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.
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.
5 Ways to Winterize Your Home Effectively
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
Insulating Your Home for Winter
For those living in colder regions, the onset of autumnal weather is usually a sign that winter is coming, which means you can expect higher heating bills in the mail! However, you can reduce that monthly bill by ensuring your home is well insulated to keep the cold out and the warm air inside where it should be.
Insulating your home is not a big deal as far as home maintenance is concerned. In fact it is an easy solution to reducing your heating and cooling costs. The U.S Department of Energy states that on average, you will save up to 20 percent on your home’s heating and cooling costs by adding insulation to attics, floors, and crawl spaces by reducing unwanted air leaks.
Knowing where to add insulation requires a simple energy audit (also known as an energy assessment). This includes a visual check of your attic, exterior walls, crawl space, and any areas where there could be an exchange of air with the outdoors.
There are three main types of insulation used in most houses.
- Batt and roll: This insulation material is made of fiberglass, and is ideal for attics and to fill spaces between wall studs.
- Spray foam insulation: This is a great method of insulating oddly shaped areas or small openings. The foam expands when applied to create a tight seal. It is a very effective type of insulation but can be quite messy if a person lacks the experience of working with the tools needed to apply the foam.
- Loose fill: This type of insulation is used to fill areas with little or no traffic. It can be used in attics and crawl spaces as a filler between floor and ceiling joists.
While insulating your home is an effective way to reduce your energy bills, you should also take care when applying new insulation to ensure you have the correct ‘R’ value for your region. The ‘R’ value is a rating that determines the insulating material’s ability to reduce heat flow. A greater ‘R’ value means a product has an increased ability to reduce heat flow.
Some homeowners prefer to apply insulation themselves. The batt and roll type is the easiest method of application, while spray foam requires specialized tools and a knack for doing the job in the best way possible.
You can contact a certified RESNET professional to help you decide where your home needs additional insulation.
While you may be the home handy-man type and would like to try it yourself, many people will need the services of a professional contractor to ensure the job is done right.
Old House Insulation Tips
Many older homes retain a rustic charm, a unique design, or handcrafted woodwork that makes them a desirable place to live in. Unfortunately, living in an older home may also mean spending more on heating and cooling costs than is necessary. While many of these dwellings are very attractive from a style perspective, one area where they tend to be weak in is home insulation.
There’s no denying the importance of craftsmanship, and of course the overall attractiveness of a house is very important; after all, who buys a house that they don’t find appealing? However, if a home isn’t properly insulated – and unfortunately many older ones suffer from poor home insulation – the result is higher energy costs and an uncomfortable home.
When comes to older homes, there are several areas that can benefit from added or improved insulation.
Attics: Many older homes lack proper insulation in the attic. This is easily fixed using batt and roll or blown-in insulation.
Basements: Exterior basement walls and floor can benefit from the addition of home insulation. This includes sealing any cracks or openings in the foundation with foam insulation. This also applies to crawl spaces.
Exterior walls: If you are planning a home renovation, this is an excellent time to take a look at what type of insulation is behind the plaster or drywall on exterior walls. You can easily insulate these areas properly with either batt and roll or blown-in home insulation.
Windows: Sealing the area around windows with weather stripping or caulking is the first step to stopping unwanted airflow. Consider replacing windows that are old or outdated.
Doors: As with windows, make sure all exterior doors are properly sealed. Many older homes have doorframes that have warped or shifted over time. Consider a new, tightly sealed door and frame replacement.
Ducts and vents: A lot of warm air can be lost through old or improperly sealed vent and ductwork. Sealing the ductwork prevents air from being lost and needlessly replaced by your heating system.
While we have focused on much older homes, the same principles apply to homes constructed right up until the 1970’s as well. Many homes that are in the 30 year-old range can benefit from new or updated insulation.
Contact a certified RESNET insulation expert who can offer advice on how proper home insulation will reduce your energy consumption and make your older home a more comfortable place to live in.
Keep Your Home Warm and Energy Efficient
When you feel chilly you can put on a sweater, but when your home is chilly…that’s a really big sweater! How do you keep your home warm? The same way you keep a person warm.
Think of that big woolly sweater as proper insulation. No matter what part of the country you live in, having the right R-value of insulation is important. Insulation is the protective layer between your home and the elements. Every exterior wall of your home should be insulated. If you have a room over your garage or in your attic, those are two places very commonly overlooked for insulation.
They say the majority of your heat is lost through your head, so don’t forget your hat, or in your home’s case, your roof! Your roof doesn’t just keep rain off, it also keeps rising warm air inside your home from escaping. More heat stays inside, and your furnace doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.
You wouldn’t be warm if you wore a sweater full of holes, and your home can’t stay warm if there are tiny gaps around windows and doors letting warm air out and cold air in.
- Hold your hand around the edges of windows and doors to see if you have air leaks.
- Foggy, frosty windows are a sign that outside cold air is leaking in through tiny gaps around your windows.
- Add a rubber gasket behind light switches and electrical outlet cover plates on exterior walls to reduce or eliminate warm air loss.
A programmable thermostat can be your best ally in extreme winter cold. Simply program it to the temperature you want at the time you want it, and your thermostat will do all the work. Set your thermostat to your ideal temperature when you’re at home and awake, then set it back when you’re away or asleep.
- Override your settings when you have guests over—especially if you’re making a big dinner in your oven.
- Take turns hosting potluck dinners or games nights with friends for a great way to reduce the power usage at your home, even for a night.
There are lots of things you can do to pinpoint those sources of cold invading your home and to keep your home warm this winter. See our infographic for more helpful tips. Find a RESNET certified home energy rater in your area to have a professional help you keep your home warm!
BIBS Insulation (Blow In Blanket System)
BIBS must be installed by a licensed, certified, and trained professional. Working with a contractor who understands the correct density, proper materials, and has been property trained is critical to the success of this popular system.
BIBS insulation is installed using pure “blowing wool”, another name for specially engineered fiberglass only from manufacturers Johns Manville, CertainTeed, and Knauf Insulation. Fiberglass installed from any other source is not considered BIBS, for example cellulose is not considered BIBS.
BIBS insulation is also installed with a certain type of fabric, available only through Service Partners and their subsidiaries.
How do you know whether you’re getting the real thing or a knockoff system by an untrained worker? Check with BIBCA, the Blow In Blanket Contractors Association by visiting the contractor referral map or call the BIBCA office at 866-330-2427.
5 Tips on Insulating Your Home Effectively
When you were younger, did your mother ever tell you to close the door because “we aren’t paying to heat the outdoors”? Now that you’re a homeowner and the one paying the bills, it suddenly starts to make a lot more sense.
According to the US Department of Energy, almost half of a typical home’s utility bills are spent on heating and cooling.
The key to energy efficiency when heating or cooling a house is through the use of proper insulation on the ‘envelope’ of the home. Sealing your home against the unwanted exchange of air with the outdoors will provide you with optimum savings. A good start is to have a home energy assessment done by a RESNET certified professional.
A certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor will identify problem areas in your home and give you the best advice on cost effective methods of improving your overall energy efficiency.
Here are five tips on how to insulate your home effectively.
- Locate problem areas:
Many older homes have little or no insulation in areas such as an attic space. These open spaces allow warm air to escape and your furnace will have to work overtime to fill this void.
- 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 recommended ‘R value’ will depend on your climate and type of heating and cooling system.
- Select the right type of insulation:
There are several types of insulation – each with properties and applications suitable for different areas of a home. A RESNET Qualified Home Energy Professional can guide you in making the right choice for your needs.
- 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. By using weather stripping, you can stop the flow of air around these trouble areas. If you have an older home, a window or door replacement using ENERGY STAR rated materials will improve your home’s thermal seal.
- Seal vents and ducts:
According to ENERGY STAR, around 20 percent of heat moving through the vent and duct system of a typical home is lost due to leaks and poorly sealed connections. Sealing those leaks will prevent heated or cooled air from being wasted.
A certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor will provide you with an objective and technically proficient assessment of your home’s energy efficiency. They will also guide you on the best methods to correct areas where improvement is necessary in order to save you money on your monthly utility bills.
Why Air Sealing is Important
Having your home properly air sealed is critical to your energy conservation efforts and greatly impacts your utility bills. You can save up to 30% of your energy costs by air sealing multiple points of your home where energy losses occur. Additionally, air leaks are also a major cause of discomfort, moisture problems and even poor air quality.
Where Air Leakage Occurs
The US Department of Energy shows how much air leakage occurs in various locations of an average American home:
- Ceiling, Walls and Floors – 31%
- Ducts – 15%
- Fireplace – 14%
- Plumbing Penetrations – 13%
- Doors – 11%
- Windows – 10%
- Fans and Vents – 4%
- Electrical Outlets – 2%
These figures provide you with the most important areas to target for air sealing. However, a home energy assessment will pinpoint the exact locations of air loss and assess your entire home’s energy consumption and waste, and recommend ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Exterior of Your Home
The exterior of your home is often referred to as the “envelope” or the “shell”. Sealing your home against air infiltration (air leaking in from the outside) and air ex-filtration (air leaking from inside of the house to the outside) helps to reduce your energy expenditures.
As a homeowner, you can greatly improve your home’s energy efficiency by sealing as many entry points as possible. Check seams between the top of the foundation wall and the wood framing, doors and windows, along baseboards, through electrical receptacles and switches mounted on exterior walls, fireplaces, laundry chutes, attic hatchway doors and pull-down stairs, whole-house fan installations and pipe and wire penetrations.
It is recommended to consult a RESNET certified energy auditor to test for air leaks using a “blower-door test” to accurately measure air leakage of your house. The test is done by temporarily de-pressurizing the house to get an accurate measurement of how much air is entering the house through cracks, gaps and holes. The auditor will also use a device called a smoke pencil to pinpoint where air is entering the house while the blower door is in operation.
Interior of Your Home
To ensure that air doesn’t leak from the outside of your home to the inside, check the following:
- Baseboards and Floors: Any gaps left between baseboards and hard floors can be filled with latex caulk.
- Gaskets: Check switches and electrical outlets – they may feel cold or you may feel a cold draft. You can block these drafts form the inside of your house by installing inexpensive insulated gaskets. (Caution: to avoid electrical shock, remove the covers from switches and receptacles only after you have shut off the power.)
- Recessed Ceiling Lights: Older types of recessed lighting can be extremely leaky and difficult to make airtight. Often, the best solution is to build an airtight box of flame-resistant material (i.e. sheet metal or drywall) at least 3 inches larger the light’s housing to cover the portion of the fixture that is in the attic. You will need to pay attention to fire code regulations.
- Attic Floor: The top floor ceiling in your home acts as a containment barrier to rising warm air. Any small hole or a gap in that area will create an outlet for warm air to escape. As the air exits through the top floor ceiling, it will create a slight negative pressure inside your house and the air leaving will need to be replaced. That air will come from the outside of the house and will need to be heated – requiring additional use of your furnace, which costs you money. Checking for cracks, holes of small openings in the attic floor will result in substantial energy savings.
- Fireplace: Careful sealing of this area is often neglected, and gaps around fireplaces allow heated or cooled air to escape the house easily. Check around your fireplace with a good flashlight to see if there are any holes that need to be sealed with spray foam, fireproof caulk or other filler.
- Weather stripping: Checking the weather stripping around your doors will not only keep the drafts out of your home – it will keep your heating and cooling bills under control.
- Attic: Sealing and insulating your attic is one of the most critical steps to ensuring that your home is properly air sealed. Most attics have insulation which helps reduce heat loss. But it won’t stop the air flow. Insulation can actually conceal cracks, gaps and holes through which the pressurized air from your home is driven into the attic. Check for staining in the insulation, which is an indicator of an air leak.
- Chimneys: Building codes mandate a minimum two-inch gap between any flammable material and the masonry or metal. This gap is often left unfilled and it leaves a hole that goes directly from the basement to the attic. The solution is to close the hole with a non-flammable material and fireproof caulk.
- Pull-Down Attic Stairs: This is often the largest hole in the attic floor which can allow a tremendous amount of air to escape. Some estimates state that the hole around a typical pull-down stairs can amount to 40 square inches. Proper sealing is difficult, but adding compressible self-stick foam tape along the upper edges of the plywood door will help reduce air leakage.
An Energy Assessment Provides Answers
A professional home energy assessment by a RESNET certified energy professional is the best way to evaluate your energy consumption, providing you with a comprehensive assessment of your home’s energy performance. You could perform a simple energy assessment yourself by carefully inspecting your entire home, checking for possible air leaks, efficiencies of your appliances, etc. But you will get much more detailed information and a plan of action with an audit performed by a professional energy auditor using diagnostic equipment.
R Value and What it Means
What do you say if someone asks you about your home’s R Value? Like most American homeowners, you probably say, “What’s an R Value?” It’s a good question and an important one, because once you know what it is, investing in it efficiently can save you hundreds of dollars in home energy costs.
An R Value is a measurement of the effectiveness of a home’s insulation in resisting heat passing through it (resistance to heat transfer). For example, a home that is outfitted with energy efficient siding can see its R Value increase by more than 20% and enjoy the added benefit of less outdoor noise penetration. The higher the R Value, the more effective the thermal performance of the insulation, leading to lower energy bills for the homeowner.
A home’s siding plays a very important role as a protective barrier to its “envelope” (shell). Damaged or ineffective siding can allow water to seep in and become trapped in, and behind it. This can result in very serious problems such as:
- Rotten sheathing
- Wet insulation
- Structural rot
Among some of the more energy efficient siding options available are:
- Fiber cement
- Insulated vinyl
- Rigid foam sheathing
- Make sure that you have a RESNET EnergySmart Contractor install and test this type of insulation to ensure there’s no backdraft of harmful fumes into the house.
Gutters also contribute greatly to a home’s durability. If wrongly installed or made from inferior quality materials, gutter problems can cause serious damage to a home. Some examples of things to watch out for:
- Avoid metal gutter protection in cold climates, as water will simply freeze on top of it. Find out what your options are from your local RESNET EnergySmart Contractor.
- Don’t use nails to hang gutters; if there’s a heavy load, they’ll tear out. Screw them in instead.
- Avoid a “one-size fits all” option; for the most efficient results, each area should be customized for the proper fit.
While it’s easy to discount the value of a good gutter system because, aesthetically speaking, it’s usually not that high up on the typical homeowner’s list, an inefficient system can result in some very serious problems. For example, structural damage could occur through water seepage into the basement. Also, the home’s indoor air quality can be affected because the furnace, which is located in the basement, will be pumping up air from the now damp areas where there may be instances of mold or mildew.
To avoid such problems, contact a RESNET EnergySmart Contractor who can advise and provide you with the energy saving solution that’s right for you.