RREA recommends a whole-house approach, one where the home is thought of as an energy system with interdependent parts. For example, your heating system is not just a furnace—it's a heat-delivery system that starts at the furnace and delivers heat throughout your home using a network of ducts. Even a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient furnace will waste a lot of fuel if the ducts, walls, attic, windows, and doors are not properly sealed and insulated.
Energy Use In Your Home
The key to achieving savings in your home is a whole-house energy efficiency plan which is developed from your home energy assessment. The whole-house approach on which RREA’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is based ensures that dollars you invest to save energy are spent wisely.
Energy-efficient improvements not only make your home more comfortable, they can yield long-term financial rewards. Reduced utility bills more than make up for the higher price of energy-efficient appliances and improvements over their lifetimes. In addition, your home could bring in a higher price when you sell.
You can find additional information below on:Hot, Cold or Drafty Rooms
Air Leaks and Insulation
Hot, Cold, or Drafty Rooms
HOT OR COLD ROOMS
Temperature differences of up to three degrees from room to room are not uncommon, but often one or several rooms are uncomfortably warm or cold. This condition could be caused by several factors within your home including inadequate insulation, air leakage, poor duct system design, duct leakage, unwanted heating by the sun in warmer months, or a failure in part of your heating and cooling system.
Common problem rooms include:
- Room over a garage
For best results hire a contractor who is an energy specialist to do an in-home evaluation. A good specialist will use diagnostic equipment to evaluate the performance of your home and generate a customized list of improvements.
- Ask your contractor to check if your heating and cooling system is operating correctly.
- Ask your contractor to check your ducts for air leakage and proper distribution of air.
- Seal air leaks and add insulation (Home Sealing).
- If the sun is making rooms to hot, consider shades or solar screening.
Cold air leaking into your house around windows, doors, electrical outlets, light fixtures, and gaps in corners, can cause rooms to feel drafty and uncomfortable. As cold air is coming in through leaks, warm air is escaping through other leaks. The biggest leaks for escaping air are often found in the attic, and recessed lights are a common location.
- Air sealing (Home Sealing) can help stop drafts and improve the comfort of your home. The most important leaks are often in the attic. You can do some things yourself, but for the best solution you need to hire a contractor.
- Ask your heating and cooling contractor to check ducts for air leaks and balanced airflow.
- If you have a fireplace, close the damper when not in use.
Air Leaks & Insulation
Sealing and insulating the "envelope" or "shell" of your home — its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors — is often the most cost effective way to improve energy efficiency and comfort. ENERGY STAR estimates that a knowledgeable homeowner or skilled contractor can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% on their total annual energy bill) by sealing and insulating.
Many air leaks and drafts are easy to find because they are easy to feel — like those around windows and doors. But holes hidden in attics, basements, and crawlspaces are usually bigger problems. Sealing these leaks with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping will have a great impact on improving your comfort and reducing utility bills.
Homeowners are often concerned about sealing their house too tightly; however, this is very unlikely in most older homes. A certain amount of fresh air is needed for good indoor air quality and there are specifications that set the minimum amount of fresh air needed for a house. If you are concerned about how tight your home is, hire a contractor, such as a Building Performance Institute Certified Building Analyst, who can use diagnostic tools to measure your home's actual leakage. If your home is too tight, a fresh air ventilation system may be recommended.
After any home sealing project, have a heating and cooling technician check to make sure that your combustion appliances (gas- or oil-fired furnace, water heater, and dryer) are venting properly. For additional information on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues related to homes, such as combustion safety, visit EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Web site.
In houses with forced-air heating and cooling systems, ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout the house. In a typical house, however, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks and poorly sealed connections. The result is higher utility bills and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how the thermostat is set.
Because some ducts are concealed in walls and between floors, repairing them can be difficult. However, exposed ducts in attics, basements, crawlspaces, and garages can be repaired by sealing the leaks with duct sealant (also called duct mastic). In addition, insulating ducts that run through spaces that get hot in summer or cold in winter (like attics, garages, or crawlspaces) can save significant energy.
Insulation keeps your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. There are several common types of insulation — fiberglass (in both batt and blown forms), cellulose, rigid foam board, and spray foam. Reflective insulation (or radiant barrier) is another insulating product which can help save energy in hot, sunny climates.
When correctly installed with air sealing, each type of insulation can deliver comfort and lower energy bills during the hottest and coldest times of the year.
Insulation performance is measured by R-value — its ability to resist heat flow. Higher R-values mean more insulating power. Different R-values are recommended for walls, attics, basements and crawlspaces, depending on your area of the country. Insulation works best when air is not moving through or around it. So it is very important to seal air leaks before installing insulation to ensure that you get the best performance from the insulation.
See Recommended Levels of Insulation to determine what is most cost-effective for your home.
To get the biggest savings, the easiest place to add insulation is usually in the attic. A quick way to see if you need more insulation is to look across your uncovered attic floor. If your insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, you probably need to add more insulation. The recommended insulation level for most attics is R-38 (or about 12–15 inches, depending on the insulation type). In the coldest climates, insulating up to R-49 is recommended.
This content is provided as courtesy from the Leap Energy Alliance Program, EPA and DOE.