Energy Adviser: Run own energy audit of home

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As with big ships sinking, little leaks sink your energy efficiency. But how do you know if you're getting the most bang for your buck on your energy expenses? Does your home's energy usage have you baffled?

The online home energy calculator on the Clark Public Utilities website can help answer many of your questions. With it, you can find out just about everything you need to know about your home energy use.

"We encourage all residential customers concerned about energy consumption to spend some time working with our home energy calculator," said Matthew Babbitts, Clark Public Utilities energy counselor.

In just a few minutes, the free "home energy calculator" may help you find where you're burning those energy dollars, compared to averages for homes of similar size. The adventuresome can even run different energy scenarios and compare the results.

Some of the problems you might uncover about your home energy use doing this online audit include: You may find inefficiencies in the heating-cooling system, water heater, refrigerator or washer and dryer, because they're not performing as well as they might if they were operated or maintained differently. You may find that your home has inadequate insulation or your furnace has filter or maintenance issues. You might even find that your thermostat is broken or incorrectly programmed.

If you have questions after using the calculator, don't hesitate to call the utility energy counselor of the day at 360-992-3355 or send an email to ecod@clarkpud.com for advice that fits your home and lifestyle. Also call if a high electric bill has you stymied or you just want to make sure your home systems aren't using more electricity than they need to.

Free in-home audit

For some homeowners, an in-home energy audit may be a better way to address energy conservation questions. In-home audits only take an hour or two. Anyone considering an energy conservation project, upgrading a heating system or wanting to begin major weatherization improvements shouldn't hesitate to request one. Also consider an in-home audit if you find a sudden increase in energy use with no dramatic changes in your living situation.

"We do our best to help most customers over the phone, but there are times when we just need to get in and see what's going on," Babbitts said. "In those cases, one of our energy counselors will visit your home to identify specific ways to cut back on energy waste and answer any of your questions."

It's fine to conduct either type of audit at any time of year. However, if you want to shave dollars off those winter bills, it's better to run the audit during the late summer or early fall before the cold-weather heating season starts. That allows you time to make any changes recommended before the winter weather sets in.

It's better to plan ahead. The utility receives the most calls in the winter, when customers want to lower heating bills quickly. Whenever possible, energy counselors do their best to recommend fast fixes that may help immediately even in the dead of winter.

But lowering a high heating bill quickly during a cold spell can be tough. Many of the measures needed to reduce wasted energy must be installed before the winter winds to lower your heating bill.

"Our utility website has lots of tips and resources that will help as you look for ways to reduce energy waste in your home," said Babbitts. "Often, these fixes will not only lower your electric bill, they'll also make your home more healthy and comfortable. And we can help along the way."Energy adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.