Instyle Solar How to Do Your Energy Efficiency Audit

Audit. It’s not a pretty word. For many of us, just the thought of it brings on a case of anxiety that a cup of tea and a good lie down simply cannot fix.

It conjures images of the tax-man and other like-minded, fastidious officials, delving deeply into the darkest corners of our financial history. Scary.

An energy efficiency audit, however, should be viewed on the contrary. It’s a good thing.

The results of a comprehensive energy audit on your house will likely lead you to the elusive ‘end of the power consumption rainbow’, where a pot of gold awaits with your name on it. And there’s no cheeky leprechaun holding a bill of nasty surprises.

While the results are likely to reveal some confronting realities about your energy habits, your power inefficiencies and those of your home, this data holds the key to more money in your pocket. For many people, a heck of a lot of money.

The most confronting aspect of an energy audit is the revelation that often we are simply throwing money away. Not only are we throwing away money as if it grows on trees, we are needlessly enlarging our carbon footprint, much to the detriment of our planet.

We suggest you look at this article as a map to finding the back door to a ‘wage rise’ and reduced carbon footprint. We’ll introduce you to the basics of an energy efficiency audit. We’ll give you examples of how much you can save and how to go about it.

For the most part, this article will be about your home and its power efficiency as opposed to your individual habits. The way you behave relative to power consumption is an article unto itself. This article is mostly about your home.

While there is certainly a crossover, this article is more about the lightbulb as opposed to how you use the lightbulb, or how frequently. It’s about the leaking tap and the poor insulation. It’s about how you can turn your home from a money sieve into a money earner.

An energy-efficient house is money in the bank. An energy efficiency audit is the first step to realizing energy efficiency on the home front.

Lighting the Way

OK. So last night you sat down with the family to discuss the imminent installation of a shiny new solar array. Everybody is excited, even the kids, though they’re not quite sure why. Your new 20kW system is going to radically change the way you deal with power at home.

You’re installing solar to save money on power and reduce your carbon footprint. This is a big step, and it will require a not insignificant outlay, even with the rebate. Nonetheless, it is a wise step. A wise investment.

So, before you decided this, had you considered changing all your incandescent and halide light bulbs to LED? No? Well…you should have. Let’s see how much you would have saved. Let’s say, for argument's sake, you have 40 lights in your home (a reasonable number for a 3 to 4-bedroom family home).

Let’s say they’re incandescent lights. Keeping all 40 lights running for a quarter year billing period will cost you roughly $1400 per quarter.

Of course, unless you’re a touch crazy, or profoundly scared of the dark, you won’t have all your lights running 24/7 for a full billing period. This is simply to illustrate a point.

To have the same level of illumination over the same period, LED lights would cost you only $280. Now THAT is a massive difference in anybody’s language.

In more realistic terms, a comprehensive energy audit, coupled with implementation of recommendations, can save the average consumer anywhere from 20% to 50% on energy expenditure.

For most people, your lights are around 10% of your energy bill. There are many more things to investigate to get a complete picture.

This is what an energy audit is all about. Looking at the utilities, appliances and other such power drawing facilities of your home and identifying if they are running efficiently or could be run more efficiently.

What appliances could be replaced or used differently? What improvements could you make to your home, such as new window frames or insulation?

Should I Do My Own Energy Efficiency Audit?

Well yes, you can. The effectiveness of a self-audit, however, will be determined by your understanding of what to look for. For example, did you actually know the difference in the cost of running incandescent light bulbs versus LED globes?

This isn’t a process you need to take on by yourself or unassisted. There are professionals and professional firms available that can do the assessment for you. This attracts a fee of course, but the eventual savings are likely to make the fee a worthy investment.

Not only does a professional know about the differences between electronic devices, lights and fridges etc, and their running costs, they also know how to work with you. Professional auditors know how to ask the right questions about your electricity usage habits. Their independence and impartial approach to questioning allow for more thorough investigation about your behaviour. In short, you’ll get a more accurate appraisal.

The are plenty from which to choose and we suggest you do your research and get several quotes.

What to Look For

Whether you get the pros or head off on an audit adventure on your own, knowing the core aspects of an audit, or, what exactly to look for, is something we should all be familiar with. Let’s look at the big-ticket items.

Your Electricity Bill

Your electricity bill holds all the key information about how much electricity you use and when. It details how much you spend, as well as useful insights such as how much electricity you use relative to others. This document is the first place to start.

Follow this link to see how to read the details on your electricity bill, extract the key information and turn your bill into a usage guide.

Heating And Cooling

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

>> Are your walls and ceiling insulated?

>> Are you aware of drafts coming from under the doors (internal and external), through window frames or from under the floor?

>> Are your windows single or double glazed? Timber, double-hung or modern aluminium sliders?

>> Do you have curtains over all windows and glass doors? Are they a heavy or lightweight fabric?

>> Do you have a carpeted house or exposed floorboards? Is the insulation under the floors?

>> Is your house on a slab or is it on piers? If on piers, is the space under the house blocked around the perimeter or free for airflow?

>> Do you have air conditioners, fans or both? What are their ages? And do they have energy ratings on them? How many amps do they pull?

>> Do you have wall vents, ceiling vents or other vents such as a whirlybird on your roof? Is your house made of brick, weatherboard, Colorbond or something else?

Appliances

>> How many electrical appliances do you have? Yes…all of them. Include hair dryers and electric shavers as well as your ovens, cooktops, fridges deep freeze units, entertainment and IT.

>> How many devices are plugged in and on standby? Are they plugged directly into the wall or in power boards? Which appliances, such as your TV, DVD or microwave, have lights on continuously including displays such as the time?

>> What size is your fridge? Is it always very full? Do you have a chest freezer and is it full or regularly used? Do you have a second or third fridge or a bar fridge?

>> Do you know how many amps each of your appliances draws? Do you know the approximate weekly usage of each appliance, in hours?

Hot Water

> Is your hot water gas or electricity? How old is it? What size is it? Is it instant or is it a tank?

> Are you aware of any dripping taps or leaking pipes?

> Are you aware of any leaks in the heating unit?

Lighting

>> How many lights do you have in your home?

>> Do you have yard and pool lighting?

>> What sort of globes are you using? Incandescent, Halogen, CFL (the funny curly ones) or LED?

Are You Getting the Drift Now?

As you can see now, an electricity audit requires the collection of a fair bit of data. A good tip is to get the family involved here. The kids will love counting light bulbs…maybe, some kids…might. Hmmm. Maybe best to do it yourself.

The above list is by no means comprehensive, but it certainly covers the lion’s share of the power-bleeding potential. Deal with the efficiencies potential in the list above and you are well on the way to making some serious power savings.

Where to Now?

Firstly, for those that have decided to get the professionals, grab a pencil and pad and start collecting your data, the pros will find this very useful. For those doing it themselves…same deal. Time to collect the data.

Your Bill

Once you have the notes and data, it’s time to read your electricity bills and start making comparisons. When do you use the most power?

What does your bill tell you about your habits? Take notes. Share them with the family and other occupants of the house and get their input.

Heating And Cooling

Insulation in your walls and ceilings can reduce the heat and cooling loss by up to 80%. It really is one of the most significant fixes you can do to save on your power bills. Check out this significant study on insulation. It really is a big deal.

Quotes are free these days. It may be a great idea to see just what you are up for to retrofit suitable ceiling and wall insulation.

Consider your window coverings. This article from New Zealand will provide a great insight into the value of quality curtains. Quality window coverings can be expensive, but there is huge potential for big savings on heating and cooling.

Other options for heating and cooling efficiencies include:

>> Door snakes and other types of draft excluders.

>> Underfloor insulation (for timber floors in piered houses).

>> Whirly birds.

>> A new air conditioner (Your old air conditioners draw a terrible amount of power. Do some research about the savings that can be made by upgrading. Modern air conditioners draw far less power than their older siblings.).

Appliances

On all of your electrical appliances, there is a rating. You will find the rating on a label or in the instructions. Short of that, check the appliance online—you are likely to find the information there. The rating is given in amps.

Go to this website, follow the instructions and get a readout of how much each appliance uses. Alternatively, go to this website for an average or estimate provided in a handy table. How many hours do you use each appliance per week?

Armed with this critical data, you can now assess the ages of the appliances and get online and do some research into appliances that do the same job more efficiently. What are the potential savings?

Think about things such as your chest freezer and your old beer fridge. These appliances draw huge amounts of power. Do you really need a deep freezer? Do you really need your beer fridge? Chances are a new larger fridge will take care of both these appliances with much greater efficiency.

The same applies for your pool filter. If your filter is getting a little long in the tooth, there is a good chance it is drawing a tremendous amount of power and an upgrade will not only provide power savings—you’ll be getting a cleaner pool for less.

Hot Water

Dripping hot water taps and leaking hot water systems waste a tremendous amount of water, electricity and money. Make repairs or replace faulty or old systems. A dripping tap can waste up to 70,000 litres of water over the year. If dripping from your hot water system, that’s costing you electricity as well. A lot of it.

Lighting

You remember the figures we gave you earlier in the article? Yes, here’s a place where savings can start quickly. Begin the process of changing all the lights you can over to LED. They’re affordable, they last for a very long time and the running cost is a fraction of the alternatives.

LED lights are becoming available for more applications. Do your research. It’s highly likely you will be able to find LED for all of your lighting needs.

Other options for lighting includes things such as sun roofs and solar tubes. Solar tubes are ideal for lighting dark rooms in the daylight. Sunlight is free.

Conclusion

While a professional will give you power efficiency insights you’re unlikely to discover on your own, a simple DIY power audit using the tips above will set you well on the path to saving some serious money and reducing your carbon footprint.

Yes, it looks like quite the job to collect all the data and make the assessment. There is also a fair bit of research required to check out home energy additions and improvements, as well as new energy-efficient appliances to replace the old power suckers.

Sounds like work, we know. But this is a job around the house you are going to get paid for. Your audit is likely to reveal plenty of places where energy savings can be made, and therefore, financial savings.

Importantly, making these changes prior to installing a solar system will put you in a great position to become energy rich with the smallest of running costs. Being energy efficient is at the core of solar. There’s the benefit of selling electricity back. The less you use, the more you have to feed back to the grid. 

A power efficiency audit is the first part of the journey on the path to an energy-efficient house. The second part is implementing the recommendations from the audit conclusion.

While the changes you make to your house make it the pin-up-boy of domestic power efficiency, it goes for little if you don’t adapt your behaviours to be energy efficient.

Approach energy efficiency from several points. Audit your home, audit your behaviour, then install solar. These three steps will turn you as green as the emerald city and render hefty power bills a distant memory.

Next Step

If you want to see how much solar or battery storage could save you over the next 5 years, then take our solar saving calculator quiz below!

Or talk to an Instyle Solar expert about the best solutions for home energy storage or PV-panels.

Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.

Photo credit: Depositphotos

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