Energy Efficiency: Energy Saving Tips
With the mercury dropping, it’s about time to get out those extra blankets, and maybe even that fluffy comforter, all in preparation for the cold months ahead. And, as usual, you can expect hefty heating bills too.
Although cold floors, walls and attics come with winter, this season doesn’t have to be the chilling experience that it has been in the past. Most of us are aware of the importance of insulation and how valuable it is in holding in heat and reducing energy waste. But there are several other important ways to improve energy efficiency in your home that are inexpensive and easy to do.
Infiltration control is the term used to describe the process of reducing the passage of air between the inside and outside of the home. And there are several ways this can be accomplished: 1) gasketing electrical outlets, 2) weather-stripping, 3) foam sealant, and 4) caulking.
Among the easiest and least expensive is gasketing interior electrical outlets. To test just how much air passes through a wall (insulated or not), remove a receptacle or switch cover from an exterior wall. Light a candle and hold it next to the opening. In some cases, the force of the wind will actually blow the candle out – windy day or not.
Fire-safe, pre-cut foam gaskets are available in packages of a dozen or more (depending on brand), and sell for under $3. Simply unscrew the cover plate, slip on the gasket and replace the cover plate. Longer screws are not required, and the job takes less than two-minutes per switch or plug. This should be done at every plug or switch location. Exterior walls are important, but interior walls are too. Many interior walls have penetrations for pipes and wire at the top and/or bottom that will allow air to pass.
Most homes have weather stripping at exterior doors and windows, but the rubber, plastic or cloth material that is used in their manufacture wears out. If the weather stripping is worn, cracked or brittle, then repair or replacement is in order.
Many homes we see have weather stripping around the top and sides of the door, but don’t have a proper seal at the bottom. As the home shifts from season to season a gap can occur between the bottom of the door and the top of the threshold. Even if you currently have a weather seal devise at the bottom of your exterior door(s), it’s a good idea to check to insure that the seal material is in good condition and that it fits tightly against the threshold.
If you have an attic, basement or subarea, it will be wise to foam seal all penetrations between those areas and the interior of the home. Canned sealants are expensive ($5 to $7 per can), will only cover a small area, and even though manufactures say they can be reused, that prospect is nearly impossible. Hence, if the plan is to foam-seal or foam-reseal, inspect the entire area to be sealed first, hang bright flags at each location and then being the sealing process. And don’t stop sealing until the can is empty.
Caulking at the exterior of the home is also very important. Here, two objectives can be accomplished in one procedure: 1) air infiltration can be reduced, and 2) your home will be better prepared to withstand moisture damage from rain or snow.
Use a paintable exterior caulk that contains silicone around door and window trim, and at gaps in the exterior wall covering.
If you perform any of these tasks your heating bill will go down, your home will be a more comfortable place to be and best of all you will be a major contributor in the war against waste. If you perform all of these tasks, you simply won’t believe the difference.
Remember: Infiltration control should not be done in lieu of insulation, but should be done whether your home is insulated or not. One of the biggest energy wasters found in home across America are drafty energy-inefficient exterior doors. Poorly insulated or weather-stripped exterior doors are cause for uncomfortable living conditions and high utility bills.