Home energy audit delivers tips to keep your place cooler and save on your bills

SEATTLE -- On these hot summer days if you're looking to cool off your house without breaking the budget, many utilities offer home energy audits that help lower your bills and give you some ideas for how to keep the house cool when summer sizzles.

We challenged Meteorologist Tim Joyce to use him as a guinea pig for an energy audit. He's been covering conservation and environmental issues for years,  but can his place pass the test from energy efficiency experts?

"PSE offers a service for free," says Cole Boulanger. "We come into your house and give you some energy-saving tips. Give some effective solutions to not only save on your bill but make you feel more comfortable in your home."

The energy specialist with Puget Sound Energy goes straight to the top, to the attic area.

"Your attic is really well insulated," says Boulanger. "You have 22 inches of loose-form fiberglass. That's going to be great for the summer months to help keep your home nice and cool."

Next, he heads down to the basement, where the water heater and furnace are both pretty new and therefore pretty energy-efficient, too. They're the same age as when the home was built in 2011. The cooler you set your water heater, the more money you can save.

"Make sure your temperatures is set down to 120," Boulanger says of the water heater.

Changing furnace air filters every few months is important for making the furnace run as effciently as possible. But, it's not as crucial for summer operation, especially in a place like this one without air conditioning. For houses with AC, a programmable thermostat is good -- but a 'smart thermostat' can save you about 10-15 percent on your heating and cooling bills.

"They can automatically adjust temperature for you," says Boulanger.

There's lots of other things done around the house to keep things cool on hot summer days. Windows are closed and shades are drawn before work. Keeping out the hot sun is key.

"In the summer months, anything you can do to keep out any extra heat coming in through the windows can help the home feel a lot more comfortable," says Boulanger.

And other things inside the home can create heat, too. That's why lights are kept off. Cold water only for the washing machine. The dryer isn't used until late in the evening -- or not at all for some items that just air dry.

"Any moment when the dryer is not going, you’re using less electricity or gas."

The oven stays dark on days like this -- and avoid using the burners, too. Microwave or the grill outside are better for cooking on hot days. Rooms not being used are closed up.

While box fans don't reduce the air temperature, they move the air around, making it feel cooler. So, if you're not home there's not much need for them.

The dishwasher is another source of hidden heat. So, it doesn't get used until the whole house is opened up in the evening  to cool off. All of these free measure keep Tim's place about 10-15 degrees cooler than the outside.

"At night I think it's a really great idea to open the house all up and and get the fresh air in," says Boulanger. "And then when you get up and leave for work, close it all off. And try and keep it as cool for as long as you can."

Overall, Tim's place gets good marks.

"Your house is in really good shape," says Boulanger. "Heating, hot water and insulation are generally the three most important factors to look at."

Boulanger says Tim could add low-flow shower heads and more LED lights. And if he were a homeowner instead of a renter, he would something better than an air conditioner -- a heat pump.

"They make something called a ductless mini-split, which you could potentially get a rebate for, that can do heating and cooling and also clear your air at the same time."