If you’re a homeowner or renter, you know that keeping your home energy efficient can make a big difference in your energy costs and comfort. From fixing drafty windows to replacing outdated appliances, there are a lot of opportunities to make improvements. That’s where Energy Trust of Oregon comes in. Our online home assessment gives you the important information you need to make the right customized decisions. The multiple-choice assessment takes about 20 minutes to complete and must be completed in one sitting, but you can retake the assessment as many times as you’d like. We recommend gathering details about your home before you begin.
What to have ready
When taking our online home assessment, we’ll ask you to provide details about your home to get accurate recommendations for energy-saving improvements. All questions are optional. Here’s a list of information that will be helpful to have prepared before taking the assessment:
- Age of home: Your home’s age can help reveal the types of energy-saving opportunities that are most likely to have the biggest impact.
- Foundation type: The type of foundation can impact your home’s energy efficiency and safety.
- Square footage: The size of your home can impact how much energy it uses and how much it costs to heat and cool.
- Age of heating system and insulation: Knowing the age of your system will help determine its effectiveness and when you may need to replace it. If you’re unsure about the age, you can check for labels or serial numbers that may provide more information.
If you recently purchased your home, the inspection report may provide answers to questions you may be uncertain about, such as the age of your heating system and insulation. Foundation type, square footage and other home details may also be available on various real estate sites like Zillow, Realtor or Redfin.
Through our online home assessment, you’ll receive personalized recommendations that are tailored to your home’s unique needs. These are recommendations to increase the energy efficiency, comfort and safety of your home. Some can be done quickly and easily. Others may require a contractor or more investment.
You can retake the assessment and review recommendations at any time. Just visit www.energytrust.org/assessment, navigate to the “My Dashboard” tab and then “My Recommendations.” From your recommendations page, you can also choose to have your recommendations emailed to you in a report, so you’ll always have easy access when you’re ready to improve your home.
What does the assessment cover?
Our online home assessment focuses on key areas and systems that impact the comfort, health and energy efficiency of your home. Here’s a closer look at what to expect and what information you can gather to get the most helpful results.
Our assessment will ask if you feel drafts or temperature differences coming from your doors, windows, electrical outlets, recessed lighting fixtures, cabinets and wood stoves. If you’re unsure if these areas in your home are drafty, an easy way to check is to close all windows and doors and pass a lit incense wick near the closures. If the smoke trail is sucked toward or blown away from the areas, it’s an indication of a draft. Alternatively, you can dampen your hand and feel around drafty areas for a heightened sense of temperature differences.
The assessment will also ask about your home’s insulation. Homes built before 1978 typically have about 75% less insulation than homes built to today’s standards. Even if built more recently, your home’s insulation can lose effectiveness due to damage by animals, moisture or gradually wearing down over time.
If you’re unsure whether your home has adequate insulation or has had additional insulation added since you’ve lived in your home, here are some tips for how to evaluate:
- With proper eye protection, gloves and a flashlight, access your home’s attic and check the level of the insulation in relation to the attic floor joists.
- If the insulation material is level with or below the wooden joists, your home could likely benefit from more insulation.
- Locate the room in your home that has the greatest temperature difference.
- Find an easy-to-access electrical outlet located on an exterior-facing wall.
- Turn off the power to the outlet at your home’s electric panel and remove the outlet cover. Plug in a lamp or other electrical object you know functions properly and turn it on to ensure there is no power. If it doesn’t turn on, you will know the outlet has been properly powered off.
- Shine a flashlight around the outlet box (the metal box that’s behind the removed faceplate of the outlet) and slowly insert a wooden, non-conductive prodding object like a wooden skewer or wooden chopstick into the gap surrounding the outlet box.
- If you feel any resistance or see insulation surrounding the outlet box, your wall likely has insulation. Batt insulation is easy to feel and see, while blown-in insulation will have a less obvious, gentle resistance. If you probe and hit the wall without any resistance at all, try another side of the outlet box or try a different outlet against the same wall. If the result is the same, your wall may not be properly insulated.
If your home doesn’t have a full basement, you may have a crawlspace. Vents located on the outside of the home are indicators that your home may be entirely or partially over a crawlspace and could benefit from floor insulation.
- To see how much insulation is in the floors above the unconditioned crawlspace area, locate your crawlspace access hatch.
- If your home has no basement: Access hatches are commonly located on the floor of one of your home’s closets. If you’re unable to locate a hatch inside, there may be an access point outside.
- If your home has a partial or half basement: Access hatches are commonly located eye level against a basement wall. If you’re unable to locate a hatch against a basement wall, check the floor of one of your home’s closets or outside.
- With proper eye protection, gloves and a flashlight, open your home’s crawlspace and observe the level of the insulation on the floor joists and rim joists. If insulation is not present or has fallen off from the space above, or foam board insulation is not surrounding the parameter rim joists, your crawlspace may not be properly insulated. (Foam board is pressed against the wood for insulation. If there is no form board or missing boards, it can increase drafts into the crawlspace.)
- Finally, check your crawlspace vapor barrier, which is the black or clear plastic sheeting on the ground. If in good condition, it will reduce moisture damage caused by exposed soil. If you can see sections of exposed soil in your crawlspace due to an improperly installed or absent vapor barrier, consider laying down new crawlspace sheeting.
The assessment will ask for some basic details about your water heating system. You can determine the age of your water heater by checking the installation date, typically located on a manufacturer label on the side of your water heater. If the label is unavailable, try checking the serial number of the unit. Typically, you can check the age by searching online for the serial number in conjunction with the unit manufacturer. Unsure what kind of water heater you have? Here are the most common types:
- Storage tank water heater—A large cylindrical tank typically located in a home’s basement, attic, crawlspace, utility closet, laundry room or garage. An electric storage water heater will have a black or grey electrical supply cord running from the top or side of the tank to provide power. A natural gas water heater will have a metal or PVC vent pipe running from the top of the tank to vent exhaust outside of your home.
- Electric heat pump water heater (also known as hybrid water heater)—A large cylindrical tank typically located in a home’s basement, utility closet, laundry room or garage. An electric heat pump/hybrid water heater will have a digital display panel and blower on top of the unit.
- Tankless water heater—A wall-mounted rectangular unit typically located in a home’s garage or utility closet. A natural gas tankless/on-demand water heater will have white PVC pipe coming from the top of the unit to vent exhaust outside of your home. An electric tankless/on-demand water heater will have black or grey electrical supply cord running to the top or side to provide the unit with power.
Our assessment will also look at your heating system. The most common system types are listed below. If you feel your home’s heating system doesn’t fall into one of the categories below or uses an alternative fuel such as solar power, geothermal, propane or heating oil, check the US Department of Energy’s home heating infographic for additional guidance.
- Forced air furnace—A large indoor unit typically located in a home’s basement, utility closet, laundry room or garage. A forced air natural gas furnace will have a continuously burning blue flame inside that you can see (and typically hear) when standing in front of the unit.
- Ducted heat pump—A large indoor air handler unit that distributes warm or cool air through your home’s ductwork and is connected to an outdoor compressor unit on the ground outside the home.
- Ductless heat pump—Indoor wall-mounted unit (or multiple units) that are connected to a cubical compressor unit outside the home.
- Electric zonal heat—Common types of electric zonal heat are cadet, baseboard, radiant and space heaters.
Start your assessment
Our online home assessment covers all the above and so much more. Reach your home’s full energy-saving potential by taking our online home assessment today.