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Energy Audits: How you can save money and reduce your environmental footprint!

Have you ever wondered how your household or business is impacted by and contributes to the climate and energy crises? Energy audits may be your answer!

So what do we mean by "energy crisis"? Energy crises occur when there are significant limitations to the amount of energy that can be produced. Currently, we are approaching an energy crisis because the nonrenewable resources that we have been relying on for centuries like oil, natural gas, and coal are being depleted. The demand for energy never slows as the industrialization and urbanization of countries continues so the cost of energy is rising worldwide.

According to Forbes, the price of natural gas has doubled while oil prices are up 65% as of October 2021. The lack of energy is slowing the worldwide economy by causing uncertainty and instability.

Don't forget the huge environmental repercussions of overusing nonrenewable energy sources. The U.S Department of Energy records that "[r]esidential and commercial buildings are the single largest energy-consuming sector in the U.S. economy, and are responsible for 36% of energy related carbon dioxide emissions." The department makes it clear that there is a dire need to decarbonize transportation, building, and industrial sectors. Until we are able to fully rely on renewable energy sources, individual businesses and citizens need to actively work to manage their energy use.

So what is an energy audit?

An energy audit is a professional service that one can get that essentially evaluates your home in terms of how well it uses energy. In other words, it tells you how efficient your house is with energy. The price of one can vary; an audit can cost “anywhere from $100 to $1,650 with an average of $413.” (Home advisor). The price of an energy audit generally depends on the utilities you are getting. For example, some contractors will give a basic audit completely for free but can give you more advanced tests (like the blower door test, which blows air through your home in order to test the effectiveness of the insulation) for a price (Miller). Usually, the owner hopes to find ways to save energy and utility costs, as well as to scale down their carbon footprint. All of them will tell you the energy use of the building, while the more advanced tests will help you predict energy costs and ways to cut them down. While a good portion of the workforce is still working from home, now is a good chance for vacant commercial buildings to undergo an energy audit. This will ultimately help make them more energy-sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint, as well as make a better work environment when the workforce does finally come back to the office.

But why get one? Well, an energy audit is incredibly useful in that it helps you save energy. An energy audit can save you “5% to 30%” (Home Energy Assessment) in energy bills. Even though the price might seem hefty, in the long run, it will save you quite a bit. An audit can assist you to understand how much energy you consume and how you might use it more efficiently. They can also detect electrical, wiring, and ventilation safety issues, making your house or workplace safer. Another perk of an energy audit is guidance on how to reduce carbon monoxide production in your environment (Lilla). Making these changes to your home or business can increase resale value in the long run as well as save unnecessary money on wasted energy. Even though the best place to go for an energy audit is to a professional service, you can do one yourself by performing the following tests. First, you can locate air leaks. Look for gaps in the baseboard, lighting and plumbing, fireplace dampers, windows to start. Once you do that, you can seal them. Then you can check your ventilation. Look for burns around your appliance burner or at the vent collar, since these are indications of “backdrafts'', where an exhaust fan can pull combustion gasses back into living space. Then, check the insulation. If your house is older, it will have different amounts of insulation due to different energy costs and different standards for the time. If you have an attic, look for a vapor barrier, which prevents vapor from passing through the ceiling and protects the quality of the home. Also, make sure that the rest of your home is completely insulated. Make sure to replace your heating/cooling filters if necessary, and try to use energy-saving lighting options like LEDs instead of incandescent light bulbs.

There are steps you can take on your own to conduct a DIY energy audit! Use our guide to help take some quick steps to save energy and money.

Being mindful of your energy consumption can benefit you. Through the energy audits conducted on your home by you or a professional, you can learn where your home uses unnecessary energy. Fixing this energy hole can lead to lower utility costs and an opportunity for you to implement more environmentally friendly energy practices. Through the implementation of energy audits, the environment can be conserved and you can save money.

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