As the weather changes and we are all looking for ways to stay warm, small changes around your home could make a big difference. Look for those forgotten places where insulation is missing or air is leaking. Think about your insulation line between inside and outside. This is the barrier keeping your energy bills low and your home comfortable. Remember to insulate your attic access, it is an exterior door that should be sealed and insulated. This is often an overlooked area in a house. Insulating your attic can tell you if your house is energy efficient, so keeping your attic properly insulated will also keep your home healthy and comfortable.
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In the average new home with a forced air heating and cooling system, 30% of the air moving through the ducts leaks out before it reaches the room it is intended to heat or cool. Seal up the ducts for a better distribution of air throughout your home using mastic tape or glue. A properly designed, calibrated, and maintained system will run more efficiently. Remember to change the air filter on a regular basis to keep the air flow as designed. You may also need to have your ducts cleaned to increase efficiency of your system.
Windows are often blamed for the uncomfortable conditions of an older home, but there are bigger holes in almost all cases. Remember to look for these places that heated air is escaping from your home including the attic access / pull down stair, recessed lights, electrical outlets, and rim board. Seal these locations and reduce your energy loss.
When winter comes a warm fire is often not far behind for those fortunate to have a fireplace. However, when the fireplace is not being used, make sure it is sealed tight. At the very least, close the flue when not burning a fire. You might also consider adding air tight doors if you don’t already have them or using a fireplace balloon to make it air tight (just remember to remove the balloon before using the fireplace.
Make sure your outside mechanical equipment is cleared of any debris, snow, or landscaping that might impact the operation. Most units need 24-36″ of air space in order to run efficiently.
Almost always overlooked when talking about electrical usage is water usage. Heating water is taking a toll on your monthly electric bills if you have an older water heater, uninsulated hot water supply pipes, and water inefficient fixtures. Turn the tide on this impact by installing a heat pump hot water heater, insulating pipes, and changing out fixtures to WaterSense labeled options.
Your energy bills depend on having a complete thermal envelope. This home owner added insulation to the attic stair which is a good thing. However, there are still problems. The type of insulation used behind the stair only works when it is not compressed and if it creates an air tight seal. Since it is smashed to fit behind the stairs it is not performing as intended and without other measures it is not air tight. There is no air sealing around the stair opening to prevent air leaks into the attic such as weather-stripping. The access itself does not fit tight to the opening when closed adding to the leak. All of these problems hurt the energy efficiency of your home and it impacts your indoor air quality. Make sure all the gaps and cracks in your thermal envelope are tight, complete, and well insulated for the best performance possible.