How to Improve the Energy Efficiency in Your Home for the Winter
The outdoors’ biting cold can seep into a heated home, stressing homeowners who have to turn up the heat, and, subsequently, see a spike in their heating costs. Energy efficiency can be improved. Most tactics are cost efficient. Others may require a small investment in time and money. Once enhancements are made, homeowners will be relieved to see a significant reduction in their home energy bills. Energy.gov says that combining the following strategies reduces a home’s energy bill by 30 percent.
A professional energy assessment from an energy survey professional is a good place to start on your quest to improve your home’s energy efficiency. An energy audit points a homeowner to how energy is lost in the home, where energy losses occur and what systems are working efficiently or inefficiently.
The most thorough energy audit is the general energy audit. Diagnostic testing with high-tech gear is performed. Tests are done with equipment, like duct leakage testers, infrared cameras and a combustion analyzer. The advanced technology allows the home energy auditor to reveal air leaks in the home, the efficiency of insulation in the walls and ceilings and the extent of air leakages from HVAC ducts.
An energy survey is a basic assessment that is performed without diagnostic equipment. A visual inspection takes into account the ages of doors, windows and heating systems. The auditor looks for condensation buildup.
Homeowners can also perform a do-it-yourself energy audit. While not as thorough as an audit performed by a professional, the DIY route can lead you to drafty doors, less-than-recommended insulation levels and inefficient lightbulbs.
Lighting makes up 10 percent of a home’s energy costs, according to Energy.gov. Replace inefficient bulbs with energy efficient ones, such as LED lights, incandescent lighting or compact fluorescent lamps. A homeowner’s electrical utility company may offer rebates when energy efficient lighting is used. Plus, you can save on lighting bills by utilizing dimmers, timers and sensors.
Drafty windows and doors leak cold air into the home. Identify leaks by simply feeling for cold air around the door and window frames. Alternately, light a candle, hover it around the door and window frames and watch for flickering—an indication of an air leak.
Two ways of sealing the air leaks are with caulk or weather stripping. When caulking, it is important to remove the old caulk first. When using weather stripping, apply either V strips, foam tape or felt.
Plus, installing a clear, plastic film over the windows during the winter acts as a barrier against the infiltration of cold air.
Thick drapes also block cold drafts. Keep the shades or drapes closed at night, and they will provide added insulation.
When you are at home, set the thermostat to the lowest yet most comfortable temperature to reduce energy consumption. The recommended setting is 68 degrees Fahrenheit for times when the home is occupied. When asleep or no one is at home, anywhere from 62 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal.
One tactic that may help homeowners become acclimated to cooler indoor temperatures is to set the thermostat to a desired temperature. Once members of the household become used to the set temperature, reduce the thermostat by one degree every week. Gradually, people at home will become accustomed to the lower temps. The US Department of Energy says homeowners save one percent on energy bills for every degree of reduction.
Older homes are likely to feature inadequate insulation. In the attic, perform a check to determine whether or not the insulation is blocking the attic vents. The entire attic floor should feature a layer of insulation. The crawl space should also be insulated with the recommended level of insulation, which is an R-value of 25. Insulation is also necessary around the water heater, furnace ducts and hot water plumbing pipes.
Lowering the temperature setting on the water heater reduces the winter water bill. Set the dial to the warm setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit to achieve significant energy savings. Scalding water is rarely a daily necessity.
Unless you’re burning a fire, the fireplace damper should be kept shut. Heated indoor air can escape through an open damper, which is the equivalent of leaving a window open in the dead of winter. Burning a fire is a great reason to turn down the thermostat to 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your fireplace is left unused, seal the chimney flue. A tight seal prevents indoor heat from gushing out. The fireplace hearth also should be sealed with caulk to reduce heat loss.
As any homeowner will attest, heating the home consumes more energy than any other system—42 percent of the energy bill, according to Energy.gov.
Schedule furnace maintenance and cleanings annually, ideally before winter. The furnace filters should be replaced monthly, or as necessary.
Experts recommend replacing a furnace over 15 years old with a more energy efficient unit. A poorly working furnace pulls more energy. A newer furnace model consumes far less energy when in operation.
When you are in the market for energy efficient heating systems, consider active solar heating, radiant heating to heat floors, heat distribution systems and portable heaters.
When homeowners spend more time indoors during the height of the cold season, they should consider a professional air duct cleaning. ServiceMaster Professional Services provides exceptional air duct cleaning services that improve the air quality within your home.
Indoor air pollution results from pets, smoking indoors, recent home remodeling or construction and when a home’s ducts have not been cleaned in 10 years. Dust trails that emerge out of the air duct registers are a clear signal of poor indoor air quality. Anyone who suffers from respiratory conditions or allergies will benefit from the clean air that results from a professional air duct cleaning.
ServiceMaster Professional Services reliably serves the residential communities of Minneapolis, Minnesota.