Do-It-Yourself Energy Evaluation

When a home has particular energy-related problems, like the following symptoms, you the homeowner can begin the diagnostic process with your. Although it is not a replacement for professional evaluation, the DIY approach can uncover problems for quick fixes or further investigation.
Symptoms and Problems
  • High energy bills—leaks in building envelope, inefficient windows, poorly sealed ducts
  • Mold, mildew, musty odors—improperly sized or installed AC, water leaks, wood rot
  • Damp basement—moisture migration through foundation or walls
  • Cold floors in winter—insufficient insulation under flooring or gaps around baseboards,      windows, and doorframes
  • Drafty rooms—leaks around windows, doors, attic hatches, and basement doors
  • Dust—excessive dust could mean it’s time to change the air filters; dust streaks on ducts indicate air leakage
  • Moisture or condensation on inside of windows, interior frost or pools on sills—loose window frames
  • Ice dams—warm air in home escaping into the attic and heating the underside of the roof causes ice to melt and refreeze; ice dams cause downspout overflows and roof leakage
  • Peeling paint—excess interior humidity
  • Hot or cold rooms—air leakage, inadequate insulation, poor duct performance, improperly installed HVAC
  • Dry indoor air in winter—air leaks allowing warm humid air to escape and draw in dry cold air
Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Survey Checklist
Make a list of areas and items to inspect. Check off the items as they are inspected and make notes about problems. The list and notes will serve as a to-do list for tackling problem areas and also help in prioritizing upgrades.  Click here for a downloadable PDF Version
  • Gaps along baseboards, flooring edges, junctures of walls and ceilings, anywhere that two different building materials meet
  • Insulation around electrical outlets and switch plates
  • Windows and doors—rattling indicates an air leak source
  • Fireplace flue
  • Cellar door and attic hatch (hatch should have the same insulation as the attic floor)
  • Wall- and window-mounted air conditioners
  • Mail slots and pet doors
  • Exhaust fans and hoods, dryer vents
  • Foundation seals, siding, mortar between bricks (especially building corners)
  • Worn or improperly installed caulking and weather stripping
  • Storm windows
  • Vapor barrier underneath installation
  • Attic vents (should not be blocked by insulation)
  • Wrapping on water heater, hot water pipes, and furnace ducts
  • Furnace air filters
  • Ducts and seams (dirt streaks indicate leakage)
  • Lighting (replace incandescent bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs)
  • Schedule a furnace inspection (annual)
  • Gaps or settling in wall insulation. Turn off power to an electrical outlet or switch, use a power tester to double-check no current is flowing to the outlet, remove the cover plate and probe around the opened outlet with a stick or screwdriver; resistance indicates presence of insulation.
Adapted from “Common Home Problems and Solutions,”