Last Saturday, we had the opportunity to have an Xcel Energy employee come out to our house and perform a home energy audit. This program, subsidized by the company, gives you a very clear picture of types of things that could be improved to use less energy and ultimately save you money.
Because our home was built in 1973, we went in expecting to hear a lot of problems: An inefficient furnace, leaky windows, poor insulation, etc. Surprisingly, all of the major (read: expensive) items were at, or above where they should be. Our natural gas furnace is still operating at 93% efficiency, our windows are just fine, and the inspector said our house is adequately insulated. And apparently, our home is “tighter” than most new houses – a fact Casey and I were both shocked to hear.
He did recommend a few improvements, including fixing a drafty bedroom window and basement door, replacing both bathroom fans, and redoing how the cold air intact is setup for the furnace. Overall, some very inexpensive and practical tips.
If your power company offers a similar program to Xcel’s (or you live within Xcel’s service area), I highly recommend taking advantage of it. I believe our nation’s ability to conserve energy is strongly tied to the microeconomics of the household. If you can align the two goals – save money while saving energy – we’ll take care of a big chuck of our country’s power consumption.
I also recommend a little gadget that I’ve heard a lot about and am considering getting: the P3 International Kill-a-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor. This little device plugs into the wall outlet and lets you plug any regular
115/120 110/115 volt into it. It then tells you exactly how much power the appliance is consuming. For example, you can plug your computer into it and see just how big of a difference there is between it sitting idle and it playing a game or compressing a video.
Like in most areas of life, unless you have a good idea of the current situation, it’s pretty hard to make changes.