What energy improvements are the best investments?

The purpose of an energy audit is to identify places in the home where energy is being wasted and prioritize the actions needed to fix them. The end result is intended to reduce the amount of energy the home needs to operate and keep occupants comfortable. Energy audits range from simple walk-throughs you can do yourself to more elaborate services performed by trained professionals. Which is right for you will depend on your situation, abilities and interest level.

If you own the home, there is a clearly defined benefit for your efforts. You'll start saving money on your energy bills as soon as you identify and fix energy wasters. If you rent or lease, it's a good idea to check with your landlord early on to see if the audit findings can be acted on. A landlord who pays the utility bills is more likely to invest in the process knowing that there will be savings through lower utility bills down the road. If you are a tenant and pay the utility bills yourself, you'll benefit immediately from no-cost and low-cost measures uncovered by an energy audit. Improvements requiring an investment in the building itself or its systems should be carefully evaluated since you don't own them and won't be taking them with you if you move to another property.

The Internet has brought consumers many new conveniences and tools, including help evaluating your home's energy use. Online calculators let you enter information about your home and appliances and compute your energy costs. Such calculators can be helpful as part of an overall energy plan to help you assess and analyze your best savings opportunities.