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Boost Your Home’s Energy Efficiency With the Right Improvement Projects

Improving the energy efficiency of your home can pay off in multiple ways for a West Texas homeowner. Here's a brief guide to residential energy efficiency and how it can be increased, along with suggestions for several home improvement projects for energy efficiency. By following these guidelines and implementing the home improvement projects for energy efficiency, you'll boost home comfort levels, save money and reduce the stress on your local energy grid.

Benefits of Increased Energy Efficiency

Increased energy efficiency means making the best use of the energy you consume. It offers appealing benefits to West Texas homeowners. By increasing the energy efficiency of your home, you can expect:

  • Improved indoor comfort: When you boost the energy efficiency of your home, your heating and cooling equipment is better able to keep the indoor environment comfortable. There are fewer areas where air leaks or energy loss can occur, which means the conditioned air produced by the HVAC equipment will stay inside where it belongs. Indoor heating and cooling will be more consistent, reducing or eliminating problems with hot spots or cold areas.
  • Reduced energy bills: An energy-efficient home with a tight seal costs much less to heat and cool than a home with many areas where energy and conditioned air can be lost. HVAC equipment can more easily work at its best level of efficiency and cost effectiveness. There's reduced need for HVAC systems to run more often to make up for losses of heated or cooled air throughout your home. As a rule, home improvement projects for energy efficiency can reduce your heating and cooling bills by 25 percent or more.

The Home Energy Audit

A home energy audit is a sophisticated process involving different types of sensors and evaluation devices that pinpoint where energy loss is occurring. The auditor will carefully evaluate the results from these testing devices, along with his own inspections of your home, to determine where energy loss is occurring and where improvements need to be made. A home energy audit can include:

  • Thermographic scans: Thermographic scanning uses specialized cameras to identify areas of energy loss. The images produced by these cameras show areas of contrasting colors what represent energy loss. Areas where energy is being wasted usually show up in red, while well-insulated or sealed areas show up in blue.
  • Surface thermometers: Surface thermometers are used to check the temperature of walls and other surfaces. If the temperature of these areas is higher or lower than expected, energy loss is probably happening there.
  • Infiltrometer testing: An infiltrometer test, sometimes known as a blower door test, gives your auditor the ability to locate even the smallest cracks, gaps or openings in your home's structure where conditioned air can leak out and outside air can seep in. During the test, a large, powerful fan is placed in a door that leads directly to the outdoors. When the fan is turned on, it changes the pressure level inside your home. This reveals areas where air leaks can occur and energy can be lost.

The auditor may use other tools such as a smoke pencil, a device that emits a thin stream of smoke that will waver when placed next to air leaks. This makes it easier to identify leaks that could otherwise be overlooked.

Home Improvement Projects for Energy Efficiency

There are four major areas in your home where home improvement projects for energy efficiency can create significant benefits.

Attic

The attic can have a substantial effect on temperatures and energy usage throughout your home. In the summer, an attic can get extremely hot as sunlight beats down on the roof. The temperatures in attics can get even hotter if the attic space is unfinished or poorly insulated.

A hot attic increases temperatures in the areas below it. Indoor living spaces become more uncomfortable and the cooling system has to run more often to counteract the heat from the attic. It's true that this same effect might be beneficial during cooler times, but any benefits will be offset by the excessive energy usage and increased costs during hot days.

Common problems that can occur in your home because of low energy efficiency in the attic include drafty, uncomfortable rooms; uneven heating and cooling; unnecessarily high heating and cooling bills; and ice dams on the roof.

Of these problems, ice dams have the potential to cause significant damage to your home. Ice dams are accumulations of ice at the edge of your roof that can hold back water running off your room. Instead of draining away in the gutters, this water can leak into your home, causing damage to insulation, walls, floors and framework.

Home improvement projects for energy efficiency in the attic include:

  • Increasing the amount of insulation in the attic: Blanket or batt insulation should be installed between joists and beams in the attic walls, floor and ceiling. Areas that are difficult to reach or that have irregular shapes could be insulated with loose fill or spray foam insulation. Extra layers of fiberglass attic insulation can be installed perpendicular to the joists. Use wire mesh to create barriers or cages around light fixtures, vents, and other features that could create a fire hazard.
  • Sealing the attic area: Isolate and seal any cracks, gaps or other openings that could let air escape from the attic. Look for energy leaks in areas such as hatches and doorways, kneewalls, roof or wall penetrations where plumbing or wiring enters the attic, roof penetrations for ventilation or chimneys, recessed light fixtures, and dropped soffits. Block the largest holes first using bags filled with fiberglass insulation. Find smaller leaks and seal them with caulking. Caulk around any wall penetrations, electrical boxes, ventilation fans or similar features.

Basement and Crawl Space

Low energy efficiency in the basement and crawl spaces under your floors can cause problems such as cold floor surfaces, inconsistent heating and cooling, increased heating and cooling costs, and an infestation of pests like rodents and insects.

Increasing insulation and sealing air leaks are the two main home improvement projects for energy efficiency in basements and crawl spaces.

Check for air leaks in areas such as wiring or plumbing penetrations; around windows, doors and entrances; between rim joists and under sill plate; and around foundation at sill plate.

Seal holes with caulking or foam insulation. Cut insulation to the proper size and install between rim joists and beams, focusing on areas between the basement ceiling and your home's floor.

HVAC System Ductwork

The ductwork of your heating and cooling system is a prime area where energy loss and air leaks can occur. You can check the ducts yourself, but in most cases, it's a better idea to include a ductwork inspection as part of regular preventive maintenance for your furnace, air conditioner or heat pump.

If the ductwork is leaking, you can expect problems such as increased heating and cooling bills, inconsistent heating and hot/cold spots, and decreased indoor air quality and increased amount of particulates in the air.

Increase ductwork efficiency in the following ways:

  • Check for loose, damaged or missing ductwork sections and repair or replace as needed.
  • Make sure all sections of ductwork fit tightly together, especially at branches. The connections can be made more secure by attaching the sections together with screws or other appropriate fasteners.
  • Ensure ducts are properly and securely connected to vents and registers.
  • Seal all connections with mastic, a specialized sealant designed for use on ducts.
  • Insulate ducts. Wrap them with fiberglass blanket insulation or install rigid fiberboard insulation on the outside of the ducts.

Doors, Windows and Walls

Doors, windows and walls present multiple opportunities for energy to be lost, especially when doors are opened and closed or when air leaks occur around window and door frames. Drafts and energy loss are common. Openings around doors and windows can also allow insects and other pests to get inside your home.

Some effective home improvement projects for energy efficiency in these areas include:

  • Adding more insulation between wall beams and joists to reduce energy loss through the walls.
  • Adding rubber or foam weatherstripping around the edges of doors and windows to seal out drafts and prevent air loss.
  • Caulking around door and window frames, casings and glass panes.
  • Caulking and sealing around wall penetrations, including electrical outlets, wiring or plumbing holes, ventilation fans and light fixtures.
  • Putting plastic over windows and applying window treatments that help save energy.
  • Ensuring fireplace flues are closed when the fireplace isn't in use.

Need more suggestions for home improvement projects for energy efficiency? Contact us today for help finding a West Texas HVAC contractor near you.

 

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