27 - 2009

Weekend Winterizing Challenge: Draft Dodging & Energy Audits

This week, the penultimate in our challenge, Jennie Dorris at Cheap Thrills tried her hand at making draft dodgers to keep pesky winds from blowing through her rental. She writes about the whys and the hows (including using a recycled blue-jeans leg for hers).

We didn’t have a lot of official sign-ons for our challenge, yet I hope some of you have been following along and have been inspired to make your home a bit more energy efficient. If you would like to see just what we’ve been up to, you can find a list of all the Weekend Winterizing Challenge posts right here.

When Jennie and I began discussing this challenge, it inspired me to examine my own abode with fresh eyes. I scanned the outside of my home and found cracks; I felt chill breezes blowing beneath unsealed windowsills.

To find out more about energy audits, I talked to my friend and reader L’An, who had an energy audit done a few years ago on her 1920ish brick bungalow.

An energy audit from our utility provider, Xcel Energy, runs from $60 to $120, depending on which options you choose. L’s family went for the whole enchilada, with the blower door test and infrared scan.They had already made a number of energy-saving improvements, but didn’t know where to put their money next, she said. “It was not as bad as we expected … but it was bad,” she reported — a typical situation for a house built when “insulation” meant “there is a wall between you and outside,” or in fancy cases, “we have wadded up some newspaper in the wall.”

L’An came away with some excellent tips to share with Cheap Like Me Readers:

  • Caulking around windows is important. Don’t forget to caulk around the outside of window frames on exterior walls to keep drafts from entering the building.
  • The attic access panel can be a huge heat suck. You might have insulated the attic, but heat is flying up through this (typically plywood) door. Her contractor suggested nailing batting insulation to the back of the door to keep heat in the living area of the home.
  • Most people know the fireplace flue can suck away a lot of heat (this site estimates the flue can account for 11% of home heating costs!). To slash those costs and keep heat to yourself, you can stuff a pillow up the flue (you can buy a special version like this one).
  • If you’ve been reading through this challenge, you might remember my new evaporative cooler panel cover. That suggestion came from L’An’s auditor too (hmm, it’s starting to sound like I should have paid for part of her audit!).

In L’s case, it led to her family making changes that cost a few dollars — but they have made changes that have saved her family money and made their home more comfortable.

Many of the relevant changes an energy audit will reveal are eligible for rebates from the utility company or tax credits from the federal government. For that reason, L’An also saw in hindsight that they should have sprung for the audit BEFORE making any investments in improving their home’s energy efficiency, so that they would have qualified for more rebates to earn back some or all of the cost of the audit.

Thanks for sharing your experience, L’An.

More on energy audits & savings

Living the Frugal Life recently wrote about take-away lessons from her energy audit, including tips on what to do yourself.

If you aren’t able to spring for a professional energy audit, this Web page explains how to do an energy audit yourself.

And Condo Blues wrote about outdoor winterizing to save energy and money.

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