Properly sealing cracks and openings in you home can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs throughout the year. You may already have identified obvious air leaks, but you will need to do a bit more investigation to find the less obvious gaps to properly seal your home.
Here are several tests that can be used to check for air leaks:
- Window Seal Check – Shut the window on a piece of paper. If paper can be pulled without tearing paper, than window should be resealed.
- Visual Gap Check – After daylight hours, shine a light through closed window and door seam and have a partner confirm if light is visible on other side.
- Hot/Cold Air Check – Use your hands to feel around door and window seal checking for cold or hot air coming in through a leak.
Common areas to check for leaks are between brick and wood siding, between foundation and walls, and between the chimney and siding. In addition, you should inspect around these areas for leaks and drafts:
- Door and window frames
- Mail chutes
- Electrical and gas service entrances
- Cable TV and phone lines
- Outdoor water faucets
- Where dryer vents pass through walls
- Bricks, siding, stucco, and foundation
- Air conditioners
- Vents and fans
Home Pressurization Test
If you are having difficulty locating leaks and drafts, you may want to conduct a basic building pressurization test:
- First, close all exterior doors, windows and fireplace flues.
- Turn off all combustion appliances such as gas burning furnaces and water heaters.
- Then turn on all exhaust fans (generally located in the kitchen and bathrooms) or use a large window fan to suck the air out of the rooms.
This test increases infiltration through cracks and leaks, making them easier to detect. You can use incense sticks or your damp hand to locate these leaks. If you use incense sticks, moving air will cause the smoke to drift, and if you use your damp hand, any drafts will feel cool to your hand.
Hot roofs absorb heat, causing air conditioner systems to work harder to cool during the warmer months of the year.
A cool roof uses material that is designed to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a standard roof. Cool roofs can be made of a highly reflective type of paint, a sheet covering, or highly reflective tiles or shingles. Cool Roofs can lower the temperature of your roof by up to 50 degrees, which will reduce cooling costs.
- Clean Refrigerator Coils – Coils can collect dust, making them less efficient for cooling. Be sure to clean coils two times per year to eliminate buildup and reduce energy use by up to 6%.
- Clean Ventilation – Air conditioning vents and dirty air filters should be cleaned and/or replaced regularly. Changing filters can reduce HVAC energy use and electricity costs from 5 to 15%.
- Inspect Vent Hoods – Check vent hoods for need of cleaning or filter replacements.
Energy Star certified ventilation fans can use 60% less energy than standard models.
Fix leaks. The most common fixture that leaks is the toilet flapper. Checking for leaks should be part of your overall maintenance plan and should be done on a regular basis. Perform a water audit. Take a look at your water meter when no one is likely to be using water. If the meter is moving, you have a leak.
Install water-saving devices. Can you transform your single flush toilets to dual flush with a kit? How about installing a Smart Faucet in every bathroom? The EPA has rolled a complete line of water saving fixtures under its WaterSense label, however, but these are merely minimums. Individuals should go beyond the minimum by installing 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) shower heads when the WaterSense minimum allows shower heads with flow rates of 2.5gpm. Rebates may also be available from your local utility to promote the installation of new high efficiency toilets that utilize 1.28 gallons per flush or better.
Upgrade to water saving appliances. Old dishwashers and top-loading washing machines are incredible inefficient, utilizing as much as 25 gallons per load of dishes and 35 gallons of water per load of laundry. New high-efficiency models utilize a fraction of the water. Dishwashers in the two gallon range are very effective and front-loading washing machines use about a third of the water of what top-loaders use and rebates may be available. The less water an appliance uses, the less electricity and natural gas that will be needed to heat that water.
Rethink landscaping. Plant what’s appropriate for your region and you will reduce water consumption, increase habitat for native species and raise the value of your property. Re-landscaping is a big expense, but you are paying to water and maintain plants every year, year and year out, when you could be pocketing the money you currently budget for water.
Caulking seems like a relatively easy thing to do, and in most cases it is. There are simple tips and tricks that can make a big difference between a easy, seamless, hassle-free caulking job and one that’s messy and full of frustration. Before you start your next caulking job, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Purchase a good-quality pro-style caulking gun ($10). Skip the cheap low-end guns that utilize a ratcheting plunger. Ratcheting guns don’t operate smoothly, making it hard to apply a clean, uniform bead.
- Use blue painter’s tape to protect your windows and the other side of the joint you are trying to fill. Leave a gap between the tape about 3/8ths of an inch wide.
- Find a utility knife as when you cut off the top of the caulk tube, you do not want an uneven or straight cut. Make the cut at a 45 degree angle.
- When you apply the caulk you will hold the caulk gun at approximately 45 degree angle.
- Bend a piece of cardboard and practice on the seam before you attack your first seam. You could start in a less visible area where any mistakes will be less noticeable.
- After you apply the caulk, use a plastic spoon to smooth the seam so that it is more or less flush.
- Keep the tip of your caulking tube clean and free of dried caulk.
- Make sure you pull the tape off before the caulk dries to leave clean seam.
Proper caulking and sealing will lead to an increase in energy efficiency of a home’s heating and cooling systems. Caulking can also substantially extend the life of windows and doors.
First come the New Year, and then comes the resolutions. With eco awareness on the rise, it’s not surprising that many New Year’s resolutions are to live a cleaner and more sustainable life. While green living may be the new buzz word, to start doing it may take some definition and direction. Here are a few ideas that may help you move toward a more green 2014:
1. Practice the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
2. Buy organics: Shop your local farmer’s market for organic fruits and veggies and look for natural personal care and clothing made from natural fibers.
3. Bring your own reusable bags when you go shopping.
4. Composting as much as possible. Collect your table scraps and lawn clippings in a yard composter to make free fertilizer! Use it on your plants, gardens, tree pits, anywhere!
5. Recycling: recycle everything! Paper, materials, home items, and more!
6. Energy efficiency: purchase energy star certified appliances. Buy and use renewable or wind energy and monitor your use of energy.
7. Water: Reduce you water usage with xeriscaping and using sprinkler systems in the yard. Use shower timers and other water conservation tools to reduce your daily water usage.
8. Indoor air quality: use chemical free cleaners, live plants, sustainable fabrics and paint in your home. Your indoor air quality will improve and you’ll support sustainable businesses producing green products.
9. Wash your clothes in cold water. You will reduce your energy consumption by reducing the amount of heated water needs. Also, instead of using the dryer, try to hang your clothes outside or indoors on a folding rack .
10. Play outside. Have fun and keep fit by appreciating all that nature has to offer: parks, trails, gardens, etc.
11. Green your travel. Try a eco trip this year for your vacation.
12. Get an Energy Audit: Find an energy audit company in your area to analyze the energy efficiency of your home. An audit can potentially save you thousands of dollars by making a few changes.
Have a Happy (Green) New Year!!!
Water heating currently represents up to 20 percent of US residential energy consumption, making it the third largest energy consumer in homes, behind heating and cooling and kitchen appliances.
Maintaining your water heater will not only save energy, but also will extend the life of the water heater. Here are a few tips to maintain your water heater and save up to 200 lbs. of CO2 per year:
- Drain water heater annually. Sediment collects at the bottom of the tank, which leads the hot water heater to perform inefficiently and lead to higher energy costs. By draining the water heater once per year, you will eliminate the build up inside the water heater and keep the water heater working efficiently.
- During the annual draining process, Inspect the water heater for damage and assess system performance. Check for leaks and any strange noises, may be a sign that it is time to replace your water heater.
- Set water heater temperature. Manufacturers typically preset new hot water heaters at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends homeowners set the heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) to save money and energy. For each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%-5% in energy costs.
- Insulate water heater. Heat loss from the tank and pipes causes decreased energy efficiency in a conventional hot water heater. You can save money by purchasing a water heater blanket from your local hardware store.