Something Big: Home Efficiency

If you’ve ever lived in an older home (pre-1950’s), you know what it feels like to be at the mercy of the seasons.  Very often these charming, drafty structures lack sufficient, or indeed any, insulation and as a result residents end up perpetually chilly in the winter and warmly uncomfortable in the summer. And energy bills for heating and cooling a 60+ year-old house? Not something you look forward to in the mail. However, there are many steps that you can take to make your home, no matter what its age, more energy efficient through sealing and insulating.

According to EPA estimates, homeowners can typically save up to 20% of heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% of total energy costs) by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces, and accessible basement rim joists.   In addition, adding insulation and weather-stripping can reduce outside noise, making your home quieter, as well as helping prevent air pollution like pollen and car exhaust from entering your home. Another reason to make your home more energy efficient is that you may be eligible for tax credits on your tax returns.  You can learn more about tax credit here: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index

Air Sealing

The cheapest way to better insulate your home is through air sealing. What’s that? It’s cutting off drafts from the outdoors from entering your house by sealing around windows, doors, plumbing connections, and any other areas where breezes from outside can be felt.  There are several methods that you can use.  For the outside of most window and door frames you can use a non-toxic caulk to seal up any gaps.  In doorways and window sashes there are many types of weather-stripping that can be installed.  For any larger holes, like around plumbing fixtures or vents, putting in plywood, drywall or rigid foam insulation is more appropriate – and aside from keeping cold or hot air out, plugging these types of holes will help keep rodents and other pests out of your house as well.

Here are a few simple videos showing different methods of air sealing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8cXoLV_seA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAPv9wdrNuo

Visit our Resources page here for more videos and information about air sealing your home.

Insulation

After you’ve air sealed your home, a next step is installation of insulation in your attic, walls and accessible floors.  Putting actual insulation in your home is a bit pricier but will make a big difference in keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Generally, you get the most bang for your buck by insulating attics in terms of energy cost saving and the amount of heat transfer from an uninsulated attic. Ask the folks at your building or home supply store about the most appropriate materials for your home.

This is a good resource for insulation installation: http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11350

Visit our Resources page here to read more about insulation.

ENERGY STAR Windows and Roofs

Another big fix to make your home more energy efficient is installing new, ENERGY STAR qualified windows and roofs.  ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to provide guidance and advice on products to increase energy efficiency in homes and businesses while saving money on energy costs. Most traditional single or double paned windows do little to nothing to provide a barrier to cold temperatures or the heat of the sun. Most ENERGY STAR qualified windows reduce the heat gain in the summer and provide a barrier to the cold in the winter more than typical windows do, without reducing the amount of light coming in.  You can read more about ENERGY STAR qualified products here.

As you can see, there are lots of different ways to make you home more energy efficient.  Some may take an hour and some may take weeks.  Remember to do your research for the best products for your home, budget and the climate where you live.  The resources below have tons of information and tips about retrofitting your home to be more energy efficient. For other ways to save energy, check out our blog about energy-efficient lightbulbs.

Resources:

The Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website, www.energysavers.gov

The Energy Star program website, www.energystar.gov

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