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As air quality alerts from Canadian wildfires continue, now's the time to audit your home's energy efficiency

This is how home energy audits can save you money
This is how home energy audits can save you money 03:41

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's been a hot start to summer. Minnesota has also had a lot of air quality alerts triggered by Canadian wildfire smoke and pollutants like ozone.

That means our air conditioners have been working overtime. For that reason, WCCO caught up with an energy audit team who looks into the efficiency of your home, to see what it entails and how it could help you save your money.

Matthew Fliegel, with the Center for Energy and Environment, goes to a few homes every day to hunt for efficiency opportunities.

"The purple is cold, so there are empty cavities in this, so that's going to be a big source of heat loss," Fliegel said.

Adding insulation to your attic, walls, and places like rim joists is key to saving resources and dollars.

"Nine times out of 10, one of the biggest recommendations is insulation," Fliegel said.

With our summers going the way they're going, you may want to take another look at your home to save. We average just one high of 90 degrees each June, and have already had eight so far this month as of Wednesday. So cooling demand is up.

"We have some of the coldest winters and hottest summers. People don't think about the summers as much for comfort and energy bills, but insulation helps year-round," Fliegel said.

The next stop on the audit is to check on appliances.

"Some of the older furnaces are 80% efficient, meaning for every dollar you spend on gas, you're getting 80 cents of heat out of it," Fliegel said. "Models like these can be 92% to 98%, in that range, efficient."

If you can't get a more efficient furnace -- which could cost upfront but save long-term -- Fliegel suggests cooling it on the air conditioning. If you're gone at work for eight hours at a time this summer, you could turn your thermostat up 8 degrees -- one per hour -- to save.

Also, consider a smart thermostat, something Fliegel's team can connect you with on their visit.

Visits like this cost from $35 to $100. It depends on the age of your home. Some cities cover half the cost of the visit. There are also discounted or even free visits for certain income-qualified customers, based on median incomes in the neighborhood.

Many of the team's suggestions for homes they audit cost little to nothing -- like rope caulk for caps that lead to air leaks. The team also checks houses for old lightbulbs, to swap in LED alternatives.

Then there are the inefficient fixtures you might not otherwise think of, such as shower heads. Standard heads provide 2.5 gallons per minute, whereas efficient ones hold that down to about 1.5 gallons instead.

And when it's all said and done, you get a report card, with ideas for improvement and ways to follow up with energy advisors, or connect with qualified contractors, to maximize your home's green potential. 

You don't need to wait for an audit to make your home more efficient. The commerce department has a series of videos about energy efficiency and how you can do better at your home. The weatherization video series is also available in Hmong, Spanish, and Somali, as well as for the visually impaired. 

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