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Reblog: A Cheapskate’s Good-Smelling Energy Audit

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.

Photo by John-Pa from Flickr Creative Commons.


About Jeff Yeager

Jeff Yeager is AARP's resident Savings Expert and host of the AARP Savings Challenge. He spent 24 years managing national nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C., before launching his current career as a freelance writer, public speaker, and media personality in 2004. Jeff is the author of, "Don't Throw That Away!", "The Cheapskate Next Door" and "The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches." His website is, and you can connect with Jeff Yeager on Facebook and Twitter.

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