3 Energy Saving Tips to Revitalize an Old Home
In comparing energy efficiency, the difference between an existing home and a newly constructed one is that a new home is generally 30% more energy efficient. Considering a typical American household spends $115 a month on utilities, it’s easy to see just how great your savings could be.
However, not everyone is lucky enough to be in a situation where they can build their own brand new home, especially in this economy! Nevertheless, there are still things that you can do to your current home to make it more energy efficient, leading to significant financial savings plus a more comfortable living environment.
First, look for proper insulation
Only 20% of pre 1980 homes are insulated to the proper standard. Up to 1/3 of your heating could be escaping through the ceiling.
In the USA, your attic insulation should be between R-30 and R-60, depending on where you live.
Although the attic is a major contributor to heat loss, an older home could also be lacking insulation elsewhere. By investing time and money insulating walls, crawlspaces, floors and garages, you could save up to 50% in energy costs!
How old is your air conditioner?
What equipment and appliances could be changed to ENERGY STAR versions? ENERGY STAR rated products save between 20% and 30% on average.
For many, the air conditioner will have the greatest effect when making an energy comparison. This is especially true in hotter climates. In Florida, 40% of utility bills are taken up by the HVAC system – mostly for cooling.
In most cases, a new air conditioner will be 30% more energy efficient, and by upgrading your air conditioner from a SEER 9 to a SEER 13, you could save up to $300 annually.
A general contractor can help you, where the builders haven’t
A new home doesn’t just perform better because of energy efficient components. Older homes simply weren’t built with energy efficiency high on the agenda.
This is where a RESNET Qualified EnergySmart Contractor can help – consider hiring one. As an experienced Home Energy Professional trained in energy efficiency, they can show you where you’re losing energy and provide cost effective solutions.
Take your ductwork for example. Older ducts were often not properly sealed or insulated, resulting in many older homes having up to and even over 40% duct leakage. Imagine, 40% of your money could be spent heating the Christmas tree in the attic!
But it’s not surprising that ducts aren’t checked for such leaks very often. After all, nobody enjoys working in the filthy old crawl space do they?
Talk to a RESNET Qualified EnergySmart Contractor about cleaning, sealing and insulating your ductwork, while making sure all the connections with the registers are tight.
5 Secrets to an Energy Efficient Home
What are the secrets to an energy efficient home? We’re glad you asked! There are a few things you can do to transform your home from a standard dwelling into an amazing, money-and-energy-saving abode of awesomeness!
1. Insulate Properly
Insulation is key to keeping a home comfortable and energy costs low. Tips to effectively insulation your home include:
- Locate problem areas: Many homes have little or no insulation in areas like attic spaces.
- Check the ‘R’ value: An R-value specifies your insulation’s resistance to heat flow – the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness. Your certified RESNET Home Energy Professional can recommend the right R-value for your home.
- Select the right type of insulation: There are several types of insulation – each with properties and applications suitable for different areas of a home. Your certified RESNET Home Energy Professional can recommend which insulation works best for your home.
- Seal windows and doors: This is the easiest way to begin insulating your home. Many homes have doors and windows that don’t have a proper seal.
- Seal vents and ducts: According to ENERGY STAR, around 20% of heat moving through the vent and duct system of a typical home is lost due to leaks and poorly sealed connections.
2. Energy Efficient Lighting
Lighting accounts for nearly 25% of your energy bill, so it makes sense to switch to energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Making the switch can save an average of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour or $45 over the course of the light bulb’s life. CFLs generate the same amount of light as traditional incandescent bulbs but last longer and use around 8% less energy.
3. Heating and Air
Heating and air is easily the largest home energy expense, accounting for nearly 56% of the household budget. An energy efficient HVAC can significantly reduce this cost, as well as reduce carbon pollution and greenhouse gases.
Old and inefficient appliances can be responsible for a lot of energy wastage in your home. Replace them energy efficient ENERGY STAR qualified ones.
ENERGY STAR qualified appliances offer the following advantages:
- Refrigerators: 20% more efficient than the federal minimum energy efficiency standard.
- Dishwashers: 10% more energy efficient than conventional units.
- Washing machines: use over 50% less water and 30% less energy than standard washing machines.
5. Energy Efficient Windows
Significant energy loss can take place through leaky windows. The most effective to solve this problem is by replacing them with new, energy efficient ones. A couple of points to consider are:
- Look for windows that are double-glazed and use low e-technology. Low e-technology involves coating the window to filter the sun’s heat and reduce airflow.
- Make sure your windows are ENERGY STAR qualified. Windows carrying the ENERGY STAR logo are proven to be energy efficient and can lower your energy bills anywhere from 7% to 15%.
If you can’t afford to replace your windows, then weather-stripping them can yield immediate benefits. In addition to financial benefits, your home’s comfort level will increase dramatically as well.
For best results, talk to a certified RESNET Home Energy Professional before making any changes to your home. They can advise you how to achieve maximum results in the most cost-effective way possible.
Air Sealing For Maximum Efficiency
The constant battle with the elements is a major source of expense when it comes to maintaining a comfortable environment in your home. All winter long, you expend energy in trying to keep the house warm and then, in summer, spend more energy trying to cool things down. As a result, your energy costs go through the roof!
So, if you want to lower your heating and cooling expenses, and make your home more comfortable, start by locating from where in your home air is leaking out through cracks, holes, and improperly sealed joints.
According to ENERGY STAR, properly air sealing your home could save you up to 20 percent of your home heating and cooling costs annually.
The easiest way to find leaks in the structure of your home is to check doors and windows by hand. You will be able to feel the exchange of air or cool spots around the openings.
Finding leaks in other places will be a little more difficult but well worth the effort. Attics and crawlspaces are notorious for having hidden leaks that you may not know about. You may get a little dirty as you slither through a crawl space, but the savings will pay off when you find and seal those openings.
Sealing the leaks:
Now that you’ve located the openings that are allowing air to escape, you’ve got to take measures to plug those holes. There are several ways to do this:
- Install ENERGY STAR certified windows and doors to stop drafts around these areas.
- For cracks and holes in the structure, adding caulking, spray insulating foam, or weather stripping to stop the exchange of air with the outside.
- For larger problem areas, adding insulation to attics and walls can do the trick.
One area of heat loss that is often overlooked is the ductwork used in homes with forced air heating and cooling systems. As much as 20 percent of the air that moves through these systems is lost due to poorly or improperly sealed ducts and vents.
Contact your local RESNET Qualified Energy Smart contractor who will use specialized equipment to determine where the air leaks are and how they can best be sealed to start you on your way to enjoying lower energy bills and greater home comfort this year.
10 Signs of Foundation Problems
Though it might not be the first area that springs to mind when talking about saving energy, a house’s foundation actually has quite a significant part to play when it comes to identifying energy inefficiencies. For example, the area where the top of the foundation wall meets the wood framing surrounding doors and windows is a very common area forair leakage. In order to save energy and improve your home’s comfort, every effort should be made to identify foundation problems, and to seal any air leaks or repair any damage that might be there.
Top 10 signs of foundation problems:
- Uneven or sloping floors
- Cracks in exterior or interior brick
- Displaced or cracked moldings
- Wall rotation
- Cracks in walls or bowing of walls
- Cracks in floor, tiles, or foundation
- Doors and windows won’t open or close properly
- Separation of doors, windows, and garage doors
- Spaces between wall and ceiling, or floor
- Walls separating from house
If you spot cracks in your foundation, there’s no need to panic; what’s important is the nature of the cracks, because all foundations have few. Hairline cracks, for example, are nothing to worry about; these are probably due to concrete shrinkage. Small cracks (1/16 inch wide) can be easily addressed by painting over with waterproof concrete paint – just make sure you check to make sure the paint hasn’t cracked.
However, stair step cracks in masonry joints, a bulging wall or a crack bigger than ¼ inch are more problematic and may indicate moisture problems. In this case, you’ll need to talk to a RESNET Certified Contractor or Builder who can advise you on what needs to be done. The most serious types of cracks are horizontal ones, which could mean that water-saturated soil from outside has frozen, expanded and broken into the foundation. A worst-case scenario could mean having to get a new foundation. Once again, a RESNET Certified Contractor or Builder would be the best person to advise you on your options.
If you’ve identified any foundation problems or have concerns about your home’s foundation, contact a RESNET Energy Smart Contractor or Builder today.
Why HERS Rated Homes Are Better
Vast Majority of U.S. Homes Are Under Insulated
It’s hard to believe but 90% of existing American homes are under insulated. That means 90% of existing American homes are wasting money, energy and are not providing their owners with optimal comfort. In addition to this, they are also having a negative impact on the environment.
The numbers are derived from the 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Survey, which used methods developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to estimate insulation levels. Researchers at Boston University had already applied these methods as part of a study into potential energy savings and emissions reductions through increased insulation levels in family homes.
According to Dr. Jonathan Levy, Professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health and the lead researcher on the Boston University team that conducted the study, “If all U.S. homes were fitted with insulation based on the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), residential electricity use nationwide would drop by about 5 percent and natural gas use by more than 10 percent.” The study showed that by increasing insulation in U.S. homes across the country, not only did energy usage decrease but there was also a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions as well as other pollutants.
When addressing home comfort issues, most homeowners think of windows and doors first, and about sealing air leaks around those areas because they are the most visible indicators of home energy efficiency problems. What they don’t realize is that insulation has a much greater impact (up to three times as much) on the average home’s energy and comfort than windows or doors. Assessing a home’s insulation takes only a few minutes, and the resulting improvements can produce a significant increase to home comfort, as well as substantial reductions to home energy bills.
To learn more about how you can improve your home insulation, contact a certified RESNET Home Energy Professional.
Big Love for Big Energy Efficient Homes
Americans love big. Big cars, big houses… big is good… until all of a sudden it’s not. A combination of skyrocketing oil and energy prices, along with a downturn in the economy suddenly made the average American consumer think about downsizing everything from cars to homes. And so homes got smaller, about 5% smaller from 2007 to 2010, and less became more.
Until the economy improved. Now big homes are back but with one major difference: they’re more energy efficient than ever before. How can this be, you ask. How can larger homes not be bad for owners’ energy bills, and not be bad for the environment? After all, don’t they need more energy to run? And don’t they generate more greenhouse gases? The short answer is no. Thanks to new energy-saving measures, efficiency gains of more than 70% are now offsetting the rise in energy usage that would normally result from the increasing size of American homes. And, when you take energy intensity (energy used per square foot) into account, the numbers are even more impressive: energy intensity in 2009 was 37% lower than in 1980. That means a significant overall reduction in the use of coal, natural gas and nuclear fuel.
So how is it that newer, bigger houses consume less energy than smaller older ones? It starts with technology – more energy efficient technologies to be specific. This includes ENERGY STAR qualified appliances and electronics, energy efficient lighting and improved energy-saving HVAC systems. Factor into that better insulation, and improved home thermal enclosures and voila! All of a sudden, you’ve got a larger home that’s more energy efficient than a smaller, older dwelling.
The benefits of living in an energy efficient home are manifold. They cost less to run, which means lower utility bills; they are more comfortable to live in and therefore healthier; and energy efficient homes generally command higher resale values.
To learn how energy efficient your home is, contact a certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor for an energy audit. Energy audits show you where and how your home is losing energy (and money), and auditors can provide cost-effective solutions to these problems.
Invest In Sustainable Furniture for Your Energy Efficient Home
As you go about making your home more energy efficient by air sealing it, improving the insulation and replacing old appliances with new energy-saving ENERGY STAR qualified ones, the question begs to be asked: have you also invested in sustainable furniture?
What is sustainable furniture, you ask? Well, as Americans become increasingly knowledgeable about the value of home energy efficiency, they are now also thinking about the quality of their home environment. And that includes furniture too, because depending on what it’s made out of your furniture can affect your home’s indoor air quality.
A lot of furniture is made using artificial wood and other materials that release various toxins into the air. The chief culprit is formaldehyde, which is the most common toxin found in artificial wood furniture, and big contributor to poor indoor air quality. The formaldehyde comes from the amount of glue used in making the furniture – the more glue in the wood, the more formaldehyde.
Sustainable furniture, on the other hand, is made from nontoxic, renewable resources, including recycled materials. These products can be disassembled and recycled when no longer needed. The idea behind sustainable furniture design is to make it so that the materials and products are always recycled after use, thereby avoiding disposal in landfills. This is in addition to the fact that they also help contribute to a healthier indoor environment.
Sustainable furniture is relatively easy to source, with any number of designers and stores offering various styles and models. It’s important to remember, though, that it is only a component of an energy efficient home. To understand how to design and build an energy efficient home, contact a RESNET EnergySmart builder in your area. Alternatively, if you’re looking for ways to make an existing home more energy efficient, talk to a certified RESNET Home Energy Professional.
Shedding Some Light on Energy Efficient Lighting
There was a time when no one knew or cared very much about energy efficient lighting, but that’s now a thing of the past. All across America, households are switching out their traditional incandescent light bulbs for newer, more energy efficient alternatives that deliver the same amount of light at a fraction of the cost. So what are these energy efficient alternatives exactly?
1. Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL)
Compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs offer significant savings because they use around 75% less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs, and last up to 10 times longer. A CFL can normally pay for itself through generated energy savings in less than 9 months; after that, it’s continuing to save you money. CFLS are available in the same brightness and colors as traditional incandescents, and because they contain a very small amount of mercury, should be recycled at the end of their life.
2. Energy-saving Incandescent Lighting (Halogen)
Halogen light bulbs are also known as tungsten halogen or quartz halogens. They are energy efficient versions of incandescent bulbs and can last up to three times longer than them. Other advantages include:
- Classically warm, brilliant accented light
- Luminous efficiency up to 25 Lumen per Watt
- Pleasant colour temperatures similar to incandescent lamps
- 100% dimming capacity
- Constant intensity throughout the entire service life
- Full brightness immediately after switch-on
- Various variations: from small spotlights to large ceiling lights
3. Light-emitting Diode Lamps (LED)
LEDs are becoming more and more popular in American homes. They use 20-25% less energy compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, and last up to 25 times longer. They even use less energy than CFLs and maintain output light intensity well over the period of their lifespans. LEDs come in a range of colors and some modes are dimmable.
Nearly 5% of a typical household’s energy budget goes towards lighting. Therefore, switching to energy efficient lighting can translate into significant savings. In fact, you could save $75 a year by simply replacing the incandescent bulbs in five of your home’s most frequently used lights with ENERGY STAR qualified energy efficient light bulbs. To learn more about energy efficient lighting, and making your home more energy efficient in general, contact your local certified RESNET Home Energy Professional.
Make Your Home More Energy Efficient – Infographic
Energy efficient homes save their owners money and energy, while improving indoor home comfort. See how you can make your home more energy efficient with this infographic!