At the end of the audit -- if you've had it done for you -- the contractor should give you a list of recommendations for making your home more energy efficient. Some auditors will also tell you how much you can save if you switch out your current systems for more energy-efficient equipment. If you've done the audit yourself, you should have your own checklist of trouble spots that need addressing.
Either way, don't immediately run out and drop $20,000 on a new furnace or air conditioning unit. Before making major overhauls to your home, first try some quick fixes -- like adding insulation or caulking crevices. They may be enough to do the trick.
Here are some of the most common trouble spots, and how to fix them:
- Seal all sources of air leaks and cracks, including holes and cracks in windows. For small leaks (under 0.25 inch, or 0.63 cm), caulk usually works best. Expanding foam usually works better for larger holes. If you have really big openings (such as attic hatch covers), fill them with insulation (rigid foam or fiberglass). Also fill in any gaps in the insulation lining your attic, basement, crawl spaces and walls.
- Add weather stripping to the tops, sides and bottom of doors, as well as around window sashes. Repair or replace any windows that are damaged or cracked. If they're in really bad shape, consider investing in newer, energy-efficient windows. You may get an added bonus by replacing your windows in the form of a tax break. Consider adding storm windows and thick blinds or curtains, which are good for preventing heat and cold loss.
- Replace high energy lightbulbs with lower wattage or compact fluorescent lightbulbs, especially in the lamps you use most often, such as in your den and office.
- When buying new appliances (and if your appliances are more than 10 years old, it may be time to start thinking about it), look for the Energy Star label. These products use 10 to 50 percent less energy than regular appliances [source: Energy Star]. You can also make the appliances you already have more efficient. For example, regularly vacuum your refrigerator coils and air conditioning unit, because getting the dust off will help them work better.
If you do need to make major improvements, you can hire a professional to help. There are companies that can help you pay for the improvements, such as Clean Power Finance.
To learn more about home energy audits and other related topics, check out the links on the following page.