DIY Home Energy Audit

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Jan 022015

New Year New Maintenance Challenges

Today is January 2, 2015 and I would like you to take a moment to think about your goals for the year.  Not the old ones about losing weight, working out more, getting a better job, you know, the same old things.  This year, I challenge you to resolve to get involved with your own home and to bring your family into the game.  That’s right, it’s a game where you have to keep score and monitor success to let the players know how they have done.

Energy Savings Offsets Tax Increases

Most families in America have noticed the cost of operating their vehicles has decreased with the drop in gas prices recently.  Many Americans were able to spend more during the holidays because of the drop in gas prices.  My challenge to you is to gain additional savings in your home ownership costs through proper maintenance.  It is the opposite of a drop in price, you can reduce the demand for resources through a few easy maintenance actions each month.

To Begin Conduct an Energy Audit:
Many subscribers have found that conducting an energy audit will result in significant benefits, including the discovery of energy inefficiencies and new ways to save on energy costs – perhaps as much as thirty percent – depending upon your family’s energy-use scenario.  The following three goals have been applied to this audit:
1. Reduce energy costs by 5%
2. Reduce consumption without changing lifestyle
3. Spend nothing on new appliances, windows, doors, or insulation.

Things You Need To Get Started
The past 12 month’s utility bills (gas, electric, water) and a computer spreadsheet or tabulation paper to record utility consumption (focus on units not cost).  For example, each utility bill provides a quantity of units (gallons, Kwh, etc.) used.  Record those numbers to begin your scorecard.
If you are using a spreadsheet, the Maintenance Guru suggests that you build the spreadsheet to look like Table 1 below for each tracked monthly bill:
TABLE 1 Savings Scorecard

                           Jan     Feb     Mar     Apr     May     Jun     Jul     Aug     Sep     Oct     Nov     Dec

2014 KWH

2015 KWH

Subtract Delta

**$ per KWH


**Multiply the cost per unit of measurement by the savings amount.

Steps to Conducting an Energy Audit
1. Assign Responsibility: Energy audits can be performed by the entire family with everyone becoming involved with the process. I encourage you to bring your children into the audit to begin their education on how to care for a home.
2. Gather Energy Data: Review your utility bills from the past year or from a typical twelve-month period. Also, look at data from your accounting records that reflect electric, gas, water, and sewer charges. Plot out the monthly rates on a spreadsheet, record consumption figures, and any other fees for natural gas, electric, water and other utility charges.
Did you know that in many cities across the country, the sewer bill is determined by the amount of water used?  By saving water, users also lower their sewer costs.

Now you are ready to begin your audit. Use the following checklist as a guide.

***Energy Audit Checklist***


  •     Is your home using the most energy efficient lighting options (incandescent lights should be replaced with new fluorescent bulbs whenever possible)?
  • Are there areas that have excessive or unneeded lighting?
  • Are you making effective use of available lighting, such as natural sunlight?

Building Envelope:

  • Does weather stripping around doors and windows need to be replaced? (move a lit candle around window and door openings and if the flame flickers or moves, you may want to consider repairing the seal)
  • Are cracks around doors, windows and foundations properly sealed?
  • Are there open doors around garages or other frequently accessed areas? Garage doors should be closed to maintain all available warmth in the garage.)

Heating and Cooling:

  • Are furnaces, boilers and air conditioning systems operating efficiently?  (Listen and observe the units as they operate, if anything seems to vibrate excessively or make squeaking noises you may want to get a professional to service the unit).
  • Is there a regular maintenance and update schedule for these systems? (There is if you are using the checklists properly).
  • Are filters replaced regularly?

Motors and Equipment:

  • Is your equipment maintained so that it is operating at maximum efficiency?
  • Are machines shut down when not in use?
  • Are fan belts at the proper tension and in good condition?

Energy Behavior:

  • Are lights, fans and equipment (computer, printers, etc.) turned off when not in use?
  • Are building temperatures set back when not in use? (VERY IMPORTANT, turn your heat down or your air conditioning up when you go to work and school.)  You don’t need to heat and cool your home if you are not there.  This one precaution could save several hundred dollars each year.
  • Establish a realistic target for future energy usage.
  • For example, try to reduce your consumption by 5% next month (over the same month last year).

Helpful Hints

  • Don’t run partial loads of clothes through your washer and dryer.
  • Let clothes air dry when possible.
  • Make sure your dish washer is full before turning it on.
  • Turn your thermostat off when you leave the house (or down so the heat/air doesn’t come on so often).
  • Turn your computers off when they are not in use.
  • Turn your lights off when you leave a room.
  • Do not leave ceiling fans on when you are not in the room. (They only provide value when you are in the room, as soon as you leave; the fan simply runs up your energy bill).
  • Close your blinds to keep the sun out in the summer in rooms you do not use like spare bedrooms.
  • Close doors and vents in rooms you don’t use.
  • New appliances are more efficient than older ones and can often save their purchase price in energy savings over a 5 year period.

The first step to energy savings is being aware of wasteful practices. Over time, you will be surprised what your savings will be. 
Signed, the Maintenance Guru.

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Nov 152012

Fiscal Cliff vs. Home and Office Maintenance

Today, as this newsletter is being written, Americans have their eye on the “Fiscal Cliff.”  Funny thing, before the election it was referred to as Sequestration.  As the Maintenance Guru, I have to admit that I really don’t understand the term sequestration and believe that few people do.  Change the term to Fiscal Cliff an even I can understand what’s ahead.  I have a few suggestions I could toss in the ring for avoiding the Fiscal Cliff but we have people much smarter them me working that problem.  My goal this month is to provide ways to help you can save a few dollars each month forever.  If we all jump off the “Fiscal Cliff,” you and I will at least know we are getting the most from the money we spend on utilities and maintenance.

1. Work on your utility budget by reviewing what you used last December, and pledge to cut that amount by 10%.
2. Conduct the scheduled maintenance reviews on your heating systems to keep them efficient
3. Conduct the scheduled plumbing and appliance inspections.  Remember, this month includes your water heater inspection and the last thing you need going into the holidays is a flooded home.
4. Turn lights off when you are not in the room.
5. Only wash clothes and dishes when there is a full load.
6. Run your ceiling fan when you are in a room and turn it off when the room is empty.
7. Use energy efficient light bulbs.

Getting your family involved is important too.  Remember when your parents nagged you to turn off your lights?  Remember how you responded?  I had a subscriber tell me as a mom trying to make ends meet, she was always looking for ways to save.  She sat her family down and showed them an electric bill from December the year before and challenged them to cut the bill by 10%.  She went on to say that she reminded them to take shorter showers, turn lights off when leaving a room, turn the water off while brushing their teeth so water doesn’t just flow down the drain.  For her part, she would adjust the thermostat when she left the house in the morning and then again when the first person came home after school.  She challenged the family with the promise of a dinner out if they achieved their goal of 10%.  To everyone’s surprise, she saved over 30% on her utility bill the first month.

Turn your personal Fiscal Cliff into your personal Fiscal Windfall by taking a few extra steps to save.  Build habits that last a lifetime, your children will thank you for it one day.


Turkey fryer hazards as reported by UL:

Source Data
UL is a global independent safety science company with more than a century of expertise innovating safety solutions from the public adoption of electricity to new breakthroughs in sustainability, renewable energy and nanotechnology. Dedicated to promoting safe living and working environments, UL helps safeguard people, products and places in important ways, facilitating trade and providing peace of mind.

Turkey fryer hazards 

  • Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil from the cooking pot.
  • If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner or flames, causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.
  • Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect. This too may result in an extensive fire.
  • With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
  • The lid and handles on the sides of the cooking pot get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.

Important safety information
If you absolutely must use a turkey fryer, please use the following tips.

  • Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.
  • Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
  • Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
  • The National Turkey Federation (NTF) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.
Oct 152012

Fire Prevention Week

Fire Prevention Week ended on October 13th.  The following information is published on the Nation Fire Prevention Agency (NFPA) web site.  One thing that I hope all of my readers consider is that the statistics that follow do not include a single person who expected to be in them.

The following information was published at NFPA.

Cooking equipment remains top cause of home structure fires according to NFPA report

According to a new report released by NFPA, cooking remains top cause of home structure fires.  U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 371,700 home structure fires annually between 2006 and 2010. These fires caused an estimated average of 2,590 civilian deaths and $7.2 billion in direct property damage yearly.
Based on research by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the report also cited that cooking was the number one cause of home structure fires.  CPSC found that in 2004-2005, for every household cooking fire reported to the fire department, U.S. households experienced 50 cooking equipment fires that they did not report.
Forty-two percent of reported home fires started in the kitchen or cooking area. These fires were the third leading cause of home fire deaths (15 percent) and leading cause of home fire injuries (37 percent).
Other notable findings from the report include:

  • Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
  • Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths followed by heating equipment and then cooking equipment.
  • 25 percent of all home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom; another 24 percent resulted from fires originating in the living room, family room, or den.
  • Home fires accounted for 73 percent of all reported structure fires between 2006 and 2010.
  • Between 2006 and 2010, on average one of every 310 households per year had a reported home fire.
  • Home structure fires peaked around the dinner hours between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.

Source Link


Sep 152012

Fall Season Maintenance

September has always been the transition month from summertime maintenance to fall maintenance.  In most of the country, subscribers are feeling the cooler mornings, a reduction in daylight hours, peaceful evenings making it hard to remain indoors.  The blistering summer heat is over and now is the time to get ready for colder weather.  September seems to be the perfect month to leave the windows open and let the fresh air in.  With temperatures staying in the tolerable range, it is easy to turn off the air conditioning let the gentle wisp of Mother Nature run through the house like a welcome kiss from the heavens.

Now is also the time to prepare homes for harsher weather that is sure to follow in the weeks ahead.  Checking exterior areas around the home is important in the final weeks of September.  Be prepared for the surprise drop in temperature.  Review this month’s inspections and conduct the outdoor inspections to include inspecting your foundation, roof, gutters, and winterizing your home.

Of the three, winterizing may be the most important.  Review the checklist closely and protect your home from winter’s fury.  If you disconnect and drain your garden hoses you will save the cost of replacing them should the first freeze come in late September or early October.

Checking roofs and gutters will pay off with the first snow.  Leaves collected in gutters often block downspouts which causes water to back up in the gutter and pour over the sides.  The problem is the inside, not necessarily the outside.  As water pours over the inside of the gutter, it can flood under the shingles or onto and behind the fascia.  Damage is then sustained throughout the winter as snow melts and rain comes continually depositing moisture on and behind the wood.  Then comes the mold, insects, wood rot, and damage to the soffit.  In severe cases, the water can back up into the insulation in the attic and destroy walls and ceilings.  The simple act of cleaning gutters in the fall will eliminate the risk of damage to homes.

Ladder Safety

When was the last time an inspection was performed on your ladder?  We keep the ladder inspection checklist up all of the time.  For convenience we have included it here.

Ladder – Portable
If the answer is “yes” to any of the questions below, make repairs before using the ladder.
General Inspection (all ladders)
1. Are there loose steps or rungs (should not be able to move a rung by hand)?
2. Are there loose fasteners such as nails, screws, bolts, or other materials?
3. Are there cracked, split, broken, rust or decayed uprights or rungs?
4. Are there slivers (metal or wood) on uprights, rungs, or steps?
5. Are there rungs missing?
6. Is grease, oil, or slippery material on steps or rails?
7. Do movable parts jam or scrape when operating?
8. Is the base (non-skid) material missing?
1. Is the ladder wobbly or does it appear to be asymmetrical (not sit squarely on the ground)?
2. Are the hinge spreaders loose or disconnected at both ends on all rails?
3. Is the hinge on each spreader fastened loosely or missing in the center creating a wobbly or loose connection from rail to rail?

Aug 152012

National Preparedness Month Coming in September

September is National Preparedness Month and since 2004, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sponsored this program to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies.  No one can stop a disaster but everyone can take steps to get through the disaster with less loss of life and property.  More importantly, most of these steps are simple, inexpensive, and can involve the entire family in the planning and implementation of each disaster plan.
If the Maintenance Guru is going to be involved, you know there will be checklists to assist in the planning process.  Every subscriber to this service has access to the internet so if you have a particular disaster looming, please research the specific disaster to learn what can be done to prepare in advance.  I will offer the following checklist adapted from the Broward County, Florida web page at

The title of this checklist is “Hurricane Kit Checklist” however it would be better titled “Disaster Kit Checklist”  believe it could used for hurricanes, floods, tornados, ice storms, fires, almost anything that could create a loss of power, a need for clean water, warmth, food, medicine, sanitization, and things to occupy the kids when the cell phone and video games no longer work.

Hurricane Kit Checklist
·   Drinking Water: At least one gallon per person per day for three to five days, preferably two weeks. Extra water is needed for food preparation and personal hygiene. To store drinking water, use food-grade containers. You can use clean, airtight containers such as two-liter soda jugs, but no milk containers. If you re-use disposable plastic bottles, do not keep them for more than a month.
·   Food: At least enough for three to five days, including non-perishable packaged or canned food, canned or shelf milk, cereal, etc.; ice and snack foods
·   A three- to five-day supply of special items for babies such as formula, food, wipes, diapers; special foods for the elderly; toiletries and extra toilet paper
·   Manual can opener/bottle opener
·   Paper goods such as plates, bowls, napkins, towels, and plastic eating utensils
·   Unscented household bleach and medicine dropper
·   Extra bedding such as blankets, pillows, sleeping bag, etc. in case you must evacuate
·   Clothing, including rain gear and sturdy shoes
·   First aid kit
·   Medicines/prescription drugs: A two-week supply
·   Hand sanitizer
·   Flashlight and extra batteries
·   Battery-operated or hand-crank radio
·   Disposable batteries, car charger or solar charger for your cell phone
·   Hardline telephone with jack (not cordless)
·   Books and games or toys
·   Pet food, cat litter and other pet care items
·   Tool kit including cord, rope, hammer, wood nails, saw, hatchet or axe, crowbar, chain saw, tarp, duct tape, and heavy work gloves
·   Plastic trash bags and ties
·   Extra resealable plastic storage bags, heavy-duty aluminum foil and disposable aluminum pans
·   Extra charcoal or propane gas for outdoor cooking. Sterno can also be used. Never cook with any of these items inside your house. The smoke and fumes are deadly.
·   Fire extinguisher (ABC type)
·   Matches in a waterproof container
·   Mosquito repellent with DEET, and sunscreen
·   Any special equipment or items you may need