Owners of older homes often contact GBA and ask, “What can I do to make my home more energy-efficient?” My standard answer goes something like this: “The first step is to hire a certified rater to perform an energy audit of your home. The audit report will include a tailor-made list of retrofit measures to address your home’s specific problems.”
The advice is good, but it doesn’t do much to educate the questioner. Perhaps you are an intrepid homeowner who is willing to poke around your home’s nooks and crannies. Is there anything you can learn about your house without a blower door and an infrared camera?
Yes, of course there is. This article will explain the steps that homeowners can take to assess the condition of their house from an energy perspective.
If your house has a basement, that’s a good place to start your inspection. (If your house has a crawl space or an above-grade mechanical room, some of the advice in this section also applies to those areas.) The most important tool for this type of inspection is a powerful flashlight.
Check for air leaks. On a cold day, it’s fairly easy to locate basement air leaks; you may be able to feel infiltrating air with your bare hand. You may find that an incense stick is helpful in locating air leaks. Another way to locate air leaks is to turn off all of the lights in the basement and look for cracks of light. (This method only works during the daytime, of course.) Typical air leakage locations include the mudsill, around exterior doors, around windows, at utility penetrations, at pet doors, and at dryer vents.
Once you’ve identified where air is leaking into your house, you’ll have to start sealing the…