How to Warm Your Home Without a Heater

December 22, 2014 Air SealingCFLsenergy auditenergy auditsenergy efficiencyHeating & Coolingheating and coolingWindows & Doors

Now that we’re in the middle of winter, don’t panic if your heater breaks down! Believe it or not, there are a number of ways to warm your home without using a heater.

Fireplace
A fireplace is a great way of heating your home without using your furnace or heater. In fact, many people maximize their use of fireplaces during the colder months while minimizing the use of heaters and furnaces. This saves energy and money while providing effective heating.

Properly Seal Windows and Doors
Leaky windows and doors let cold air in and warm air out. Therefore, it’s important to properly air seal your home. The easiest way to detect drafts is by hand – you can feel for cool spots around door and window openings. Or better still, get an energy audit to find out exactly where the leaks are occurring and how to best seal them.

Maximize Nature’s Warmth
Strategic use of sun, and placement of trees and shrubs can go a long way in keeping your home warm when it’s cold outside.

  • Place a row of evergreen trees to shield your home from harsh winter winds.
  • Plant shrubs and bushes around the perimeter of your home, around one foot from walls to act as an insulator in winter.
    • Shrubs can help trap snow and reduce drifts when placed along the windiest side of your home.
  • Use dense windbreaks to protect your home from cold winter winds.
  • Ensure the winter sun reaches south-facing windows.
    • Try and make sure you get as much sun in the house as possible during daylight hours.
  • Close drapes in the evening to keep heat in.

Shut the Door!
The closed door can be a simple yet powerful tool to help keep your home warm. It stops air from leaving the room, thereby conserving heat and reducing heat loss.

Use More Rugs and Carpeting
Rugs and carpeting work as insulation to trap heat in rooms. Liberal use of area rugs and carpeting in larger rooms can help keep rooms warm without necessarily using a heating source.

Candles and Lighting
Traditional incandescent light bulbs might not be as energy efficient as their compact fluorescent counterparts (CFLs), but if you’re trying to warm your home without a heater, then turning on the lights does help. Incandescent light bulbs can generate quite a bit of heat; candles will also create light that emits heat, although not as much as light bulbs.

Cook More!
This is one of the most effective ways to warm your home! Your stove and oven generate lots of heat; take advantage of this to cook great meals, bake wonderful desserts and make your kitchen the warmest room in the house! A bonus is that with all the warmth and great food in the kitchen, family and friends will gather there and you’ll get to spend more quality time with them!

While these are great tips on how to warm your home without a heater, there’s nothing quite like an energy efficient heating system when it gets really cold! Contact your local certified RESNET Home Energy Professional to learn more about energy efficient heating options.

Don’t Let A High Energy Bill Haunt Your Halloween!

October 29, 2014 air leakageair leaksAir SealingCFL lightbulbsCFLsenergy auditenergy auditsenergy efficiencyenergy efficient lightingenergy saving tipssave energysolar lightingsolar power

It’s that time of year again when ghosts, ghouls and goblins emerge from their dark recesses to stalk the earth, but they can’t hold a candle to the fear that a sky-high energy bill inspires.

While it’s true that there are few things in this world (and also not of this world) that can send a cold shiver down your spine the way the dreaded energy bill does, there is action you can take that doesn’t involve eating raw garlic, wooden stakes or magic spells. This year, don’t let a high energy bill haunt your Halloween by following our tips below:

    1. Banish Cold Chills from Your Home
      • Stop cold air from infiltrating your home by air sealing it properly. The easiest way to look for leaks is to check doors and windows by hand. You’ll be able to feel the cold air seeping in through unsealed spots. Also, step outside and close the door behind you when handing out treats on All Hallows’ Eve. This will prevent heat from escaping and cold air from getting in.
    2. Keep Energy Vampires at Bay
      • Vampires really do exist! Energy vampires are electronics that continue to draw power when on standby mode. Some examples include: TVs, DVD players, gaming consoles, battery chargers and stereos. This usage costs the average American household $100 a year. Don’t let energy vampires get the better of you this Halloween – use a power strip or unplug devices when not using them.
    3. Engage the Power of Energy Efficient Light
      • Nothing fights darkness better than energy efficient light bulbs! One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to lower energy bills is by replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Most of the energy used by incandescent bulbs results in heat generation rather than light. CFLs use far less energy, emit less heat and generate the same amount of light.
    4. Reach for the Sun
      • Scare off any creatures of the night that may be lurking around your outdoor space by tapping into the awesome power of the sun’s energy. Outdoor solar lighting is easy to install, affordable and virtually maintenance-free. You can choose from a wide range of pathway lighting, wall-mounted lights, freestanding lampposts and security lights.
    5. Water – Your Secret Weapon
      • Efficient water use can prove to be deadly to both witches and water bills. Installing low-flow showerheads and faucets can help you achieve water savings of up to anywhere from 25-60%. Leaky faucets could be costing you more money than you realize, so make sure to fix them ASAP!
        • Hot water leaking at 1 drip per second adds up to 1,661 gallons of water wasted in a year.
        • 1,661 gallons of water works out to approximately $35 in wasted energy costs.

The best way to learn how to make your home energy efficient is through a home energy audit. Contact a certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor to find out more.

Why You Should Keep Your Home Air Filter Clean

October 17, 2014 changing air filterschanging dirty air filterdirty air filterHVAC air filterswhat's an air filterwhen should i change air filterwhy change air filters

Some people react to the subject of keeping home air filters clean with, “Air filters? What air filters? I didn’t buy any air filters!” But if your home is equipped with a heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) unit, then you have air filters. And these need to be cleaned regularly in order for your HVAC to function effectively.

The way an HVAC works is by drawing air from a room, pulling it over coils to heat or cool it, and then distributing the tempered air throughout the house via ducts. The air filter is located at the point where the air enters the HVAC. In addition to helping your HVAC run efficiently, other good reasons as to why you should keep the air filter clean are:

  • An air filter traps air-born particles that get sucked in with the air and keeps them from blocking the blower and clogging up the coils.
  • Filters also help to keep dust from building up in your ducts, or being blown into other rooms in your house.
  • Many filters remove microscopic particles like dust, pollen, pet dander, bacteria, plant and mold spores, and even smoke from the air in your home.
  • A clogged and dirty filter can drive up your heating and cooling bills by forcing your HVAC to work continuously, and therefore harder, to pull in air.

So, how do you know when it’s time to change your air filter? Make sure to check it on a monthly basis, and change it anywhere from one to three months. You’ll also be able to tell when a filter is dirty by the gray, ashy-looking material covering it.

A certified RESNET Home Energy Professional can help you learn more about HVAC maintenance and the importance of keeping home air filters clean.

5 DIY Tips for a Warm Home and Low Energy Costs in Winter

March 21, 2014 cut heating costsDIY tipsdo-it-yourself tipsheat home for lesshome heatinglow heating billswarm home

Having a warm home in winter and low energy bills isn’t as tough as it sounds. Here are 5 DIY tips that can help you do it.

1. Weather-strip windows and doors to stop cold air from leaking in.

Leaky doors and windows are a major source of cold air infiltration, leading to cold and drafty rooms.

2. Set your ceiling fan to rotate clockwise.

Warm air rises and by setting your fan to rotate clockwise slowly in winter, you can force that warm air down to help heat your room.

3. Add area rugs to your hardwood or tile floors.

Floors can be responsible for as much 10% of heat loss if not insulated. Area rugs are a perfect solution as they can prevent cold air from escaping up into your room.

4. Set a lower indoor temperature when you’re asleep or away.

A lower indoor temperature results in slower heat loss, leading to higher energy savings. Adjust your temperatures to suit your daily schedule; for example, you don’t want to waste money and energy heating an empty home.

5. Reposition your furniture.

Avoid placing furniture in front of large windows or against outside walls. The subsequent heat loss from your body to the glass will make you feel cold. Putting couches and sofas in front of radiators is also a bad idea, as they will absorb the heat, preventing the room from getting warm.

While these are quick easy fixes to immediate problems, there could be bigger issues with your home that need to be addressed if these are ongoing problems. An energy audit with a certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor can show you where the problem areas are and provide you with cost-effective solutions. Visit the RESNET Website to search for a certified RESNET Auditor in your area.

How to Efficiently Use Your Fireplace

February 21, 2014

Struggling to stay warm this winter? Maybe you’ve overlooked the pile of wood sitting in your fireplace in the living room. For many homeowners, making a fire is a cost-effective way to provide heat to your home so that you’re not in a constant battle with your thermostat. But you should know that an inefficient fireplace wastes heat, and wasted heat means energy inefficiency. So, if you have an old fireplace and you’re not ready to give it up, consider the following:

Tips for an Energy Efficient Fireplace

  • When your fireplace is not in use, ensure that the damper is closed tightly otherwise there will be significant heat loss. Also, check your damper occasionally to see that it is in working order by opening and closing it.
  • Install glass doors for your fireplace if you use it from time to time. These doors will ensure that the warm air from your home is not lost up the chimney, and that cold air from outside does not travel in.
  • Purchase a new fireplace insert if you light a fire regularly. An alternative to replacing the entire fireplace, a new and well-designed insert will keep the heat flowing through your home and not out the flue. An insert consists of fireplace doors (either glass or metal) along with an outside combustion air vent that uses outdoor air to preserve the fire.
  • Do you have a wood-burning fireplace? If so, you’ll leave less of a carbon footprint if you use waste wood or wood that has been sustainably harvested. Also, make sure that your pile is dry because wet wood yields more smoke than heat.
  • Not a big fan of lighting fires? If your fireplace is not in use, then shut the damper and fill the chimney with insulation. But before you do that, make sure to clean your chimney first.

5 Ways to Winterize Your Home Effectively

January 24, 2014 Home Effectivelyhome insulationKeep home warmoptimize your home for winter

Extreme winter weather can be as hard on your home as it is on your body! Icy winds, temperature fluctuations, build up of ice and snow; all of these take a toll on your home. The result is a downgrade in energy performance, leading to higher energy costs and an expensive home repair bill in the spring. Here are some steps you can take to optimize your home for winter, making it warm and comfortable while keeping those energy costs in check.

 

  1. Proper Insulation
    Proper insulation is key to maintaining a comfortable indoor home environment. One area where you should pay particular attention to is the attic. Regardless of where you live, a rule of thumb is that you need a minimum of 12 inches attic insulation.
  2. Energy Efficient Furnace
    As a homeowner, nearly half of your energy bill goes towards your HVAC costs. You can save significantly by investing in an energy efficient furnace. Look for one that has at least a 95% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) value. The AFUE is the percentage of fuel that is turned into heat – the higher the percentage, the more energy efficient the furnace. ENERGY STAR labeled furnaces require a minimum 95% AFUE.
  3. Siding
    Siding functions as your home’s barrier against the outside elements, which is why it’s important to choose the right type. If you live in a harsher climate, there are four options that would probably work best for you:

    • Brick: low maintenance, never needs painting, impervious to rot and insects, fireproof, very energy efficient, good barrier to noise.
    • Metal: dent resistant, can have similar appearance to wood, low maintenance.
    • Engineered wood: very weather resistant, insect resistant, easy to install.
    • Fiber cement: low maintenance, weather resistant, insect resistant, rarely needs repainting.
  4. Gutters
    Ice dams are common and damaging problems that effect many homes in colder climates. Caused by melting snow that refreezes in gutters and roof edges, ice dams can break gutters; peel paint from your home’s exterior and damage shingles. You can prevent ice dams from forming by cleaning out your gutters. Clearing out debris will help make sure that winter run-off doesn’t get clogged and refreeze when the temperature drops.
  5. Air Sealing
    Cold air leaking into your home is a major source of both discomfort and high energy costs. The way to address this problem is to air seal your home. According to ENERGY STAR, proper air sealing can save you up to 20% annually on your home heating and cooling costs. Hidden air leaks are often found in attics and crawlspaces, while windows and doors are common culprits in most homes. Installing storm windows will provide an extra barrier against the elements, and come in a variety of styles to suit each taste. Also to watch out for is ductwork; as much as 20% of the air moving through a home’s ducts can be lost due to duct leaks.

Is Your Home Warm Enough this Winter? – Infographic

January 24, 2014 energy efficiencyinfographicKeep home warm

Air leaks can lead to high energy bills, uncomfortable homes and an unhealthy indoor living environment. That’s why it’s so important to identify where those leaks are coming from as soon as possible, and seal them off.

Ways to keep home warm enough

What to Look for in an Energy Efficient Furnace

January 10, 2014 energy efficient furnaceenergy efficient furnacesHeating & Coolingheating and coolinghome energy efficiencylower energy billsprogrammable thermostatssave energy

When you consider that nearly 44% of a homeowner’s energy bill goes towards heating and cooling costs, it’s no surprise that more people are opting for energy efficient furnaces. But how do you know which is the right furnace for you?

  1. Size Does Matter!
    Many home furnaces are actually far too large for the spaces they need to heat. A high efficiency furnace should be sized 30-40% larger than the calculated heating home heating requirements.
  2. What Counts as Energy Efficient?
    Look for a furnace with at least 95% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The AFUE is the percentage of fuel turned into heat – the higher the percentage, the more energy efficient the furnace. Choose a furnace with an ENERGY STAR label; ENERGY STAR requires a minimum 95% AFUE.

  3. Two-stage or Multi-stage Burners Are Best
    Energy efficient furnaces are equipped with either two-stage or multi-stage burners that burn fuel at different rates. What this means is that in most weather, the furnace will utilize the more efficient low-fire settings to warm the home, and automatically switch to a high-fire setting in very cold weather when additional heating capacity is needed. Two-stage and multi-stage furnaces are 5% to 8% more energy efficient than single-stage burner furnaces, which run at full power all the time.
  4. Get a DC or ECM Fan Motor
    Many times the fan motor is overlooked when purchasing a furnace, but it shouldn’t be. An inefficient fan motor will use a lot of electricity, leading to inflated energy costs. For example, using an inefficient AC motor to power your furnace fan is like running an 800-watt light bulb while the furnace is on. By contrast, using a more efficient DC (direct current) or ECM (electronically commutated motor, which is a brushless DC motor) motor is equivalent to running a 200-watt light bulb instead. That’s a significant difference in the amount of energy used!

  5. What Role Does the Thermostat Play?
    To maximize efficiencies, get a programmable thermostat that can perform a temperature setback overnight or when the house is unoccupied. There’s no point in heating an empty home!

Signs of a Water Heater Problem

January 3, 2014 energy efficiencyenergy efficient homeenergy star appliancesHeating & Coolingsave energywater heater problemwater heater problems

There are few things worse than jumping into the shower on a cold winter morning and getting drenched with freezing cold water! Water heater problems are more common than you might think, and if you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing one or not, here are some signs.

  1. Temperature Fluctuation
    If your water isn’t hot or cold enough, then you’ve got a problem on your hands. Check the thermostat on your unit; it might need adjusting. The ideal hot water temperature is between 120 and 140 degrees.
  2. No Hot Water
    If you’re not getting any hot water at all, you could have a broken heating element or, if your unit is powered by natural gas, a broken gas thermocouple. These will need to be replaced to get your hot water flowing again.
  3. Noise Problems
    Banging, creaking, knocking or whining could all be signs of a build-up of sediment in your tank. Flushing the tank will correct the problem. However, another cause of noise could be the heating element burning out, in which case it’s time to replace it.
  4. Leakage
    If you notice water leaking from your hot water heater, or standing water around the unit, you need to call a professional straight away. Otherwise, it could result in flooding or significant water damage to your home.
  5. Strange Smelling or Tasting Water
    If your water has a metallic taste to it, or consistently smells funny, this could be a sign that your water heater is close to breaking down.

Keep in mind that most residential water heaters will last from 10 to 15 years at most, and after that you’ll probably have to replace it. Talk to a certified RESNET Energy Smart contractor who can advise you about energy efficient water heaters that save both money and energy.

5 Ways to Cut Heating Costs and Stay Warm This Winter

November 21, 2013 Heating & Coolingheating and coolinghome energyhome energy auditInsulationlower energy billsresnetsave energy

For many homeowners, winter weather brings with it the fear of not just a cold and uncomfortable home, but also soaring heating bills. However, there are ways to cut heating costs while keeping your home warm and comfortable at the same time.

1. Get a Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats can help you regulate your home’s temperature and control costs. Alternate by turning the heating down when you’re sleeping or away, and turning it up at other times. You could save anywhere from 10 – 20 percent of your electricity bill! Here are some recommended settings you can follow:

6 am to 9 am = 68 degrees
9 am to 5:30 pm = 60 degrees
5:30 pm to 11 pm = 68 degrees
11 pm to 6 am = 60 degrees

2. Make Sure Vents, Registers and Radiators Are Free of Obstacles
In many homes, furniture such as couches, chairs and beds are placed so that they block heat flow into a room. This results in cold rooms and high energy bills. Rearranging furniture to keep vents and radiators free can help solve this problem.

3. Get an Energy Audit
An energy audit identifies where and how your home is losing energy. A certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor will identify which systems in your home are working inefficiently (e.g. HVAC), and propose cost-effective solutions.

4. Use the Right Insulation in Your Home
It’s a little known fact, but according to the Department of Energy (DOE), only 20 per cent of homes built before 1980 are well insulated. The DOE also states that by adding insulation to areas such as attics, floors and crawl spaces, you could save up to 20 per cent on your heating and cooling costs by reducing air leaks.

5. Winterize Your Windows
Preparing your windows for winter weather will help cut heating costs and go a long way to keeping your home warm and comfortable. You can do this by:
• Adding weather stripping
• Installing storm windows
Replacing old windows with new, ENERGY STAR certified models