Weatherizing your home is a smart investment that pays for itself over time. The items below are the most cost effective upgrades for any homeowner who is looking for ways to make their home more comfortable and energy efficient.
We offer a variety of rebate programs that assist residential and commercial customers who are making upgrades. Those interested in exploring these options, or scheduling an energy audit should visit our Energy Efficiency Programs page for more information.
Having your home insulated to separate the areas you wish to condition (heat and/or cool) from those not needing conditioning, should be the first energy related investment you make in a home that is not properly insulated. Ensure that areas such as ceilings, exterior walls, and floors are insulated with not gaps or voids in coverage. Insulation effectiveness is indicated by the R-value, the higher the value the better it resists the transfer of heat. When completed, the insulation should make up a continuous barrier between your home’s conditioned and unconditioned spaces.
When conditioned air escapes your home it is replaced by outside air through a process known as infiltration. These air gaps are most troublesome when located between your home’s conditioned and unconditioned spaces; such as exterior walls, attics, unfinished basements, and crawlspaces. To properly seal air gaps, materials such as latex or high temperature caulking, injectable foam, and rigid foam board commonly referred to as R-Max should be used. Fiberglass, while a great insulator, often acts more as an air filter than a proper air barrier. Air sealing is a part of our insulation program, and is recommended by our energy services team accordingly as a result of the weatherization energy audit process when needed.
Homeowners are encouraged to inspect the following areas for gaps and seal them accordingly.
- Window and door frames, sills, and joints
- Plumbing penetrations for water pipes and drains in kitchens, laundry rooms, and bathrooms are usually located under sinks or behind appliances.
- Exhaust fans commonly located in kitchens, laundry, and bathrooms.
- Interior hatches, pull down stairs, and small doors that grant access to your attic or crawl spaces.
- Floor and ceiling registers associated with your homes heating or cooling system.
- Behind interior trim where your walls meet your floor and ceilings.
- Where chimneys and flues meet walls and ceilings.
- Pocket doors
- Light fixtures
- Wall plugs and switches
Heating & Cooling
In our region many homes heat with electric resistance systems such as baseboards, wall heaters, portable plug-in heaters, and electric furnaces. One of the most cost-effective investments you can make to a properly insulated home is upgrading to a ducted or ductless air source heat pump. These systems work very efficiently in our climate and both heat and cool your home. See using your heat pump efficiently for more information.
Duct systems not properly sealed lose an average of 30% – 60% of the air passing through them. The majority of these duct systems travel through attics and crawlspaces that are unconditioned and vented to the outside. In these instances, the air that your system has just heated or cooled is being consistently lost to the exterior and never makes it into your home. This is only magnified when you attempt to close off entire rooms in your home by blocking or closing supply and return registers. Thus; when your system turns on and air hits the closed register, it increases the static pressure in the duct system, which simply increases the amount of air lost through the leaks.
Heat pumps and furnaces connected to duct systems that are not properly sealed must in turn run longer and more often to meet the thermostat’s set point. This not only causes them to use much more energy than needed, but also reduces the expected life of the system and drastically increases the cost of operation.
Portable “Plug-In” and Electric Resistance Heating
Some electric heaters claim to be more energy efficient and to cut heating bills by 50 percent. Can this be true?
It is possible to cut your heating bill by 50 percent or more with any electric space heater if you are willing to make some sacrifices. By turning down or completely turning off all the other heating systems in your home and using a single space heater to heat the room you are occupying, can cut your heating bill tremendously. There is however, no magic to electric resistance heaters. Whether a plug-in space heater or direct wired zonal heating system, like baseboard and wall heaters, they all have several things in common. All are 100-percent efficient at turning electricity into heat, each converts one watt of electricity into 3.413 British thermal units (Btu’s) of heat. Higher wattage heaters produce more heat, and plug-in space heaters are limited to 1,500 watts, which equates to 5,120 Btu’s.
Regardless of what a manufacturer claims about their electric space heater, all are limited to the facts above. It does not matter whether the heater uses electric resistance coils or ceramic quartz tubes to produce the heat, the wattage consumed by an electric space heater determines how much heat it can produce. A 1,500 watt heater will produce the same amount of heat regardless of its cost or other unique features. A $40 heater will be as efficient and effective as a $400 heater. The bottom line with any electric resistance heat is that the less wattage the heater consumes, the less it will cost to operate. However, the less wattage it consumes, the less heat it will produce as well.
Be sure to check your heaters energy label to determine the wattage. Most will list the watts used but some will only give you the amount of amps it uses. To use this information to determine the watts you simply multiply volts x amps. If the heater is hard wired it is using 220
volts, if plugged into the wall it is using 110 volts.
Windows generally come last on the cost effectiveness priority list. Since upgrading all your home’s windows can be very expensive, they also generally have a longer payback period. New windows however, have many positive effects on your comfort and your home’s value, especially when upgrading from old single pane wood or metal framed windows. Energy efficient windows can be identified by the ratings listed on the windows NFRC stickers.
NFRC label – The National Fenestration Rating Council rates U-Factor, SHGC, Visible Transmittance, and Air Leakage. Manufacturers associated with NFRC must submit their products to NFRC for testing.
Energy Performance Ratings:
- U-Factor: Heat transmittance through the window. A lower number indicates less transmittance through the window.
- SHGC: Blocking the sun’s radiant heat. Lower SHGC means less radiant solar heat gain through the window.
- Visible Transmittance: Visible light passed through the window. VT is rated between 0 and 1. A higher number indicates more light is transmitted.
- Air Leakage: Optional rating. Not all window manufacturers list AL. A lower number indicates a lower air leakage rate.