Keep It Cool: Save Money & the Environment Through Increased Efficiency
Cooling and heating are responsible for 48 percent of the energy use in the typical American home. If you’re losing some of that cool air in the summer or heat in the winter, your energy bill and environmental impact will both go up.
Unfortunately, most homes lose at least some of the energy when inside air escapes the house or air from the outside comes in. Here are the areas where homes usually lose the most energy.
Ceilings, Walls and Floors
Some of the worst offenders for air loss are a house’s ceilings, walls and floors. As much as 31 percent of air leakage frequently occurs from these areas. Replacing the insulation in these areas can stop a good portion of your energy loss. You may want to get an energy audit to help you determine which specific areas are causing the most problems.
Windows are another place that provides an escape route for warm or cool air. Adding blinds or curtains is one simple fix, but this, of course, means you can’t use the windows as much. Caulking in order to fill gaps in the windows’ frames can also be helpful. A more expensive, but quite effective, option is applying a glaze designed to reduce energy loss to your windows. It might be worth it, though, because of the money you’ll save on your energy bills.
Air can also escape right through the door. As with windows, doorframes can be caulked to stop energy loss, and you should make sure to close any gaps at the bottoms or tops of your doors. You should also leave doors closed as much as possible if you want to keep air inside.
Garage doors can be especially serious culprits, since they often cover as much as 30 percent of your home’s facade. Adding extra insulation or getting a new, more energy-efficient garage door can help with this problem.
Plumbing, Wiring and Ducts
The plumbing, wiring and air ducts that run through your home are further examples of common but unexpected sources of air loss. Holes in ceilings and walls for pipes or wires may provide openings for heat or cold to escape. You can fix these gaps with high-temperature caulk. You may need to use expanding foam to fill larger holes or vents for plumbing.
Attics can be problematic because of energy loss, because they’re usually intentionally colder than the rest of the house in winter to prevent melted snow from re-freezing in gutters. To achieve this temperature, an attic needs to be insulated from the rest of the house.
This requires installing rafter vents, also known as insulation baffles, before putting in insulation. This lets air in, while not letting any of the air from the attic into the rest of the house. You should also ensure any gaps around attic doors or holes for pipes going into the attic are sealed.
Fireplace chimneys can also lead to a lot of air loss. You’ll need to use a damper that fits the chimney without letting any air leak through. You can also use a chimney balloon to fill the gaps in your chimney.
Air conditioners are another feature of a home that can help you out in one season but hurt you in another. In the summer, they can cool down your home, but air will leak out around them in the winter. For this reason, you should also remove any in-window air-conditioning units when the weather gets cool enough that you won’t need to use them again until next season.
Because basements have a lot of pipes and ducts and can be a rarely used area of the home, basements are another common room that leads to energy loss.
To make your basement more energy-efficient, seal up any openings around pipes or ducts with caulk or foam. Check around the edges of the basement, too, and seal any gaps with caulk.
Heating and cooling a home requires a lot of energy, but air leakage can cause problems. Conducting an energy audit to determine where you’re losing air and then fixing any issues can make your home more comfortable, lower your bills and reduce your environmental impact.