The American Homeowners Foundation (AHF) is providing this free Home Energy Audit to help homeowners reduce energy consumption costs. The National Energy Assistance Directors Association predicts that home heating oil bills will cost $2,200 in New England this winter, up from an average of $900 per heating season from 2000 through 2005. The costs of home heating oil in other parts of the country as well as other energy sources used for home heating and cooling are expected to rise substantially in 2007 and 2008 as well.

There are many things homeowners can do to reduce home energy costs. Many of them are lifestyle related. While inside your home wear warmer layered clothing in the winter and light and loose fitting garments in the summer and you’ll use less energy for heating and cooling. Try to spend more of your time in warmer parts of your home in the winter and the coolest part of your home in the summer and you’ll also use less energy for heating and cooling. The top floor of the south side of a home is usually the warmest and the lowest level of the north side is usually coolest.

Don’t ignore other ways to save energy outside of the home as well. Today you can buy many of the products you need on the Internet and have them delivered to your home for less than their price at the mall or shopping center, and still save money after adding shipping costs and subtracting the cost of the gasoline you would have used driving to the store. By not driving you’ll be helping to reduce global warming and will probably save time as well. Also employers are becoming more open to letting employees work from home at least occasionally, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask if your boss would let you telecommute. Tax credits for the purchase of hybrid vehicles can also significantly reduce their added cost and the time required to make up the difference through savings on gasoline.

Homeowners can significantly reduce energy costs through several simple and inexpensive do-it-yourself steps that will recover their costs through energy saving very quickly. The costs of more comprehensive energy reduction solutions can be reduced by federal tax credits of up to $500 for expenses to upgrade heating and air conditioning systems, insulation, windows, doors and thermostats, caulk leaks, install pigmented metal roofs and otherwise reduce energy costs (the tax credits will expire on December 31, 2007, but there is a good chance that Congress will extend them). A number of states also offer tax credits for things like solar energy systems and/or rebates or other incentives for things that can reduce energy use. The Environmental Protection Agency has created a free calculator that you can use to customize you own personal energy reduction plan:

The Audit

AHF’s Ten Minute Home Energy Audit will help you identify steps you can take to significantly reduce your home’s energy consumption. This a quick guide and scorecard will help you focus on the most obvious and cost-effective steps you can take to reduce energy consumption and increase comfort levels in your home. The greater the range in points, the more energy that can be saved. The Audit will require you to explore your house using a flashlight, ruler and screwdrivers.  We will start in the room containing your furnace if you have one, then work your way through each room to the attic.

Please give yourself the appropriate points for each category listed below, and then add them up when you’re finished. How energy efficient is your home? Here’s the scale:

100+ points    Triple A+ Model of Energy Efficiency, well done!!
80 to 100         A, your house is in excellent energy shape
70 to 80           Great shape, some minor improvements encouraged
60 to 70           Passes, yet obvious room for energy improvements
50 to 60           Not good – you have high utility bills and comfort problems
50 & below     Your house needs major help!  Seek professional advice to reduce energy costs

1. HVAC system’s efficiency/age 
If you have a brand new, super high efficiency/energy star system, add 10 points. If your system is less than 3 years old and high efficiency, add 7 points.
If your system is 3 to 5 years old and high efficiency, add 5 points.
If your system is 5 to 10 years old and in good shape, add 3 points.
If your system is an oldie but a goodie, 10+ years old, add 1 point.
If your system is over 20 years old and in poor shape, subtract 3 points.

2. HVAC system check-up
Has your HVAC system had a check-up by a qualified HVAC pro within the past year?
If you have had a check-up in the last year, give yourself 2 points.
If you have any solar heating in your house, add 5 points.

3. Changing air filter
If you have changed your air filter 6 times this past year, give yourself 2 points.
If you have changed your air filter 2-4 times this past year, give yourself 1 point.
If you have not changed your air filter this past year, subtract 5 points.

4.  Hot water heater temperature
What is the temperature setting of your hot water heater?  Note: If electric please turn off power at the circuit breaker if you need to open access panels to read.
If the temperature is set to 110F or vacation warm, give yourself 5 points.
If the temperature is set to 120F or warm, give yourself 4 points.
If the temperature is set to 130F or warm plus, give yourself 3 points.
If the temperature is set to 140F middle of the dial (factory setting), give yourself 2 points.
If the temperature is set to 150F or hot, give yourself 1 point.
If the temperature is set to 160F or very hot give yourself 0 points.

5.  Water heater insulation
If you have additional insulation around your water heater, give yourself 2 points.

6.  Water heater age
If your water heater is less than 5 years old and is labeled as a high efficiency or “energy star” unit, give yourself 2 points.
If you have a solar water heater, give yourself 5 points.

7.  Insulated water pipes
If you have pipe insulation, give yourself 1 point.
If you have a low flow water saving showerhead or aerator, give yourself 1 point for each one that you have.

8.  Wall insulation
Are your outside walls insulated?  The best way to check is to take off an electric outlet receptacle cover plate and with a non-conductive probe (i.e.: a soda straw or other non-metallic probe) poke around the outside of the box and behind the wall to see if you can feel anything (it will be the insulation).
If they are insulated, give yourself 5 points.
No insulation? Sorry, give yourself 0 points.

9.  Air registers
For every air register that is blocked by furniture or curtains, subtract 1 point!

10.  Return register
Does your home have only one return register per floor?
If so, subtract 1 point!

11.  Programmable thermostat
Do you have a programmable thermostat that you have programmed to fit your schedule and lifestyle?
If so, add 5 points. If you rarely override it except for brief periods add two points.

12.  Old Fireplace
If you use your old fireplace, subtract 3 points!
If your damper is off its hinges and can’t close entirely (big energy loser, especially on very cold days), subtract another 3 points!

13.  Woodstove or insert
Do you have an air tight woodstove or insert?
If so, give yourself 4 points.

14.  Refrigerator
If your refrigerator and/or freezer are less than 5 years old and is an energy efficient or energy star model, give yourself 3 points each. If your refrigerator and/or freezer are over 10 years old or have faulty gaskets, subtract 1 point for each!

15.  Dishwasher energy feature
Do you use the energy saving feature on your dishwasher if it has one? If so, add 1 point.

16.  Windows
If your windows are new, shut tight, thermal paned and low E glass, give yourself 5 points.
If your windows are shut tight and are thermal paned, give yourself 4 points.
If you have storms windows (that work) & tight primary windows, give yourself 2 points.
If you have some storm windows and fairly tight primary windows, give yourself 1 point.
If you have metal framed windows (with or without storms), subtract 1 point!
If you have more that 3 windows can’t close and all are in poor shape, subtract 3 points!

17.  Weather stripping
Do you have weather stripping at each exterior door?
For each door that is properly weather-stripped, add 2 points.
For each door with an operable storm door, add 1 point.

18.  Caulking
If all windows, doors, pipe penetrations and discordant joints (where wood meets concrete – top of foundation where top plate starts the wall, siding meets brick – at chimneys, etc.) are sealed tight, add 5 points.
If only windows and doors are sealed tight, add 4 points.
If caulking is present around windows and doors yet starting to crack and break, add 2 points.
If most caulking is cracking and exposing seams, add 0 points.
If caulking is non existent or older than God, subtract 3 to 5 points!

19.  Light bulbs
For each compact fluorescent light bulb, add 2 points.
For any light fixture with a bulb over 200 watts – i.e.: standing Halogen torch lights, subtract 2 points!

20.  Attic hatch or pull down stair insulation
Does your attic hatch or pull down stairs have an insulation cover?
If so, add 1 point. If the hatch is weather-stripped and closes tightly, add another 1 point.

21.  Top floor ceiling insulation levels
If insulation is 12” or more & is evenly distributed, add 8 points.
If insulation is 8” to 12” high, add 5 points.
If insulation is 6” to 8” high, add 4 points.
If insulation is 3” to 6” high, add 2 points.
If insulation is less than 3”, subtract 1 point!
If insulation has been disturbed and not even, subtract 1 point!

22.  Attic bypasses (where you see dirty discolored insulation you have air bypasses).
If attic bypasses (plumbing stacks, electrical lines, top plates) have been air sealed with foam or caulk, add 4 points.

23.  Ducts in the attic
If you have any ducts in the attic, subtract 2 points!
If these ducts are either not insulated or if insulation is falling off (silver duct tape fails to hold up), subtract 4 points!

For more information and helpful free tips on home remodeling and other home related activities go to The American Homeowners Foundation is a nonprofit education organization serving the nation’s 75 million homeowners since 1984.

Free 10 Minute Home Energy Audit