Fixing a few of your home’s most likely trouble spots can improve energy efficiency and save you a bundle on utility bills. Consumer editors at ThisOldHouse.com provide a starting point for your DIY energy audit:
On a windy day, close all windows and exterior doors, as well as the chimney flue damper. Light a stick of incense, move it around the perimeter of each window and watch for air that stirs the rise of smoke. If you find a culprit, scrape out any cracked or dried caulk on the outside where the casing meets the siding. Apply a fresh bead of paintable acrylic latex, such as DAP’s Alex Plus. For doors, add new weather stripping. The work may shave off up to $20 from your annual bill for each window and door you weatherize.
Damaged Fireplace Damper
Up to 20 percent of your home’s warmed air can be drawn up and out via your chimney flue. Check it by closing the damper and holding a lit candle inside the firebox. If it blows around or blows out, you are losing a lot of warm air. Hire a chimney sweep to give it a good cleaning and check the damper. The $100 or $200 service call may reduce your annual heating bill by as much as $500.
Old, Tank-Style Water Heater
Water heaters more than 10 years old are likely lined with fiberglass insulation, which is less effective at preventing heat loss than the foam used today. Check the age of yours on the printed label, then touch the tank. If it feels warm, it’s losing insulation. Wrapping it in a pre-cut blanket and fitting foam sleeves or insulating tape around the pipes can reduce annual water-heating bills by up to 9 percent.
An Over-Worked Fridge
The refrigerator gets no time off, and wear and tear over time will take a toll on the gasket. Check by closing the door on a sheet of paper. If you don’t feel resistance when you pull it out, the gasket seal is leaking cold air. Order a new one from the manufacturer for about $60 – $90. It’s relatively easy to remove the old one, and installing the new one following the manufacturer’s instructions will improve its performance by up to 25 percent.