What is an Energy Audit?
If you're serious about lowering your carbon footprint by reducing the energy you use at home or at work (as well as saving money), then the best thing you can do it conduct what's known as an energy audit.
What an Energy Audit DoesAn energy audit examines the electricity used by appliances, as well as letting you calculate the amount of insulation you have to let you understand how much of the heat in the building might be escaping thanks to poor insulation.
All in all, it will paint a picture that will, in many instances, frighten you a little as you learn just how much energy you're actually wasting, and the lack of energy efficiency in your appliances and insulation.
Although the energy audit works with electricity, if you heat or cook with natural gas the calculations on insulation will give you an indication as to how much you're losing in heat.
How To Conduct An Energy AuditThe idea might sound quite complex, but it's actually easy to conduct an energy audit, especially in the home, where there are fewer appliances (i.e. fewer computers, printers and everything else you'll find at a business).
A number of retailers offer power meters, a small gadget that lets you measure the wattages used by different appliances when you plug them into it. Be sure to measure everything - oven, microwave, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, computers, TVs and so on, even down to your electric iron.
What you'll almost certainly notice very quickly is how low on energy efficiency your appliances probably are. Most of them suck up energy, even when they're just on standby - if you ever needed an incentive to make sure appliances are fully off when not in use, an energy audit will do the trick.
It's important that you don't forget the lights, which can make up almost one-third of your electricity bill. You can't measure with the power meter, but you can come up with a good estimate of how many kilowatt hours are used. With each bulb, all you have to do is multiply the number of hours it's on each day by the wattage (60 watts multiplied by four hours comes to 0.24 kwh or 240wh, for instance). Do that for every single bulb in the house and you have one day's usage. Now you need to multiply that by 365 to come up with a figure for the full year - and it's virtually certain that the energy usage of your bulbs will be a lot higher than you imagined, although you can greatly reduce it by replacing all the bulbs with the newer, energy efficient type or incandescent bulbs.
Insulation And An Energy AuditPerforming an energy audit on your insulation is somewhat more complex, since there are many factors that have to be taken into account. However, you can find a good template at http://www.resurgence.org/resources/heac.html, and it will likely tell you that you can save a lot more by increasing the amount of insulation that you use.
Using The Results Of Your Energy AuditYour energy audit will show you exactly where you can lower your electricity usage (as mentioned, there's no real way to lower natural gas usage, short of cooking less, if you have a gas cooker, or lowering your thermostat if your building uses gas to power the boiler). You might learn that you can easily save money by replacing old appliances with newer ones offering greater energy efficiency ones that would quickly pay for themselves, or by moving to an electricity supplier that uses renewable sources, as many do these days.
It will make you consider just how much energy you consume without thinking, which can mean, in turn that you use less, and become more focused on energy efficiency in your life. If you're serious about lowering your carbon footprint, an energy audit is a great way to begin.