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Save Energy at Home

It can be a challenge to find all the energy hogs and leaks in your home by yourself. That is why the County recommends getting a Home Energy Audit. A home energy audit identifies specific home improvements you can make to reduce energy costs and improve the comfort of your home. It is the best way to see energy and cost reductions quickly.

 

Why Get a Home Energy Audit?

A professional home energy audit can help you identify energy drains, such as holes or gaps, and energy hogs, such as inefficient heating and cooling systems and appliances. Once you fix the drains and hogs, you'll:

  • Save Money on Energy Costs

Investing in energy-efficiency improvements in your home is one of the best investments you can make. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests that every $1 invested in an energy improvement project can yield $4 to $7 in energy cost savings over the life of the improvement. Energy audits can help you identify opportunities that can save you hundreds of dollars.

  • Improve the Comfort and Health of Your Home

Sealing the holes and gaps around the foundation, windows, door, attic, and other parts of your home stops conditioned air from leaking out and prevents outside air from leaking in. The combined effect of these leaks often equals that of leaving a window open all day. Stopping air leakage makes your home more comfortable, improves the air quality, and improves the efficiency of your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system.

Image of the Did You Know? graphic for energy auditor information.

  • Reduce Long-term Maintenance Problems

Water damage, ice dams, mold and mildew, condensation on windows, and peeling paint caused by fluctuating indoor environments can lead to costly home improvement projects. Sealing and insulating the "envelope" or "shell" of your home (the outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors) and using an appropriately sized HVAC system can reduce the frequency and severity of high-cost maintenance problems.

  • Leverage More Money for Home Improvement Projects

Many consumers use low-interest loans to remodel and update their homes. Another option is to obtain an energy-efficient mortgage. These mortgages allow borrowers to leverage anticipated savings from energy efficiency improvements in a home to increase buying power. With the savings generated from reduced energy costs, energy-efficient mortgages almost pay for themselves!

  • Decrease Your Impact on the Environment

Did you know that homes pollute more than cars? An average of 60 percent of the electricity used in a Montgomery County home is generated from fossil fuels. Together, electricity and natural gas and/or heating oil used in the home are responsible for emitting tons of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants. An energy-efficient home uses less energy and therefore has a smaller impact on the environment.

Even if you rent or lease your home, you can still benefit from an energy audit. But be sure to check with your landlord before getting a professional energy audit or undertaking any improvements. Find helpful do-it-yourself tips for apartment homes and do-it-yourself tips for renters of townhomes and single-family homes.

 

Professional Home Energy Audit Programs

Several programs train and certify contractors to conduct standardized home energy audits. Having a certified contractor conduct your audit ensures that it complies with the program's standards. See the list of local energy audit programs below to find the one that's right for you.

Note: Many energy auditors are not contractors, so they have no financial stake in making home improvement recommendations.

  • Maryland Home Performance with ENERGY STAR

The Maryland Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is a whole-home approach that aims to seal air leaks, seal ductwork, add insulation, improve heating and cooling systems, and upgrade inefficient lights and appliances.

  • RESNET Home Energy Rating

The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) is an industry nonprofit that created national standards for building energy efficiency rating systems. RESNET auditors use the HERS Index - a scale representing the energy use of a home. A HERS index of 100 represents the energy use of the "American Standard Building" and an index of 0 indicates that the proposed building uses no net purchased energy (Zero Energy Building). RESNET auditors provide a score and a list of recommendations for cost-effective home improvements.

 

What Should I Look For in an Energy Audit and Auditor?

Image of a home energy audit.

Energy audits vary in scope, features, and costs. Some audits provide a walk-through offering simple energy savings. Others go into great depth on the condition of your home and opportunities for improvement. Carefully consider what's right for you and your home.

Like finding a good mechanic, it's important to find a good energy auditor. When selecting an auditor, always:

  • Determine the type of audit most appropriate for your home and budget.

  • Do your research! Visit the  Maryland Home Performance and the RESNET websites.

  • Ask your friends and neighbors if they've had an audit and, if so, who they used. And if you have a good audit experience, remember to spread the word!

  • Get references from potential auditors, and check to see if the references were satisfied with the work.

  • Visit the Better Business Bureau and research complaints against the company, or if possible, check Angie's List for customer reviews and business ratings.

  • Get quotes from multiple auditors. The quotes should clearly outline what is included in the audit and list any additional fees or services. The most thorough audits include a thermographic scan or a blower door test or both.

  • If your auditor provides home improvement services, make sure that he or she has the appropriate contractor licenses. 

  • If your energy auditor is also a contractor who can complete the improvements recommended in the audit, make sure the audit report includes a detailed list of recommended improvements. You can then compare quotes from other contractors.

 

How Much Does a Home Energy Audit Cost?

Professional home energy audits in Maryland, depending on the type of audit and the tests included in the review, can cost between $300 and $700. Incentives to reduce the cost of an energy audit may be available from your electric utility. Check the "Home Energy Incentives" page for more detail.

 

Additional Options and Do-It-Yourself

Quick Home Energy Check-Up

If you are not sure whether you want to do a full home energy audit yet, start off small with a Quick Home Energy Checkup (QHEC). When you schedule a Check-up with your utility, a energy efficiency professional will come to your home and check the condition of its insulation, heating and air cooling system, lighting, appliances, and more. The QHEC allows homeowners and tenants to get energy efficient products such as CFLs, efficient-flow showerheads and smart strips installed at no additional cost to their usual utility bills. As existing customers of utility companies, owners and tenants bear no additional cost for these energy conservation measures.

A Quick Home Energy Checkup is very basic and does not cover all the energy savings that would be discovered during a full Home Energy Audit. To get a QHEC, contact your utility company.

 

Doing an Energy Audit Yourself

Several online tools are available for do-it-yourselfers who want to conduct their own energy audit. They can help you find many energy savings opportunities. Gather a few months of electricity and energy bills, and try one of these to get started:

Retailers often provide special incentives for energy-efficient products. To find rebates from retailers in your area on CFLs and other ENERGY STAR-qualified products, use ENERGY STAR's Rebate Finder Tool.

 

Do You Have Specific Questions about Obtaining an Energy Audit?

Search ENERGY STAR's Home Improvement portal. You'll find a comprehensive list of questions and answers like these: Does changing my furnace or air-conditioning filter each month save energy? Can I over-seal my house or make it too tight? What are typically the most cost-effective improvements that I can make to my home to save energy?

Do you still have a question or a comment about energy audits? Email DEP at askdep@montgomerycountymd.gov.

 

 

Home Energy Tips

60 percent of the energy used in Montgomery County's homes comes from coal, oil, and other fossil fuels. Home energy use makes a significant contribution to global warming. Reducing energy use in your home decreases your impact on the environment and saves you money.

Read on to learn how you can reduce your energy use all around the home.

 

Save on Heating and Cooling

Seal the holes and gaps around the foundation, windows, doors, and attic of your home to stop conditioned air from leaking out and prevent outside air from leaking in. The combined effect of these leaks often equals that of leaving a window open all day. Stopping air leaks makes your home more comfortable and decreases the demand on your heating and cooling system, reducing energy demand and saving you money.

 

  • Seal Your Fireplace

Consider using an inflatable bag to seal your chimney when the fireplace isn't in use. The bag fits beneath the chimney's damper and is inflated to fill the space. Be sure to deflate and remove the bag before starting a fire, and let the chimney cool completely before reinstalling the bag.

 

  • Install a Programmable Thermostat

You wouldn't leave your TV on when no one is home to watch it, so why keep your heating or cooling system running at an ideal temperature when you're not home? Install a programmable thermostat to automatically regulate the temperature in your home. In the winter, lower the temperature setting while you're away or asleep. In the summer, increase the temperature setting while you're away. These actions can save you 2 percent on energy costs for each degree of change.

Once you have a programmable thermostat installed, use this worksheet (PDF, 94KB)  to find the times to set-back the thermostat. This will help you save on energy bills.

 

  • Use Fans to Reduce Heating and Cooling Needs

Used properly, a ceiling fan can help decrease the demand on your home heating or cooling system. In the winter, set the fan at a low speed in the clockwise direction to force warm air at the ceiling down toward the floor. It will make the room warmer so you can lower your thermostat and reduce heating costs. In the summer, switch the rotation to counterclockwise to create a cooling effect. This lets you increase your thermostat setting a few degrees with little loss in comfort.

Image of Did You Know graphic on whole house fans.

Eliminate Phantom Loads

Electronics, devices with digital clocks, and cell phone or other battery chargers draw electricity when plugged in- even when they're not in use. They consume small amounts of electricity known as phantom loads. Plug your TV, DVD player, stereo, and office equipment into a power strip and switch it off to cut the flow of electricity to these devices.

 

Use Energy-Efficient Appliances

Appliances and electronics are responsible for nearly 20 percent of a home's energy bill. Energy-efficient appliances reduce energy costs. The ENERGY STAR program Web site makes finding energy-efficient appliances and consumer electronics easy. The site also offers tips on how to operate appliances with maximum energy savings.

Image of Did You Know? graphic on caulking.

Save on Hot Water

Heating water accounts for about 13 percent of a home's utility bill, making it an easy way to save money. Reduce heat loss as water is stored in the heater and flows through pipes to your faucet by insulating your water heater and pipes. The U.S. Department of Energy's Water Heater Web site explains how.

Image of Did You Know? graphic about water heater temperature.

Energy-Efficiency and Renewable-Energy Incentives

Several incentives are available for home energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects. Visit the Financial Incentives Web page for more information.

Image of Did You Know? graphic on saving money before installing renewable energy

 

Lighting

Lighting accounts for about 20 percent of a home's electricity use. Choose energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) to reduce energy use. They pay for themselves in less than a year and last 10 times longer than regular lightbulbs. They're great for commonly used lamps and hard-to-reach locations. According to the Environmental Protection Agency:

An ENERGY STAR certified light bulb:

  • Saves money about $6 a year in electricity costs and can save $40 to $135 over its lifetime

  • Meets strict performance requirements that are tested and certified by a third party

  • Uses about 75% less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb and lasts 10 to 25 times longer

  • Produces about 75% less heat, so it’s safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling

 

CFL Lighting

All fluorescent lights, including CFLs, contain a very small amount of mercury. The amount in fluorescent lighting is significantly lower than that in many other consumer products, such as watch batteries and switches in TVs, computers, and other electronics. If the glass tube of a CFL breaks, take extra care in cleaning it up.

Read the ENERGY STAR CFL fact sheet (PDF, 71KB) for more information regarding mercury in CFLs, including proper disposal options.

 

Where can I dispose of CFLs in Montgomery County?

The following locations offer CFL collection and recycling services:

 

LED Lights

Consider light-emitting diode (LED) lights for additional energy savings. LEDs use less energy than CFLs and last even longer, but they're best suited for specific applications - such as track lighting and garden lights. Ask your home improvement store or lighting professional if LED lighting is right for your home.

Image of Did You Know? graphic on CFLs.

Try Solar Lights

Are you interested in solar photovoltaics but aren't yet ready to install solar panels on your home? Try using solar-powered garden, pathway, and security lights. They're easy to install and don't draw electric power. In fact, they operate for free! Small solar panels generate electricity during the day and store it for use at night. Solar security lights are also great for power outages.

Image of Did You Know? graphic on outdoor solar lighting

 

 

Informational and How-to Videos

 

        
 
 

        

 

        

 

 Watch an instructional video from "This Old House" to learn how to install a programmable thermostat. It's easy!

 

Videos for Download

Click the images below and the video will begin downloading. 

 

In-Home Heating and Cooling Solutions
Image from video about in-home heating and cooling solutions.

Read the transcript (PDF, 9KB)

 

Insulate Hot Water Pipes
Image from video about insulating hot water pipes.

Read the transcript  (PDF, 5KB)

 

Energy Efficient Lighting
Image from video showing how a local resident saved money with energy-efficient lighting.

Read the transcript  (PDF, 6KB)

 

Outdoor Solar Lighting
Image from video about one homeowner's outdoor solar lighting system.

Read the transcript  (PDF, 6KB)

 

Energy Efficient Appliances
Image from video about energy-efficient appliances.

Read the transcript  (PDF, 6KB)

 

 

Phantom Loads
Image from video about reducing phantom power drains.

Read the transcript  (PDF, 5KB)