With the tight economy over the last few years, there has been a growing trend toward do-it-yourself home energy audits, with the help of online calculator websites that are often free to use.
The great thing about the do-it yourself approach is that besides the fact that it’s often completely free, it gives you a lot of cost-saving information.
Home energy calculators range from the very complicated, where you feel like you need to be a professional to understand them, to the very user-friendly with large print, simple language, and lots of drop down menus.
These calculator websites also often contain a lot of free articles and blog posts that are very useful. Two of the best and most user-friendly are the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Saver calculator and Microsoft’s Hohm calculator.
The Home Energy Saver calculator has a lot of drop down menus and after completing the survey, recommends energy saving strategies and upgrades that are appropriate for a home, depending on its structure, the local climate, and local energy prices.
The Home Energy Saver calculator starts off by asking the user to enter their zip code to receive instant energy cost estimates for both typical and efficient homes in the area.
When a user enters in their own specific information – including their building design (number of floors, foundation, insulation, windows, etc.), types of appliances, heating/cooling systems, and their hourly utility rates – the calculator gives them a more precise, closer to real-life estimate of their energy consumption.
The results are shown on a comparison page where the user can see their current home energy cost profile, compared to what their costs would be with the recommended changes and upgrades.
The Hohm calculator is very similar in structure to the Home Energy Saver, but requires a free sign up! After logging on, the site also asks you to enter information, including your zip code, size of your home, the year it was built, and then gives you an average estimate of your energy usage.
The Hohm calculator, like the Home Energy Saver, also allows you the option of giving more detailed information about your home to get a more true-to-life estimate of your actual energy usage.
The Hohm calculator allows you to enter your actual electricity usage – either by connecting automatically to your current energy provider or by manually entering it yourself. The calculator also has a recommendations page, which gives a detailed breakdown of ways you can start saving energy and money.
Some of these recommendations include ideas such as:
- Installing a programmable thermostat.
- Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs.
- When replacing siding, adding external insulating sheathing beneath the siding.
The Hohm also includes a blog and a library of articles with such ‘how-to’ advice as:
- Cleaning the condenser coils of your freezer with a vacuum or brush because when clean, these coils work more efficiently and require less energy to do their job of keeping your food frozen.
The Energy Department also has a lot of great do-it-yourself information which includes ‘how-to’ instructions, such as:
- Maintaining your heating and cooling equipment.
- Checking the insulation in your home and making minor improvements yourself!
- Locating and fixing many air leaks in your home. This involves doing a lot of caulking.
A good strategy is to do as much of the easy home energy improvements yourself, and then call a professional for the really advanced things. It will save you a lot of money!
For anyone who is considering having a professional take a look at their home, they should check Energy Department’s website to find a certified professional home energy auditor.
Reader comments and input are always welcomed!