Home energy audits – DIY-style

Irene Shonle, CSU Extension Gilpin County.  ‘Tis the season to heat our homes – be it with firewood, propane, or natural gas. The expense of the latter and the work of the former make it worthwhile to take some measures to identify energy inefficiencies in the home and take action. Over half of the energy use in a house is for space heating – and this figure might be even more in a mountain climate like ours. On a bigger scale, if Americans used 30% less energy in their homes, 450 power plants could be retired.


For those who just want to dip their toes in the water, you can check out a free Home Energy Audit Loan (HEAL) kit from the Extension Office. We have two kits available, with different leak detectors in them. The primary difference between the two detectors is the visual representation; both can be used to find insulation gaps and leaks around windows, doors, electrical and plumbing penetrations, attics, crawl spaces.


One kit has a thermal leak detector in which temperature differences are represented by a change in color of a dot of light. The second kit has a fancier FLIR infrared camera that shows a more visual graphic of colder and warmer areas – this one requires a $100 fully refundable deposit. For a video on using the FLIR camera, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg330B9U9Os.


The other items in both kits are the same. They include a Kill-a-Watt power monitor, which can help find phantom loads as well as evaluate the cost of running an appliance. A phantom load occurs when an appliance uses electricity even when turned off; over the course of many months and many appliances, this can add up to quite a bit of wasted energy and money. The power monitor also allows the user to determine how much money an appliance costs to run, and whether it might be cost-effective to buy a new one. CSU Extension even has a calculator to help you get the most from your investigations: extension.colostate.edu/docs/energy/pmws.xlsx.


There are also some thermometers to make sure that you aren’t wasting money by keeping your refrigerator and freezer too cold, or your hot water heater too hot. Finally, if you have long fluorescent tubes, you can check whether you have inefficient ballasts or not by using the flicker checker. Videos on how to use everything can be found on the YourEnergyColorado website: yourenergy.extension.colostate.edu/heal.


If you want to step up your game, you can do a more in-depth do-it-yourself energy audit by completing all the steps outlined in the assessment form found here: http://diyenergy.colostate.edu/home.php. It will provide you with specific suggestions to improve energy efficiency as well as a score and general statement about your home’s energy use.


Finally, for an informative yet fun read, check out the infographic-filled home energy guide: yourenergy.extension.colostate.edu/home-energy-guide. It describes all the steps Average Jane (and her dog Pepe) could take to improve her home’s energy performance.


The CSU Gilpin County Extension Office is located at the Exhibit Barn, 230 Norton Drive, Black Hawk, CO 80422, 303-582-9106, www.gilpin.extension.colostate.edu. Colorado State University Extension provides unbiased, research-based information about, horticulture, natural resources, and 4-H youth development. Colorado State University Extension is dedicated to serving all people on an equal and nondiscriminatory basis.