In these hot summer months, most of us have gotten used to running the air conditioner more frequently and paying higher energy bills. This is especially true if you live in a home that is at least a few years old. Air duct defects, windows, ceiling and wall penetrations are the main causes of air leaks in the home resulting in higher energy use. Until these air leaks are reduced, wasted money is spent day after day especially in the summer and cold winter months.
You are probably already aware of the usual air leaks in your home such as the under-the-door draft, however there are many other areas where cold air is escaping in the summer and warm air in the winter. Cracks and holes around bricks, stucco, windows, recessed lighting and air ducts are also common areas that are increasing your energy bills month after month.
To detect insulation deficiencies and air leaks in the home a specialized assessment can be done that involves a blower door test and thermal imaging equipment.
Thermal imaging technology allows an energy auditor to see the differences in temperature in specific areas of your home, exposing the air leakage spots that are costing you money every month.
To test for an air leak yourself, light an incense stick on a windy day and holding it close to these areas in your home. If the smoke travels horizontally you have located a leak. Another good indicator of air leaks are dirty spots in insulation and on your ceiling and carpet. This is a sure sign that bad air is getting through.
There are quick and easy methods to reduce the air leaks in your home that you can implement right away. If you have a fireplace, be sure the flue damper is tightly closed when not in use. This could be a major area where cold air is escaping. You can also replace door bottom seals and weather stripping if they are worn, missing, or cracked. Because outlets and switch plates can be a source of air leaks, purchase and install foam gaskets behind them to create better seals in your walls.
Because hot air will always rise,it will be even more important to check for areas of air leakage surrounding your air registers and recessed lights. It has been common practice for years to cut a hole through the wall or ceiling, insert the register or light and cover the original unsealed hole with the decretive trim cover. By removing the grill or trim you can reveal these major leaks and seal them with painters calk.
Another major source of air leakage that will directly impact your comfort and energy bill is leaks in your AC ductwork. Because the conditioned air is under pressure any leak in the ducts will cost you dearly. Duct leaks in the attic will cause hot air to be sucked into your home through other leaking areas or they will cause dirty attic air to be sucked into your home pushing cooler air out of other lower leaks. Either way you could be losing as much as 20% of your cooling budget because of these leaks.
Sealing air leaks is one of the best and least expensive ways to lower your energy bills. Homework Remodels specializes in energy auditing with thermal imaging to expose these air leaks and properly seal them, as well as numerous other energy saving services.
In our work with older homes, we are always surprised to see how many homes have not had additional insulation added to supplement what little may have initially been installed. This is especially evident in our valley's historic homes in that many of them were never insulated in the first place.
Homeowners have a wide selection of choices for upgrading their home's insulation. The types we recommend most often are blown cellulose and spray foam insulation. They are excellent alternatives to the much used fiberglass, and are much friendlier to the environment.
Foam insulation is the best at both insulating and air sealing. It's downside is it's initial cost to install is many times higher than blown cellulose.
Cellulose is an excellent choice because it is made from 80% post-consumer recycled newsprint.
The newsprint fiber is chemically treated with non-toxic borate compounds to resist fire, insects, and mold. The Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association claims that insulating a 1500 sq. ft. house with cellulose will recycle as much newspaper as an individual will consume in 40 years. Cellulose also requires less energy to manufacture than fiberglass. The Environmental Building News reports that fiberglass requires approximately eight times more energy to make when adjusted to reflect energy cost per installed R-value.
Blown cellulose can be installed in new or existing structures in attics and walls. Construction-savvy homeowners might be able to install it themselves in open attic spaces. You can use blowing machines from rental centers or building material centers to blow numerous bales of product into the attic. The process requires two people to use the equipment. A great deal of care must be taken to apply the insulation properly and protect yourself and your ceiling from damage in the process.
Our recommendation is to have the process done by professionals. This is especially true regarding insulating walls either during remodeling or retrofitting existing walls.
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