Northern California home energy advising service, watch the 1.5-minute video above. Chris in the video is my home energy advisor colleague. Video courtesy of HEA, Home Energy Analytics.
Energy Saving Audit Details
Our priority is inexpensive fixes with high energy savings for you. Upgrading windows and installing a new furnace (both good ideas) can be done later, giving priority to the simpler, less expensive tips below.
Use this Home Energy Saving Walkthrough Guide
We follow the guideline below when performing a walk-through of your home in person or on the phone. We’re experts, we use time-proven building science applied to the guidelines below. Choose one or two items and begin today!
BEGIN YOUR HOME ENERGY REVIEW
MAIN HOME REVIEW
– Replace key location (high-use) bulbs w LED bulbs, bring your bulb to Home Depot, 2700k or 3000k rated bulb light is a pleasant warm color, 5000k is a less desirable color for many people.
– Home entertainment on standby? Many screens and audio equipment consume power when they look like they’re off. If there is a handheld remote, the system is consuming power in standby mode. Put speaker, amplifiers and other devices on power strips so they can be easily shut down when unused.
– Set-top box in the spare bedroom, turn off with a power strip.
– Have an older, unused VCR, unplug it.
– Check your utility rate plan; log into the PG&E web site or call them. Utilities have a rate comparison tool so you’ll know if you’re on the cheapest plan. PG&E uses smart meter data to tell you exactly how much you would save given your recent consumption patterns.
– See if the refrigerator is older, replace if more than 15 years, newer refrigerators will keep food cold longer, especially in during power shutoffs.
– Move refrigerator away from wall 2-4 inches, clean coils yearly with long brush and vacuum.
– Open your refrigerator, check for fullness, check door seal for tears, keep minimum 80% full.
– Turn off your second refrig, consolidate food into one.
– Instant hot water at sink? Use a timer or turn off and use microwave or electric tea kettle (the kettle is best, most efficient).
– Check if freezer is old (newer are more efficient) or full, if not full, add container with water to be block of ice.
– Replace halogen bulbs with LED bulbs in cooktop vent, these are easily missed but used often.
– Check air gaps around kitchen ceiling recessed lights (also known as can lights). Buy replacement lights that seal.
– Do you have a second wine cooler with only a few bottles? If yes, consolidate, turn it on only for parties or events in your home, then off the next day.
WATER HEATING REVIEW
Water Too Hot at Your Sink – Lower the Dial Temperature!
– Check water heater temperature. Test, go to a sink closest to your water heater, test with your hand under the water. Is it too hot? If so, you are overheating (paying for this energy) by mixing in cold water. The fix is turn down the temperature dial, check shower temp in a few days where it really matters. Lower it again until slightly hot.
– IMPORTANT: The factory-set standard temperature for most water heaters is 140 degrees F. The Department of Energy recommends turning down the temperature to 120 degrees to save energy. Just remember – any setting below 120 degrees increases bacteria growth inside the tank, so you should not set a lower temperature.
Have a Recirculation Pump? Be Sure It’s on a Timer!
– Check for a hot water recirculation water pump at your water heater, adjust for heating shower water for morning or evening time. Install a timer if you don’t have one.
HOME HEATING and AIR CONDITIONING REVIEW
– Do you have radiant baseboard heaters in any rooms? Make sure they are off in summer. Mini-split heater/air conditioner is far more efficient. Let’s talk.
– HVAC (your heating, ventilating and air conditioning system) Do you have cold rooms? Check register vents directing air in one smooth flow, non-tumble or turbulence. Have HVAC technician review.
– HVAC heater needs a setback programmable thermostat.
– HVAC, install clean filter for heating system (change air filter yearly), check if wider (thicker) filter can fit, they are more efficient, buy them from Amazon
– HVAC, cold rooms? Ductwork highly likely has leaks, have contractor reseal with mastic (we’ve learned in a few years, using tape-only deteriorates in time) Run the fan and hand check air flow in register of colder rooms. If minimal air, have a HVAC tech check your system. Hire a certified pro for any system changes.
– Attic insulation settles over time, have thickness checked by contractor, add wall and attic insulation if needed along with air sealing. These are inexpensive fixes.
– We suggest a whole house fan on upper floor to reduce air-conditioning load.
– Anyone cold at night? Use electric bed heating pad (foot area only), they auto off 2-3 hours, use socks, really!
– Is your bathroom floor warmed electrically, turn it off during summer? Power may need to be turned off at breaker.
– Heated towel rack? Turn off during summer months. May need to be turned off at breaker.
– Chimneys leak warm air out of the building. Use glass doors in front, or block air-flow with fireplace insert, POST a “Non-functioning fireplace notice – no fires allowed.”
COLD ROOM FIXES
Heating Season Focus – (priority is low-cost first to higher-priced investments)
Our focus here is to optimize your building envelope (exterior walls, ceilings, doors, windows, HVAC ducts), and many times your heating system efficiency which (we have found in our home audit experience) solves the cold room issue. Buying an expensive new heating system or a simple space heater are later recommendations after all the items below have been reviewed first.
– Weatherstrip doors to the outside, be sure pet door closes fully.
– Close fireplace damper (or install a fireplace balloon if not used), close existing fireplace doors or have glass doors installed.
– Install heavy drapes to keep cold window air away from room.
– Install or adjust directional vents to direct air to the cold areas of the room.
– Have your HVAC ductwork sealed (notoriously leaky) and air balance tested/adjusted by a professional.
– Check/add insulation in attic (be sure to air seal first), then insulate walls.
– Windows replace with double pane energy efficient glass.
– Buy auxiliary mini-split heat pump system, outside install (inside units are louder and have a condensate tray to clean).
– Buy resistance oil-filled heater (last priority – upfront cost is low, but electricity energy dollars are high).
– Caulk window trim outside to seal air leakage gaps. DAP Dynaflex 230 works quite well – available at Home Depot stores.
HOUSE TOO HOT IN THE SUMMER? HERE ARE SOME FIXES.
If the summer heat is too much, here are some actions that will cool your home. Your air conditioning system will work less hard cooling your home and you’ll spend less on electricity.
– Outside: Shade the air conditioning unit located next to your outside wall.
– Building Attic: Install an ac powered or solar gable vent on hot side of home. Enlarge roof vents for more air flow. Install awnings on the south and west side of home. Add thickness to attic insulation, minimum of 12 inches. Re-seal all ductwork (notorious for leaking); hire a contractor.
– Building Inside: Install cooler LED bulbs, including bulbs in cooktop vent, most-likely hot halogen bulbs. Upgrade all ceiling lights to this LED sealed type to greatly reduce air transfer. 2700k color is the warm color and is appealing for most people.
– Larger Suggestions: Install a ridge vent to further cool. Install a radiant barrier (metal foil sheeting in your attic space) to keep the attic cooler. Hire a contractor.
– Actions: Cook outdoors.
– Check outdoor lighting use LED bulbs, use a timer.
– Check floodlights, change to LED bulbs.
– Check outdoor fountain pump, use a timer or turn it off, better is unplug and fill basin with river rock for aesthetics.
– Check your pool pumps are on timer, both filter and sweep pumps should be on timers; 3-5 hours max needed to keep pool clean.
– Pool pump, have an electrician wire a variable speed motor, uses less energy.
– Walk the outside, check for any areas of energy and other concerns, such as rodent intrusion, roof wear, rain water mis-direction, etc.
YOU’VE FINISHED YOUR HOME ENERGY REVIEW – NICELY DONE!
(There are many revisions above. Do note this is a process requiring a few upgrades and weekend projects for you to revise everything.)
ELECTRIFICATION OF HOMES – Future is All-Electric Homes
(Here are some pointers when you remodel, buy new appliances and move towards an all-electric home.)
– Driving an EV is a wise use of energy. A 200+ mile battery car is mature product with a considerable range, a smaller battery EV car is 80 mile. Buy a used EV for around-town driving.
– Solar panels (PV) can provide electrical generation to home and to a battery, the battery is your backup and for everyday power use at night.
– Batteries can generate and store expensive power during day, use battery power at night. And, batteries are cleaner than running a gas generator.
– Use an electric leaf blower and other electric garden tools. Have your gardener upgrade to electric. Our air will be cleaner.
– An induction cooktop has no burned gases, no nitrous oxide NOX (an unhealthy gas) in home and is much healthier. Gas does not vent completely from a home in many cases. Here is a user story about cooking with this modern cooktop.
– Check your electrical panel size, 200 amp is ideal for all-electric home, 100 amp allows for only 1-2 larger electric upgrades (such as: EV car charger, heat pump water heater, induction cooktop with electric oven).
– Your water heater will fail in upcoming years, they all wear out. You can prep for more efficient electric heat pump water heater (HPWH). Have an electrician wire a 220v circuit to the current gas water heater location. You’ll be ready for an electric HPWH energy-saving upgrade.
– When you do replace your furnace, an electric mini-split heater with air conditioner is a wise choice. A mini-split can also supplement colder areas of your home.
– For a cooler home in summer: Plant trees to shade your home, plant westerly and southerly locations.
ABOUT THIS FREE PG&E HOME ENERGY AUDIT SERVICE
If your California gas and electric company is PG&E, sign up for a free HEA home energy audit service here, available in Northern California. You already pay for this service as a monthly line item on your PG&E utility bill, so use this opportunity to save. If you are not a PG&E customer, you can find a home energy auditing service in your area or follow the guidelines above to make your home more energy-efficient. Doing these easy steps will save you money every month and reduce energy waste. Have your Northern California friends and neighbors sign up for a free energy audit too!
- Upgrade Investments for Your Home to Reduce Your Energy Use – Priorities Explained. Spend larger investment money wisely (we can show you how), get the largest gain for your money and time.
- Think Watt Diet which is wise electric use to match solar panel output, home usage and battery storage capacity.
- For cleaner indoor air, move cleaning and other chemicals to your garage.
Regarding my home:
- I installed FEIT LED bulbs in my home
- I have a ChargePoint EV charger
- I drive a Nissan Leaf EV
- I have 4000 kWh solar panel system on my roof
- I have a Rain Machine weather-linked sprinkler controller (water saving)
Questions regarding the above energy saving tips? Contact us.
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rev: oct 2020
Australia energy crisis, electric solution, battery storage, lithium-io