When it comes to home energy audits, most homeowners have one of two choices – hire a professional or try and do it themselves. While hiring a professional is the best way of achieving a thorough audit, it may not be in this year’s budget (or any other for that matter).

If you’ve decided to conduct a home energy audit on your own, here are 5 tips to help you get the most out of your DIY home energy audit.

1. Locate Air Leaks

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5 to 30 percent per year, and the home is generally much more comfortable afterward.” Visit every room in your home and make a list of obvious air leaks or drafts. Common areas where air leaks can occur are baseboard gaps, wall/ceiling junctures and door frames.  Once you have a list of indoor air leaks, repeat your investigation outside the home. The U.S. Department of Energy has detailed information about detecting air leaks which may be helpful too. After identifying air leak culprits, the next steps will be sealing (via plug, caulk, etc.) the leaks and/or considering ventilation.

2. Assess Insulation

“Heat loss through the ceiling and walls in your home could be very large if the insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum. When your house was built, the builder likely installed the amount of insulation recommended at that time. Given today’s energy prices (and future prices that will probably be higher), the level of insulation might be inadequate, especially if you have an older home,” states the U.S. Department of Energy. Go up into your attic and check for insulation. If the insulation covers the joists, then there is probably enough to protect your home. Remove light sockets and use a flashlight to see if your walls have been insulated. If not, you might want to have insulation blown in. Look for any stained or damaged insulation. This could be a sign of exterior leaks that need to be fixed.

3. Heating and Cooling

Do you have your HVAC equipment serviced routinely? If not, your equipment might not be running as efficiently as possible. What about filtration? Are you changing your air filters as recommended?  The U.S. Department of Energy also recommends investigating replacing equipment older than 15 years. “A new unit would greatly reduce your energy consumption, especially if the existing equipment is in poor condition. Check your ductwork for dirt streaks, especially near seams. These indicate air leaks, and they should be sealed with a duct mastic. Insulate any ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces. An insulation R-Value of 6 is the recommended minimum,” states the U.S. Department of Energy.

4. Lighting

According to Energy.gov, lighting accounts for around 10 percent of energy usage. As part of your energy audit, reduce your use by replacing inefficient incandescent bulbs with efficient light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Consider using lower-wattage bulbs in rooms that get a lot of sunlight and only turning on table lamps instead of overhead lighting at night.

5. Electric Utility Bills

Chances are your home is run either on all electric or a combination of electric and gas. For those services, you receive a monthly bill. Within those bills is usage information (typically in kilowatt hours) which can provide insight into your home’s consumption trends. Spikes in usage could indicate potential energy efficiencies outlined in previously. If your service provider and/or billing don’t already do so, start keeping track of monthly usage via a spreadsheet or other tracking system. You may also want to consider contacting your energy provider and inquiring about what the average cost is for a home of your size in your area (for comparison).

Following these five steps can not only help identify problem areas but also uncover things costing you and your family every month.

By Chase Ezell

Chase has served in various public relations, communications and sustainability roles. He is a former managing editor for Earth911.com.