Follow along as Consumer Reports visits a home in New York to help its owners cut their energy bills. The usual inefficiencies were present, but we also found some power hogs that might surprise you.
If we had conducted this energy audit ten years ago, electronic devices would have been low down the list of priorities. But with all the TVs, computers, chargers, and more plugged into homes, gadgets now gobble up as much power as kitchen appliances. Your set-top box alone can use as much electricity as your refrigerator if it's used with a high-definition digital video recorder. Our advice: ask the cable company to replace your current box with one that meets Energy Star's 3.0 specification.
From the TV room, we moved to the attic, where insufficient insulation is the common energy waste. There was a pretty good blanket in place, though for maximum efficiency you really need to see 11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool or 8 inches of cellulose. Don't forget to insulate the attic hatch, or it can suck heated air up from the living space during the winter.
Next we checked for air leaks, which also allow conditioned air to escape from the home, driving up heating and cooling costs. This old house was filled with leaks, especially around the windows and doors. They needed plugging with a combination of caulk, foam board, and weatherstripping.
Before we left, we gave the appliances the once over. They were all in good working order, so our advice was to choose a more energy-efficient model when it came time for a replacement. The Energy Star program is a useful guide, though we also recommend checking our Ratings to find appliances that are both energy-efficient and high-performing.