Create an Energy-Efficient Abode with Ease
In 2017, electricity prices are expected to increase by 2.7%. With the long-range weather forecasts suggesting a high probability of above-average temperatures for Summer 2017, you could be looking at an expensive year for energy use in your Texas home.
Thankfully, no matter if you live in an apartment or house, there are several steps you can take to make your home more energy efficient. Doing so can reduce your energy usage and improve your comfort. Getting the job started isn’t always easy, especially if you’re not entirely sure where to begin. To help you build up your resolve, we’ve put together a list of New Year’s Resolutions for energy efficiency in the home.
Tips for Everyone
Apartment owners generally don’t let you do too much to improve the energy efficiency of the whole building’s structure. Still, there are inexpensive improvements you can to your living space to seal out drafts as well as take control of the things that use the most energy in your home.
1) Switch Out Incandescent Bulbs (and CFL Bulbs!) for LED Bulbs
It’s pretty simple:
- A 60 watt incandescent bulb that puts out about 800 lumens (brightness) will burn up 240 watts in just 4 hours.
- A 13 watt CFL that puts out the same amount of lumens, meanwhile, uses just 52 watts over the same amount of time.
- A comparable 8 watt LED bulb will consume just 32 watts.
If you have CFL bulbs, start learning more about LED bulbs and color temperature so you’ll know the best ones to buy when your CFL bulbss burn out. Cheap CFL bulbs have a lifespan of about 24 months, while EnergyStar qualifying CFL bulbs last up to 20,000 hours. Meanwhile, LED lights are still a little bit more expensive, but they are rated to last more than 50,000 hours.
2) Seal Drafts and Cold Spots
Check entry doors for signs of drafts where cold air can leak into your home. This includes tightening loose door hinge screws and replacing worn, loose, or missing weatherstripping. Weatherstripping kits for doors and windows are inexpensive, and blocking up drafts will help make your home feel more comfortable and keep it warmer.
Another thing you can do is to buy an inexpensive infrared thermometer and use it to detect temperature differences that indicate where drafts might be getting in, such as outlets, light switches, and window frames.
3) Install Thermal-Backed Drapes and Curtains
In a typical single-family home, 25% to 35% of the heat is lost through windows at night. Insulated drapes can cut this loss by 25%, more if the drapes are hung from closed cornice. Opening these during the day lets in the warming sunshine. In summer, close the curtains on south or southwest facing windows to keep out the sun’s intense summer heat.
4) Kill the Energy Vampires and Zombies
An energy vampire is anything like a power brick for a game consoles, battery charger, or any other kind of wall wart. These are inexpensive AC adapters that use transformers (induction coils) to convert wall current into low voltage DC. Even if you turn off the device or gadget, these power supplies stay on.
An energy zombie is any appliance that isn’t ON, but it’s also not OFF. Such devices linger in “standby mode” waiting for you to push a button to bring them to life. What’s “standby mode?” Any remote-controlled device must use a tiny bit of electricity to power its receiver circuit so it can pick up a signal to turn on at your merest whim. The zombie horde includes, TVs, cable boxes, home theatre systems, game consoles, Blu-ray players, wireless printers and scanners, and more.
How do you beat back these ravenous energy mongers? Simply control them by using inexpensive timers, smart power strips that turn off when levels fall to standby levels, or smart outlets you can control with your smartphone.
Tips for Homeowners
Owning your house lets you improve on how well the structure heats and cools. There’s usually a lot more work and mess, but you’ll notice the savings and improvement in comfort right away.
Air sealing means sealing electrical and plumbing holes in walls, between floors, and even in the lighting fixtures and wiring in your attic. This stops the flow of air from your home’s air conditioned living space out of your home, which can save an average of 11% or more off your energy costs. In particular, seal around the soil stack, lighting junction boxes, and install insulated covers for recessed lighting fixtures.
6) Add More insulation to Your Attic
By increasing the insulation amount from R11 (about 3 inches) to R49 (roughly 12” of cellulose or fiberglass batts), homeowners can save about $600 a year off heating and cooling bills. Needless to say, preparing for the job is of key importance, so make sure your attic has been thoroughly air sealed before you begin. Even though insulating is expensive, the job can be completed in stages. Simply begin by insulating over area that gets the most use and then build out from there.
7) Seal Your Duct Work
Unsealed or un-insulated ductwork loses up to 20% of the energy from your heating, ventilation, and air conditioner (HVAC) system. Worse still, if you have unsealed return duct work passing through crawlspaces, your furnace may be blowing mold, mildew, and fungus spores throughout your home.
Sealing your duct work with aluminum duct tape or duct sealing mastic ensures that your HVAC system will blow the conditioned air to where it’s supposed to go. Sealing the return ductwork as well means the system will be able to pull air more efficiently from all the rooms of your home.
8) Stop Warm Air from Going Up the Flue
Fireplaces in winter might add warmth and charm to a room, but when they’re not in use, you could be sending heated air out of your house — even if you have closed the flue. Install a chimney-top damper that fully seals your chimney. It looks much like a hatch and uses a heat-resistant gasket. Another solution is to use an inflatable fireplace damper balloon or plug that gets stuffed up inside the chimney to reduce drafts.
9) Inspect Your Windows
Repair worn or cracked window glazing on older wood sash windows. Look for signs of moisture damage and rotten wood. If you discover a window that can’t close properly or has damage to the window frame or sill holding the window in place, then it’s time to replace it with one that’s Energy Star qualified. Energy Star windows block solar heat gain in the summer, reflect radiant heat indoors during winter, and are designed to resist condensation problems.
10) Inspect and Seal the Mudsill and Band Joist Joint to the Foundation
The mudsill is the board bolted flat on to the top of the foundation wall. It provides a bed to attach the flooring joists and banding boards for the first floor of the house. Common building practice now is to put down a plastic foam gasket over the foundation before attaching the mudsill, and older homes may have felt or paper. However, none of these options creates a complete seal. Check for air leakage by wetting the back of your hand to feel for drafts, and then seal the leaks with caulk or expanding foam.
If it’s not been done already, encapsulate the crawlspace of your home by putting down a simple moisture barrier of 6-mil polyethylene plastic sheeting across the crawlspace floor. Overlap and tape all seams by 12 inches, and seal the sheet 6 inches up the crawlspace walls. This will stop soil moisture from rising into the crawlspace and eventually entering the living space. You’ll notice less humidity in your home within 24 hours.
What recommendations do you have for improving the energy efficiency of your home as a New Year’s Resolution? Please share with us in the comments!