Get a home energy audit
Why? A certified home energy auditor will analyze your energy bills and examine your house room-by-room, basement to attic, and perform tests to assess leakiness, insulation level, and heating efficiency. They may also check air quality and the efficiency of your water, lighting, and appliances. The auditor will then provide you with a report with suggested energy improvements, their estimated costs, and their potential for energy and climate impact reduction.
How to get it done: Many local governments and utility companies provide lists of certified home energy auditors. Some may even send their own auditors. Check with your local utility to see if they list recommendations. You may also visit the Residential Energy Service Network [link:http://www.resnet.us/trade/find-raters-auditors] to find a certified auditor.
Cost to you: Many local governments and utilities offer free or reduced prices on energy audits. For example, Seattle City Light offers a complete energy audit for $95. Without reduced pricing or rebates, a thorough audit can cost up to $300.
$ Savings: Once you make all the improvements suggested by an auditor, you can expect to save an average of 20% on your energy bill each year.
Family activity: You can also perform your own on-line home energy audit, for free and in your pajamas. Home energy calculators that take anywhere from 2 minutes to a half hour to fill out with details about your home, then make recommendations for improvements based on those answers, your climate, and local energy prices. I have done both: hired a home energy auditor and used the on-line calculators. While I appreciated the customization of having an auditor assess my house, about 60% of the recommendations on his list were also made by the on-line calculators. Here are a couple websites to try:
Home Energy Saver[link: http://hes.lbl.gov/consumer/]: Created for the US Department of Energy.
Microsoft Hohm [link: http://www.microsoft-hohm.com/]: Asks for great detail, but gives back highly customized recommendations.