Create an Energy Efficient Home Year-Round
According to the EPA, the average U.S. household spends in excess of $2,200 per year in energy-related costs. If you live in an area prone to climate extremes, you know that number can be much higher.
We’ve all heard about “winterizing” our homes to cut down our monthly utility bills. But what can you do to improve energy efficiency throughout the year?
Whether you’re faced with bone chilling winters, scorching summer heat or a combination of both there are a number of things you can do to keep your home comfortable and tame those high energy bills.
Stop Air Leaks
Identifying and sealing air leaks in your house will go a long way in ensuring you'll stay warmer in the winter and cooler during the summer. Did you know that even the tiniest of leaks can account for a 15 to 35 percent loss of warm or cool air?
Check for unwanted airflow by placing a lit candle near some of the common entry points around the house such as windows, door frames, dryer vents, baseboards, electrical outlets, light switches and wall-mounted light fixtures.
A flickering candle flame indicates an intrusion or loss of air. Head to the hardware store or home improvement center and pick up a tube of caulk and roll of weather stripping to fix the most egregious offenders. Additionally, you can purchase pre-cut foam gaskets designed to fit under the cover plates for all your electrical outlets and light switches.
Prepare Your Attic
Insulation - Installing proper insulation is a must-do to prepare your home for seasonal changes. The most logical and accessible place to insulate is in your attic. Energy Star recommends about 10 to 14 inches of insulation for most attics.
Make sure the R-Value of your insulation is sufficient for your area of the country. The R-Value refers to insulation’s capacity to resist heat flow. Higher R-Values indicate higher levels of performance--a colder climate requires a higher R-Value.
A quick way to see if your attic has the proper amount of insulation is to look between the exposed floor joists. If you can see the top of the joists you should add more insulation. If the insulation is high enough to obscure the joist tops, you are sufficiently insulated.
Rafter Vents - Before laying additional insulation on your attic floor install or uncover existing rafter vents. Rafter vents, or insulation baffles, allow air to move into the attic via the soffits and out through the ridge vents. Rafter vents should be positioned at the point where the attic ceiling meets the attic floor.
Attic Fans - Attic fans are used to draw hot air to the outside during hot weather thus keeping your attic and home cooler. For attic fans to function at peak efficiency, seal any leaks from the attic to the house and clear blocked soffit, rafter and ridge vents of any obstructions.
There are two main types of attic fans to choose from. One is roof mounted and the other can be installed on a gable wall. Check with the manufacturer to determine how much ventilation your attic requires. You can hire a professional to install an attic fan or you can tackle the job yourself providing you are confident in handling roof-related projects.
Check and Replace Air Filters
Routinely inspect your HVAC air filters. A dirty filter will cause your air conditioner or furnace to work harder to cool and heat your home. It will cost more money each month to operate.
Left unattended, clogged and dirty air filters can result in potentially dangerous and more costly repairs. They can create health related problems for your family, lead to expensive service calls and in extreme cases, can pose a fire risk.
Find out which size air filters you need and purchase at least four of each. Replace the filters every three months so your family and HVAC system can breathe easy.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Here’s another relatively easy tip to get you on the road to year-round energy efficiency. If your home has a manual thermostat you're losing money every month. Replacing a manual thermostat with a digital programmable version can save approximately $200 each year on your energy bill.
Basic digital programmable thermostats range in price from $25 to $30 and are readily available at home improvement centers. Your new thermostat will provide an exact temperature reading and allows you to automatically program the temperature while you're away and at home.
Insulate Your Water Heater
The Department of Energy says water heater operation represents up to 25 percent of your home’s overall energy costs. Wrapping your water heater with an insulating blanket will keep costly heat from escaping.
How do you know you need one? If the surface of your water heater feels hot, you are losing heat and money. Purchase a vinyl-faced fiberglass water heater blanket for under $30. It's just another simple way to drive those energy costs down.
Change the Direction of Your Ceiling Fan
Finally, don’t forget to change the ceiling fan direction based on time of the year. This one little hint will help keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter for less money. During the summer months your ceiling fan blades should turn counterclockwise, moving the air downward onto you.
In cold weather reverse the blade direction by flipping the switch on the fan motor. Operate your fan on its lowest setting. It will pull cool air up and force warm air near the ceiling back down into the room.
Routine HVAC Maintenance
Schedule an appointment for your HVAC system maintenance at least twice a year. While spring and fall service visits can cost $100-150 per year, routine preventative maintenance will help avoid costly repairs. Regular HVAC system servicing will keep it operating efficiently and safely all year-round.
HVAC Maintenance Checklists
Air Conditioning Unit
Check motor voltage and amperage
Check refrigerant levels
Check operation of safety controls
Inspect electrical parts and controls
Inspect fan and blower motor
Clean and check condensing coils
Lubricate moving parts
Clean and adjust blower components
Check air filters
Check drain lines
Clean burners and pilot
Check fan control operation and ignition start up
Lubricate moving parts
Check heat exchanger
Inspect and replace filters
Inspect and adjust thermostat
Check for bends in coil fins
Check temperature rise
Measure airflow through the evaporator coil
Inspect and clean ductwork
© 2012 Linda Chechar