Energy Efficiency In Your Home
The best practice is having an energy expert conduct an energy audit on your home. This is the best way to determine where your home is losing energy and where you can save. Or you can conduct your own simple walk-through and spot many problems in any type of house. This "DIY" home energy audit will not be as thorough as a professional home energy assesment, but it can help you pinpoint some of the easier areas to address.
When walking through your home, keep a checklist of areas you have inspected and problems you found. This list will help you prioritize your energy efficiency upgrades. Do not assume that just because your home is recently constructed–or even new–that there are no opportunities to save energy.
Locate Air Leaks
First, make a list of obvious air leaks (drafts). The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 10% to 20% per year, and the home is generally much more comfortable afterward.
Check for indoor air leaks, such as gaps along the baseboard or edge of the flooring and at junctures of the walls and ceiling. Also check for leaks on the outside of your home, especially in areas where two different building materials meet. Other places to check for leaks include windows, doors, lighting and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets. Also, check for open fireplace dampers. A good way to find these leaks is with a thermal gun. This will tell you the temperature difference to access the amount of loss that is happening.
Seal Air Leaks
You should plug and caulk holes or penetrations for faucets, pipes, electric outlets, and wiring. Look for cracks and holes in the mortar, foundation, and siding, and look for leaks around windows and doors. Seal them with the appropriate material.
Often times when houses are built they aren’t built with energy efficiency in mind. Builders do what they need to get the job done and looking good to sell. In Texas, because of the heat, we deal with in the summertime. Our homes experience a lot of energy loss through the attic. Think about it, when your attic is 155 degrees in the summer it is like having an oven on around your AC and over your head. It forces hot air in the home and makes it harder to cool. It will also make your AC unit work harder. Adding more blown-in insulation is a very affordable and easy job. The best solution in the double-sided radiant barrier that staples to the bottom of your rafters. This product keeps the heat out of the attic and much cooler. You can usually get the equipment and material from your local hardware store or hire a local contractor for these types of projects. Reminder: Be extra careful anytime you go up into an attic or are working in your attic.
One more thing to look at is where your attic entrance is located. If the attic pull down is located in your garage, you have nothing to worry about. If the attic pull down is located in the home, you want to see if it is located near your thermostat. The energy loss that happens due to this issue can be noticeable. The hot air around this entrance will seep in by the thermostat making that specific part of the home a little warmer. We all know on a thermostat a couple of degrees is a big deal. This throws off the equipment and makes your unit work harder. They sell what is called an ATTIC PULL DOWN TENT, it is a barrier that will cover that opening and create a nice barrier to block the hot and cold air from coming into your home and messing with your thermostat.
Energy Management Devices
We are in a time where technology can help us do a lot of really helpful things. There are now devices that link into your breaker box and will give you accurate readings on how much power your home is using. It will even break it down device by device to show you the different usage from each major electric consumer in your home. This makes it much easier to manage your energy habits. More importantly, when you get your solar, it will show you what you are using compared to what you are producing. So you make adjustments in real-time to ensure you aren’t using more than you are producing. This will really help drive your bills down and get the most out of your solar. There are a handful of devices out there, just know this is usually something that needs to be installed by a licensed professional.
We have been doing this a long time and the one thing we notice more than anything is just bad energy usage habits. We have all heard the cliché sayings, “what are we payin’ to cool the outside?”. They are true. These are usually what drive the bill through the roof. For example, forgetting and leaving the AC on the lowest setting when everyone is off to work is something that a lot of us do. Leaving the back door open when the AC is on. Leaving multiple lights on for no reason. Leaving the Xbox or coffee pot plugged in and running. All of these things waste energy. It may seem small but over time these add up. The whole point of this conversation isn’t to completely change the way you live. But if you address some small efficiency items in the home and slightly change your habits you and your family can make a difference in your utility bills.
The whole goal is to save 2% here, 5% there, 5% over here, these small improvements add up to big savings over time.