Fix Your Home Energy Leaks First!

Posted by Wattson on Jul 31, 2014

Are you considering upgrading your home’s heating and cooling equipment to a more energy efficient model? Before adding a new furnace or water heater to your home, you’ll need to determine your current home energy efficiency and the status of any significant air leaks in your home. Air leaks are a common problem both in older constructions and more modern homes that lead to reduced equipment efficiency and higher utility bills. Properly sealing your home and using energy-efficient techniques can save you as much as 35 percent on your annual energy costs!

Air-Leak-graphic_REV

Where do I begin?

The first thing to do is contact your local contractor for a home energy assessment. In this evaluation, a professional will:

  • Inspect home insulation. A properly insulated home can save homeowners as much as 20 percent on home heating costs. Throughout an energy assessment, your insulation will be inspected for potential defects and correct R-levels.
  • Perform a blower door test. This test uses special tools to depressurize your home in order to determine its air tightness and locate air leaks.
  • Thermal imaging test. This noninvasive test uses infrared technology to identify potential cracks and gaps leaking air through poor insulation, insufficiently sealed windows and doors, leaky duct work, and more.
  • Your current equipment will also be checked to ensure it was properly installed, has safe and efficient ventilation, and for proper preventative maintenance.

In addition to helping you determine where best to begin air sealing, if you are considering upgrading to more energy-efficient equipment, this energy assessment will also determine your home’s unique heating and cooling loads to give you the information necessary to choose the best, most efficient products for your home.

Because these assessments are geared towards enhancing home energy savings (and thereby local energy savings), many states offer special rebate programs to incentivize homeowners. Check with your state to see if a program such as Mass Save or Energize Connecticut can be applied towards your energy assessment.

Sealing and Insulating

Now that you know where your home’s losing air, it’s time to establish an action plan. Depending on the results of your home energy assessment, this may seem like a daunting task. The best tactic is to begin with the biggest leaks and work downwards.

  • Beginning with the big. Start with the larger holes in the unconditioned ares of your home, this includes your attic, basement, and crawl spaces. You’ll often find big cut-outs around your furnace flues and various pipework. You can use wood and framing materials followed by spray foam and insulation to repair and seal these areas. Additionally, insure your attic is insulated a minimum of R-30, or 12 to 15 inches, and has an even covering from eave-to-eave.
  • A word about duct work. If you have a central forced air system, then you’re likely victim to air duct leaks. Older duct work often has disconnected segments, gaps, and unsealed joints that not only leak conditioned air into your non-conditioned spaces, but also bring dirty air from those same spaces into your home heating and cooling system. This can lead to decreased indoor air quality, high utility bills, and lower operating efficiency of your sensitive equipment. While you should hire a professional to repair disconnected and corroded duct work segments, you can seal leaks in exposed areas with a special mastic or acrylic-adhesive foil tape.
  • Sealing the smaller leaks. With the large tasks out of the way, spend a few hours going throughout your home to seal around exterior-leading doors, windows, and any electrical or plumbing exterior penetrations. You can use spray foam around electrical wires and plumbing pipes. Weatherstripping tape and caulking compounds are the ideal choice for sealing the cracks and gaps around window and door frames.

Increasing your home energy efficiency through installation

Once your home has been air sealed to its highest potential, you can begin installing energy-efficient HVAC equipment, general home appliances, lighting and more. Following the home energy assessment, your energy technician will have given you the best energy-based recommendations for your home. This may range from installing a high-efficiency heat pump, to solar panels for your water heater, to the introduction of various LED lighting systems.

One great energy-saving tool that can save you money and improve your home comfort is the simple addition of a programmable thermostat. These handy electronic devices allow you to automatically set your energy preferences according to your unique scheduling. This means automatically adjusting the temperature during your regular away from home schedule (such as during working weekdays) for increased energy savings, and returning it to your comfort levels during your regular at-home schedule.

Every home is different. A geothermal system may work great in one home, but not meet the budget needs of another. To learn more, or to schedule an energy assessment for your home, contact Energy Monster today.

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