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Do-It-Yourself (D.I.Y)

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There are some energy-efficiency measures you can implement yourself, depending on how comfortable you are with home improvement projects.

If you choose to go the Do-It-Yourself route, keep in mind the following:

  • A professional energy audits, with thermal scans and a calibrated blower door test will efficiently guide you through an itemized plan for reducing your energy consumption.
    • Some insulation retrofits can be handled by a DIY’er
  • Educate yourself on Home Energy Basics
  • Regard your home as an entire system
    • Analyze your energy usage
  • Formulate your own plan on cost-effective retrofits
  • Purchase protective gear: hazmat suits, goggles, and gloves.
  • Be careful when working in tight spaces or in attics.
    • It is not uncommon to have exposed nails, construction debris, splinters, broken roof trusses, and unsecured framing in attic spaces.

10 Energy Basics You Need to Know

  1. Most common insulation materials do NOT stop air movement. Fiberglass batts act like an air filter, stopping only the dust.
  2. To maximize comfort and efficiency, it is important that the thermal boundary of your home is clearly defined.
  3. To manage your home’s moisture levels (humidity), eliminate the large sources that can be removed, ventilate the ones that can’t, and control the movement of remaining water vapor.
  4. Don’t rely on accidental ventilation to dilute pollution sources in your home. Build tight and ventilate right.
  5. Each compact fluorescent lamp you install will save you $30-50 over it’s life, and prevent several hundred pounds of carbon emissions.
  6. A central ventilation system should provide about 15 cfm (cubic feet per minute) of airflow per person living in your home. A typical 4 bedroom home should ventilate a controlled 60-90 cfm.
  7. Avoid installing carpeting on uninsulated concrete slab floors. Moisture may condense on the cool concrete and create a mold problem.
  8. In our VA, DC, and MD climates, south-facing windows can provide free heat gain in the winter, while adding very little to the cooling load in the summer.
  9. Sealing a leaky duct system can be the single most effective way to save energy in a home.
  10. Most household electricity is consumed by small loads that run continuously, and by medium or large appliances that cycle on and off.

Analyze Your Energy Usage and Building’s Condition

  • Check the insulation levels in your attic, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors, and crawl spaces. Visit a Consumer’s Guide for instructions on checking your insulation levels. (See this Energy Star Guide to Sealing and Insulating)
  • Check for holes or cracks around your walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that can leak air into or out of your home.
  • Check for open fireplace dampers.
  • Make sure your appliances and heating and cooling systems are properly maintained. Check your owner’s manuals for the recommended maintenance.
  • Study your family’s lighting needs and use patterns, paying special attention to high-use areas such as the living room, kitchen, and outside lighting. Look for ways to use lighting controls—like occupancy sensors, dimmers, or timers—to reduce lighting energy use, and replace standard (also called incandescent) light bulbs and fixtures with compact or standard fluorescent lamps.

Formulate Your Plan

After you have identified where your home is losing energy, assign priorities by asking yourself a few important questions:

  1. How much money do you spend on energy?
  2. Where are your greatest energy losses?
  3. How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy cost savings?
  4. Do the energy saving measures provide additional benefits that are important to you (for example, increased comfort from installing double-paned, efficient windows)?
  5. How long do you plan to own your current home?
  6. Can you do the job yourself or will you need to hire a contractor?
  7. What is your budget and how much time do you have to spend on maintenance and repair?

Once you assign priorities to your energy needs, you can form a whole house efficiency plan. Your plan will provide you with a strategy for making smart purchases and home improvements that maximize energy efficiency and save the most money.

Another option is to get the advice of a professional. Many utilities conduct energy audits for free or for a small charge. For a fee, a professional firm like EDGE Energy will analyze how well your home’s energy systems work together and compare the analysis to your utility bills. We will use a variety of equipment such as blower doors, infrared cameras, and surface thermometers to find leaks and drafts.

After gathering information about your home, an energy auditor will give you a list of recommendations for cost-effective energy improvements and enhanced comfort and safety. A good contractor will also calculate the return on your investment in high-efficiency equipment compared with standard equipment.

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