What you can’t see may be costing you thousands of dollars in wasted energy leaking from your home. “Leaky Ductwork” is the heavy-hitter in this category. Left un-addressed it can be a “two for one” loss. However, it can be recovered at a “two to one” return if corrected. Let’s look at this through the trained eyes of an “Energy Expert.”
What he sees through his decades of experience, “Thermal Imaging” and an occasional “Blower-Door Test” is that for every unit of air that leaks-out or “escapes” the HVAC system/ducts, you not only have lost the dollars it took to condition that unit of air, you’ve in addition gained an equal volume of “unconditioned air” into the home as its replacement. This “invading, replacement-air” brings with it some excess baggage as well, in the form of dust, pollen, moisture and other undesirables. Not to mention it needs to be conditioned to the desired temperature set point. In times when the temperatures outside are extremely hot or cold, this “replacement air” may require many times more energy to condition than the air that had escaped would have taken. Hence, this can easily equate to “two to one” or even worse.
“Third Party Testing” has brought to light that most new homes being built these days are starting out with leakages averaging 25%, many older homes approaching 50%. “Energy Star Homes” have set the requirements at 6% or less duct leakage. This is a “Nobel Effort,” problem is, “Energy Star Homes” only account for less than 17% of the new homes being built, down from 20% in 2008. To make matters worse there is not much definition within “Local Building Codes” pertaining to duct leakage requirements, which implies to the HVAC contractors within the industry interpreting this as a non-issue. So they continue turning-out ductwork with hundreds of seemingly insignificant smaller leaks, but, when combined has a devastating effect, assembled with temporary tape (duct-tape), that degrades and evolves into larger leaks in the course of time. This trend will likely continue until the informed, savvy consumer, demands performance. Only then can we expect change, it is after-all a consumer driven market.
To reiterate “leaky ductwork” is the first priority in the “Order” of which to identify and propose a remedy of the home’s energy loss and discomfort issues. A “prescriptive” list or proposal can be presented to the consumer once an “Energy-Analysis” has been conducted. There is a logical sequence by which “Thermal Disconnects” and “Comfort Issues” should be addressed. Generally speaking it is rare to find a home that only needs to be “topped-off”. This appears to be a common “fix-it-quick” ill-conceived perception that many unsuspecting builders and consumers have fallen victim to. In reality there may be several “Weatherization” techniques and procedures, when combined with a healthier alternative insulation “Cellulose” actually works like insulation is expected to do. This is necessary to insure anticipated results and performance for a lifetime.
There is a plethora of Insulation Companies to choose from, all of which will embrace the philosophy of blowing insulation in, dazzling you with “R-Values” and platform the seaming harmless “white” fluffy insulation or even expensive foam insulation. (It would behoove you to read the truth contained within the manufacture’s MSDS on how deadly these products are). Their operating model, purely profit driven and not problem solving, causes this “over-looking” of the issues at hand as to why they have been called out in the first place. Most homes will revert back, in short time, to their “Energy Inefficient Status” and they are banking on that homeowner calling them back to add more insulation, this is how they create repeat sales. This is the “Gravy-Work” that they greedily lap up, and count on in the future profits. They are un-willing to incorporate into their business model, an approach which educates and create awareness as to “cause and effect” arming the consumer with the ability to make an “informed decision”. They could then strategically and systematically address the issues to create immediate, measurable results. This creates happy customers and referral sales.
Insulation can and should be a “Once in a Life-Time Event” WEATHERIZATION must be the platform, on which Insulation is addressed in order to achieve optimal, lasting results. In fact, Insulation should be the final step to addressing that which has been identified as an issue. Bad news for the consumer is the majority wants to skip the labor-intensive aspects and jump to the easiest part, the insulation. Despite all this, there is yet one local company providing a Manufacture’s “Lifetime Warranty” against “Settling” retaining its resistance to Fire, Pests, and Mold as well. Integrity should be evident from the first contact, and through the entire process, from the manufacturer to the contractor, to the finished project, your confidence is paramount.
Quality work takes time, and is best executed by trained professionals. They can be found with a little effort through sources such as the “Better Business Bureau”, “Angie’s List.com”, a few “Cutting Edge” Builder’s, or by referral from a very satisfied past client. Finding the right team to tackle these issues can seem to be a daunting task, however, perseverance will pay dividends for the life of the home when you do. Past clients are reporting lowered utilities ranging from 20 to 60%, most recovering their wisely invested dollars in a few short years. The variable being, on how severe the issues causing the problems were previous to the “HOME ENERGY MAKEOVER”.
Nothing on the market can deliver more “bang-for-the-buck” than remedying the issues collectively addressed by an “ENERGY-EXPERT” and stop the flow of wasted dollars out of your budget and put those dollars to work for you. As a bonus, you gain safety, peace-of-mind, and comfort as “Value-Adds”. An Expert can give sound advice of the best products and services available to match properly and effectively in order to address the issues discovered. By these means you will be equipping with the insight needed to make an “Informed Decision”
9 Steps to a More Energy Efficient Home and Lower Power Bills:
How to reduce energy at home has gradually become a household desire as a result of high definition T.V.'s and homes the size of a castle. Throw in a struggling economy and the melt down of a nuclear plant and becoming more energy efficient seems like a great idea.
Our power bills rise as a result of increasing power costs and the need for more and more power to operate are power hungry homes and our power dependent lifestyles. Becoming energy smart and working to control energy usage and energy waste is our defense against those hefty power bills.
Here are 9 steps you can take to answer the question, How to Reduce Energy at Home.
1. Hang on to Your Power Bill.
Some households will need to hold onto the power bills that come in the mail and some can access that information from their power company on-line. It is important as household energy reduction programs are undertaken, that a years record of power consumption is available.
Tip: Ask your power company if they are participating in the Green Button program. The Green Button program allows people to access their energy usage on-line.
2. Welcome a Change in Lifestyle.
You can no longer conduct yourself in your home like you did when electricity was 3 cents a kilowatt hour and the only electric appliance you had in your home, other than the Frigidaire, was a light bulb.
Lifestyle changes are necessary to reduce energy consumption and to avoid wasting energy. It will take a greening of the mind and a conscious effort to follow desired energy saving practices.
Tip: Start with something simple like turning off lighting when not needed and setting back the thermostat at night and when your away at work.
3. Conduct an Energy Audit. You'll Learn How to Reduce Energy at Home
4. Weatherization is Cost Effective. Now This is How to Reduce Energy at Home.
Usually, the most cost-effective method of reducing energy usage and lowering power bills is through weatherization measures. Whether you live in a cold climate and need to keep the cold weather outside or you live in a warm climate and need to keep the hot weather outside, weatherization measures offer the help you need.
Air Sealing:Your home has more holes in it than you know. Air sealing these holes offers the air barrier you need to separate the outdoor climate from the indoor climate.
Insulation: Adding insulation to your homes building shell - the ceiling, floor, and walls, - strengthens your homes thermal barrier and offers defense against heat loss or heat gain because of radiation, conduction, and convection.
Tip: Low-income households can get weatherization help through Community Action Programs. Ask your power company if there is a home weatherization, Community Action Program in your area.
5. Heating & Cooling Efficiency.
If the situation merits replacing your heating and cooling system, that is likely the best time to consider a more energy efficient source for your HVAC. Air source and ground source heat pumps have greatly increased energy efficient in the last ten years. Ductless heat pumps provide heating and cooling for a fraction of the cost of baseboard heaters, resistant ceiling heat, or electric wall heaters.
The 70% efficient gas furnace of the 1970's has been updated to the 95% efficient gas furnaces available today. Heating and Cooling Contractors are available to visit your home and discuss the options available that best fit your home and your needs.
Tip: Before upgrading central heating or cooling equipment, have the supply and return ducts sealed against air leakage. No use wasting all that efficiently conditioned air through ducts that leak.
6. Water Heater, too Often Forgotten
The only time we pay attention to our water heater is right after a cold shower. After all, the water heater is often located in a mostly hidden location, it doesn't make any noise, and it doesn't have any bells and whistles. The water heater is often the #2 energy user in our homes and therefore, when we're attempting to reduce energy use, needs to have some attention directed it's If your water heater is leaking water from the tank, replace it right away and pay attention to the energy efficiency rating of the new water heater. If your water heater is not leaking, do these two energy saving measures: When replacing a water heater, we recommend the “Marathon Water Heater by Rheem” it has a Limited Lifetime Warranty and leads the industry in energy efficiency at 94%.
Adjust water temperature: The most energy efficient water temperature is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a gas water heater, adjusting the temperature is easy with the dial on the water heater gas valve. If your water heater is electric, you will need to remove the element covers to adjust the temperature. It is best to turn the electricity off at the circuit panel before attempting this adjustment.
Water Heater Blanket:Your water heater maybe insulated already, but additional insulation blanket around the outside will save energy. Read the owners manual for your water heater and follow the directions. Water heater blankets are available at most building stores, the blanket will also contain written instructions for it's installation.
7. Appliance Upgrades Save Energy
Microwaves heat food more efficiently than a range. New refrigerators use less energy than ones manufactured 10 years ago. New clothes washing machines use less energy and less water. Clothes dryers with moisture sensors, turn off when clothes are dry. New surge protector power strips can stop phantom power loss. When replacing an old appliance or shopping for a new one, remember to look for the Energy Star Label.
8. Lighting Technology
You will be surprised at the number of light bulbs you have in your home. Take a guess at the number and then go around your home and count each one. Most people are surprised to realize how many light bulbs their home actually has.
For those lighting fixtures you use the most and are left on the longest, compact fluorescent bulbs and LED bulbs can save significant energy. There is a CFL bulb designed for every light fixture in the home.
9. Renewable Energy
Homes with renewable energy sources like solar electric and wind turbines, not only produce energy but also save more energy. There seems to be a connection between the desire to produce renewable energy and the awareness to reduce energy use. So, one good way to save energy is to produce the energy your saving.
If you are considering a renewable energy system, the first thing you will want to do is contact your power company. Your power company knows more about renewable energy than you might think.
These are the 9 steps on How to Reduce Energy at Home. Reducing energy use does not require large sacrifices nor a degree in electrical engineering, it simply requires energy use awareness and a power bill that has the ability to open your eyes.
I was thinking about if I were to choose a home improvement project that gave me the highest return on investment what might it be?
In the past remodeling a kitchen or bathroom would be considered a good choice by raising the value of one's home, of course this would only be tangible upon selling the home. The problem is most real estate markets have taken a hard hit in the past five years. Therefore, if I selected from the most popular options that many of us consider while we remain in the home, it would likely be those that may lower our utilities. This would be a way to pay back or recover the monies invested. My research has been summarized in the chart below. It is a work in progress so we can bring clarification as we go. Feel free to add a comment.