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Air Sealing

An important part of reducing energy costs in the home is sealing air leaks. When heated or cooled air escapes from your home it has to be replaced by air from the outside. Unconditioned air from the outside has to be conditioned for your home to remain comfortable. If you can keep the conditioned air inside the home longer it will save energy dollars by not having to condition new air. It would be very difficult to stop all the air leakage in your home nor would your want to. For maintaining air quality it is recommended that natural air changes per hour not be less than .35, In other words a little over one-third of the entire volume of air should be replaced with fresh air every hour.

Example of Attic Air Sealing

When air sealing you should begin with the largest leaks first. Begin by sealing air leakage into the attic, Attic Hatch or accesses need to be weather stripped and insulated. Most times tradesmen cut or drill holes in framing and do not seal around the object,any plumbing and wiring  penetrations should be sealed.Caulking or expanding foam can be enough to seal most of these areas, backer rod can be used to fill larger cracks before caulking. Another problem area in attic are kitchen and bathroom soffits; this is an area where the soffit is framed, then sheetrock is installed around the soffit instead of to the ceiling joists leaving the soffit and often the wall open to the attic. These can be sealed by covering the opening with a fire rated foam board, plywood or sheetrock, then caulking or foaming the edges. Look for dirty spots in the insulation they often indicate holes where air is leaking from inside the house. If you have an attic or whole house fan sealing the shutters will make a big difference. Recessed light fixtures can be another air leakage area,be careful with these, some are not rated to be covered with insulation or sealed. You can use a high temperature silicone sealant where the housing of the light meets the ceiling, then you can build a drywall air seal or box around it leaving clearance around the fixture for ventilation. If you are using  Cfls ( Compact Fluorescent Lamps ). in these fixtures heat won’t be as much of an issue.

Problem air leakage sites

Duct boots and registers; if in the ceiling or floor can be caulked or foamed at the joint between boot and ceiling or floor.

Bathtubs and showers are another area that needs to be addressed, seal from underneath with expanding foam. The same applies to drain and water line penetrations in kitchens and baths.

Joints in in the foundation, sill plate, plumbing and air conditioner penetrations through foundation walls can usually be sealed with caulk or foam.

After sealing the largest leaks move on to the smaller ones such as doors and windows. If the weatherstripping is bad or not making a good seal it should be replaced.  A lit incense stick can be helpful finding minor air leaks by holding it next to a crack, the smoke can tell you if there is air leaking into or out of the structure. Small Leaks can usually be caulked, you can use a colored or clear caulk to make it less obvious on interior surfaces.

Sealing the larger leaks in your home can make a big difference in your utility bills, the smaller ones probably won’t, but sealing them will increase your comfort level and if there are a lot of them they are worth addressing.

Fireplaces

A wood fire in a fireplace is nice to look at but fireplaces are are one of the most inefficient heat sources you can possibly use. A roaring fire can exhaust between 20,000 to 25,000 cubic feet of air per hour, sending your energy dollars literally up the chimney. All this heat being exhausted from the home must  be replaced by cold air from outside. Even if you don’t use the fireplace to heat your home it can still be a big source of heat loss.

If you have a conventional fireplace you might want to consider putting in a fireplace insert. Electric inserts don’t require a vent so you can seal the flue so that the heat doesn’t escape. A gas insert requires a vent but it should be smaller than the fireplace chimney. There are ventless inserts and gas logs but I don’t recommend using any ventless gas appliance unless it is only used for backup heating. in case of a power failure.

If you don’t use your fireplace at all plug and seal the chimney flue. If used occasionally be sure the damper is tightly closed when not in use. Fireplace doors can help, installed properly doors can help reduce heat loss. Be sure the fireplace grate is in good condition before using as logs rolling out can be a big problem.

What it comes down to is if you have a fireplace be sure not to forget it when your planning energy savings in your home.

Ducts: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

One of the most important systems ion your home, though most likely unseen is the duct-work. Usually in the crawlspace, basement or attic. Uninsulated and/or leaky ducts can add hundreds of dollars to your heating and cooling bills. There are two parts to a typical duct system, the supply which brings treated air into the living space through the registers and the return which takes inside air and returns it to the air handler to be retreated and redistributed throughout the house.

Ideally there would be a return duct in every room where there is a supply duct , that is usually not the case as that doubles the amount of duct work and is more expensive.  Most of the time there will be one or two larger ducts for the return located centrally in the home,

All ducts, supply and return, should be sealed as air tight as possible and insulated especially if it is in an unconditioned space. I recommend sealing all joints and cracks in in the duct-work with duct mastic and insulating with duct wrap insulation.  In my experience using a good foil tape on joints and covering that with mastic works pretty good. Regular duct tape has a tendency to to dry out and come off. Insulation should also be secured to the ducts with tie wire or plastic ties so that it stays where you put it.

Sealing and insulating duct-work can be a dirty, messy job it usually involves crawling around under the house or in the attic. You might want to have a professional do it, but if your a do -it- your self-er  it’s not complicated. It will just take some time and effort. It could save you money.

Programmable Thermostats

You can save as much as 10% on your energy bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10% to15% for eight hours per day. This can be done easily by turning the thermostat back while your sleeping and while the home is unoccupied. This can be done automatically by using a Programmable Thermostat. With one of these devices you can adjust the times you turn on the heating or air conditioning according to a pre-set schedule that you set. For instance in winter it can be set to lower the temperature after bedtime and then raise it up to a more comfortable level before you get up . In summer you can set it to do the opposite.

Programmable Thermostats, sometimes called set-back or smart thermostats, can be set to multi daily settings per day that can be manually overridden without affecting the rest of the daily settings. As a result your equipment will run less when it is not needed and you will save energy, money, and be greener.

Weatherization

Weatherization is merely the process of optimizing the energy use in your home. This usually begins with a complete energy audit. This should be done by a professional, someone with the training and equipment to conduct a though audit.

Energy Audits are conducted with emphasis placed on health and safety. All combustion appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, space heaters, and ovens are tested for production of carbon monoxide, combustion efficiency and proper draft. It is extremely important that combustion appliances work at optimum efficiency and produce a minimal amount of CO (carbon monoxide). CO is colorless, tasteless, odorless gas produced by the incomplete burning of fuel. In high concentrations it can kill in minutes. I recommend that all homes with combustion appliances install a good co detector

After the safety of equipment is determined a thorough inspection of the house is conducted, including floor plan elevations, orientation, number and size of windows and doors, insulation levels etc.. This information is then entered into a computer program that does calculations and recommends the most cost effective measures that can be done to the home.

The cost of an energy audit is subsidized many times by local utilities or electric co-ops. In any case if you live in an older home an energy audit can be very beneficial.

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Go Green by Saving Energy in Your Home

There are many things that you can do around your home to save on your energy bills, some are simple and low cost. Other measures may require a professional.

Formulate A Plan

  1. How much money do you spend on energy?
  2. Where are you losing the most energy?
  3. How long will an investment in efficiency pay for itself in savings?
  4. Can I do it myself or do I need to hire a Contractor ?
  5. What is your budget for making improvements ? Continue reading Go Green by Saving Energy in Your Home