Date Published: March 8, 2017
Ten Steps to Home Energy Efficiency
Saving energy, improving comfort, and reducing energy bills are all things any homeowner should want to do. Home Energy Efficiency improvements shouldn’t be hard. There are steps you can take to improve the systems and features of your home that will incrementally result in energy efficiency gains. At Scott Home Inspection, we know homes and we know what steps you can take to meet your home energy efficiency goals. Evaluate your home using the following 10 step outline, or ask us for help and we can come in and help you identify the top priority improvement items.
Unless your home was built in the last few years and was built to today’s building codes, it likely could benefit from adding insulation in certain areas. The number one place to look is in the attic. We lose a lot of heat through the ‘lid’ of the home if not insulated well enough. In Colorado, the recommended level of insulation is R-49 or more. If you have fiberglass or cellulose insulation present, that is in the range of 16-18″ of insulation. If you have an older home, say built prior to the 70s, the wall insulation may be insufficient. You can look past the edge of an electrical outlet with the cover removed (be careful!) to see if insulation is present. There are processes today to ‘drill-and-fill’ insulation in the walls of the home. The same can be done for the ceiling of a garage where rooms are located over the garage. Lastly check your basement or crawlspace for proper insulation. In the same way we lose heat out the lid, we bring in the cold in our basement and crawlspace. If the perimeter surrounding these areas is not insulated, consider having more added. Insulation is the blanket or jacket of your home – if not enough is present, your house will be cold. Work with an insulating contractor to add insulation where needed.
Seal Air Leaks
Think of your house as a balloon; in winter we blow warm air into our ‘balloon’ and our hope is that the warm air stays inside and the cold stays outside. Leaks in your balloon, or your thermal-envelope as we like to say in the energy industry, causes the loss of that nice warm air to outside. You can have a really well insulated house, but if you have unwanted leaks throughout the home, you will still be losing heat in winter, and allowing outside hot air into the home in summer. The trick is to find and plug the leaks. Energy efficiency specialists can come out to your home and perform a test for air leakage. Testing is done using a device called a ‘blower-door’ which, like it sounds, blows some air out the door of your home in a controlled way, then forces air in through leaks. This controlled process allows an auditor to then use an infra-red camera to go around the home and find those nasty leaks. Once you have defined the leakage paths present, you can work to seal them up, caulk them, etc to eliminate unwanted heat loss or heat gain.
Upgrade Windows and Doors
Ok, so you have insulated your home where possible and you’ve sealed up unwanted leaks. The next piece of your ‘thermal-envelope’ you want to evaluate is the adequacy of your windows and doors. If your home is older and the windows have never been upgraded, they may represent a significant portion of your energy loss. Old doors that don’t seal well or are not insulated can also be a problem. While even the best window to the outside is an inherent weakness in the insulated layer of the home, you can replace old windows with new super energy-efficient models. We don’t recommend replacing windows without first addressing insulation and leakage, since those items represent substantially better efficiency gains. But once completed, take a close look at your windows. If they are double pane and somewhat newer, you may be able to avoid full window replacement by making sure they close and seal well, repair any non-working latches, and then install energy efficient shades or blinds. But if you have older single pane units – definitely time to think about an upgrade.
Heating and Cooling Equipment Upgrade
Addressing thermal-envelope issues is definitely top priority, but once completed it may be time to look at your heating and cooling equipment efficiency. If you are considering an upgrade, or if you are faced with replacing equipment due to a breakdown, take a little time to research and understand your options. Today you can purchase very high-efficient equipment that doesn’t cost that much more, but will consume a considerable amount less energy. There are forced air furnaces you can purchase that are 92-98% efficient today! That means for the energy used, nearly all of it is converted to heat for the home versus lost out the flue-pipe. Who wouldn’t want that! You may also be able to purchase a smaller sized unit since you have insulated, air-sealed and improved your window performance in the meantime!