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How to Save Money with a Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit

Winter seems like a lifetime away. A quick check of the calendar and a shiver will run down your spine as only a few months remain before the heating season begins in the northern latitudes and creeps south.

Saving money is my favorite pass-time. What other hobby provides so many tax-free financial benefits? 

If you are reading this at its regularly scheduled publication date, Mrs. Accountant, the girls and I are heading to or are enjoying the eclipse. Trevor McDonald contacted me a few months back asking to write a guest post. We worked together (he wrote, I edited and provided guidance and recommendations) until he had a solid piece you will enjoy reading. 

I’ll let Trevor take the driver’s seat and explain.

How to Save Money with a Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit 

A professional home energy audit costs $600 or more while saving up to $1,000 annually. Smaller homes can run less, but larger homes often cost more. The bigger the home, the bigger the potential savings.

If you could skip the $600 fee you’d only have to pay for energy-efficient home improvements.

So if you want to save money from the start, forget professional home energy audits and opt to DIY.

Here’s how to conduct your own home energy audit.

Locate the Air Leaks

You may already know where your home is leaking air. Make a list of these areas. You may cut your home energy bill anywhere between 10% and 20% each year by reducing these drafts. You’ll also be more comfortable (no one likes to sit near a drafty window).

Run your hand around windows, doors, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets and baseboard gaps. If you feel a draft, add the drafty spots to your list. Perform this step on a cold day or during the evening when it’s cooler.

Note: You may also use a lit candle to find small air leaks in your home. Turn off your central air or heating system and place the candle near any areas that could be leaking. If the light of the candle dances, you have a small air leak.

Check Your Attic

Depending on your home’s age its insulation may not be energy efficient. If you have an exposed area, such as a spot in the attic, assess the insulation by checking its R-value. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulation. Check the Department of Energy’s website for R-value recommendations in your area.

Check under the insulation to see if there is a vapor barrier. This may be some type of paper attached to fiberglass batting or it may be a plastic sheet. If there’s nothing, consider painting your ceiling with a vapor barrier paint. This paint helps maintain the above insulation’s integrity by keeping water vapor out.

Look around to see if there are any unsealed pipe or duct openings. Seal any electrical boxes with flexible caulk.

Finally, check your attic’s hatch. Its insulation should be at least as thick as the rest of your home and the edges should have weather stripping. Before you leave, make sure there’s a tight seal when you close the hatch.

Check Wall Insulation

Turn off the circuit breaker and choose an outlet on an exterior wall. Test the outlets to ensure they have no juice running to them before you take the next step.
Next, remove the cover plate from the outlet and carefully probe into the wall with a screwdriver. If you encounter some resistance, your wall is likely insulated. You should notice resistance right away. This means the entire cavity is likely insulated.

Insulating a finished wall requires some handy work, but the energy savings should be worth the effort. Blow-in fiberglass, closed-cell foam or cellulose insulation works best in these cases. You’ll need to make a small hole between each pair of studs for the machine’s nozzle. These holes are typically placed halfway up the wall to adequately regulate density from top to bottom. Save the cutout you’ve made and use it to patch the wall after it has been re-insulated.

Check the Basement

If you have an unfinished basement or crawlspace that is open to the exterior, look for insulation under the home’s flooring. If there’s no insulation, insulate with an R-value of 19 or greater.

If you have an enclosed basement or crawlspace with heating or cooling elements, insulate the space’s perimeter instead of the flooring.

Also insulate the water heater, hot water pipes and furnace ducts.

Inspect Heating and Cooling Equipment

If you have a forced-air furnace, check and replace filters about once every month or two (more often during cold spells). Have the equipment cleaned by a professional each year.

Consider replacing your heating or cooling equipment if it is more than 15 years old. Newer units are more energy efficient so you should save money in the long run.

Look around for streaks of dirt on your ducting. This may signal an air leak. Seal any air leaks with duct tape. If your ducting travels through an unheated space, insulate those areas well. This is a simple step that will help ensure your unit is working at its highest efficiency.

Replace Lighting

Save money by changing out old light bulbs with energy-saving incandescent, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Shop for new bulbs based on lumens instead of watts to ensure you get the right amount of lighting in each room. Lumens are a measure of a bulb’s brightness. This measure is a predictor of a bulb’s performance whereas watts are a measure of energy.

Assess Appliances and Electronics

We worry about keeping light bulbs on, but appliances cost more to run and can stay running for up to 24 hours.

A 46-inch LCD TV alone can waste about $11 per month in electricity when plugged in but turned off. Consider using a smart energy strip to conserve power on “sleeping” appliances and electronics.

Most repairs will cost a small amount of money to perform, but they will help reduce your energy bill every year. And remember, you’re already saving money by performing the energy audit yourself, so kudos to you!

Trevor is a freelance writer who focuses on health and wellness, energy, and finance. He enjoys using his talent for words to help educate others. In his free time you can find him writing for different publications or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.

Tom Beem

Tuesday 7th of November 2017

We recently upgraded some appliances, and found a big change (savings) in our electric bill. I'm suspecting our drying was a big drain on power. Also , if others are like me, they don't really change the filter like they should, so I really have to fight with myself not to procrastinate. Cheers. Tom

Keith Schroeder

Tuesday 7th of November 2017

I'm guilty of not replacing filters often enough, Tom. Updating appliances can save serious money and vacuuming the collected dust under the fridge is often neglected. Thanks for the comment, Tom.


Tuesday 22nd of August 2017

This is great advice! I will have to add this to my weekend to do list!


Monday 21st of August 2017

I recently had an energy audit (free from my utility) and had even purchased a blanket for my water heater. The auditor said many new water heaters are well insulated and buying a blanket for them was a waste of money.

Mrs. Picky Pincher

Monday 21st of August 2017

This is fantastic! You can also check to see if your energy company conducts energy audits, too. They won't repair anything for you, but they'll let you know where your problem areas are. Ours offers it for free, too. We just recently insulated our attic. It dropped our summer cooling bill by $20! It's worth it. :)

Working Optional

Monday 21st of August 2017

Same here - the local utility company offers energy audits for free. Also rebates and other "reward points" if you upgrade to a newer, more energy efficient appliance/ water heater...I think they even sent me a water saving shower head once. Of course, rates still go up every year but that's even more of a reason to get an energy audit...