conditioning and central heating, so it was a smart, and small, investment on our part to get one. I was happy to find out that we were doing things efficiently and that no major investments were warranted. But it's always disappointing to hear that you can't get your bills lower than they already are. Next week: To prepare for Halloween, I'll tackle vampires -- the electricity-sucking gadgets that fill my house, and probably yours as well.