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A Cheapskate's Good-Smelling Energy Audit

John Daggett

Since I work from home, my wife sometimes wonders what I do all day. I'm a writer, so the fruits of my daily labor aren't always apparent to her, and I'm pretty sure she thinks I spend most of the day goofing off.

That misconception was fueled when Denise came home early from work last week. She found me in my bathrobe, looking like a shaman while I paraded around the house with a handful of smoking incense sticks.

The bathrobe wasn't a surprise. Denise knows that I've always claimed to do my best writing while wearing my "comfy robe." But the incense had her, well, rather incensed.

"What, precisely, are you doing Jeff?" Denise asked in a huff.

"Saving us a ton of money," I said, knowing that would stall her.

"Huh? Explain, please," she said, still plenty skeptical.

"It's a simple, but oh-so-effective home energy audit," I said, adding, "You know, you really should read the books I write."

This is the time of year when a simple do-it-yourself inspection can reveal places where your home is literally leaking money in the form of lost heat energy. The "incense inspection" is easy, fun and leaves your house smelling pretty.

Just turn on all of the exhaust fans in the house (including any kitchen fans that vent outside) and put the clothes dryer on the 'air dry' setting to create a vacuum inside the house. Then use the smoke from the lighted incense stick to detect drafts around windows, doors and other gaps. If there's a leak, the smoke will drift into the house because of the vacuum.

Another simple - and symbolic - test is to try inserting a dollar bill in the gaps around your windows and doors.  If you can, then you know exactly where your money is going - out the window, due to energy loss.

Once energy leaks are detected, easy do-it-yourself repairs include caulking or installing a variety of inexpensive door/window insulating strips or plastic sheeting. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average older home has enough of these little energy leaks to equal the equivalent of leaving your front door wide open all winter long.

And Denise wonders what I do all day.

For more information, check out this story about another home energy audit trick, and then get 15 tips to save money on home energy costs. You can always find more great saving ideas in the Budgeting and Saving section of

Photo by John-Pa from Flickr Creative Commons.

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