No matter what the temperature, making sure your home is energy efficient will save you money all year round. If you live in a warm climate, you’ll be turning on your air conditioner soon. Improvements in your house’s infrastructure will help now with electricity bills and later, with heating oil bills. Taking these easy, inexpensive steps will help boost your home’s energy efficiency and save you money in any type of weather.
Air leaks can waste up to 30 percent of your yearly energy bill. Making sure your windows and doors are airtight will save you money. Caulking is easy to do, inexpensive, and very effective. It will usually pay for itself in savings within one year.
Caulking is a compound used for filling cracks, holes, crevices, and joints on both the inside and outside of your home. In general, it should be applied wherever two different building materials meet on the interior or exterior of your home. Since different building materials expand and contract at various rates, places where different materials meet have a greater tendency to crack.
Through the years, with temperature extremes and caulk drying out, cracks develop between materials. Because these cracks allow air infiltration, the cracks need to be caulked.
Old, cracked caulk should be removed before new is applied. Check your home repair center for a “puttying tool” that will make the job easier. This is the perfect time of year to tackle this project since it should be above 40 degrees for caulk to be properly applied.
You can check for air leakage by moving your hand around the windows and doors on a windy day. If you can feel air movement, you need to caulk. Check these areas:
- Around doors and window frames
- Places where brick and wood siding meet.
- Between the foundation and walls.
- Around mail chutes.
- Around electrical and gas service entrances, cable T.V. and phone lines, and outdoor water faucets.
- Where dryer vents pass through walls.
- Around air conditioners.
- Around vents and fans.
Use different materials depending on the size and location of the gaps. Caulk is best for cracks and gaps less than 1/4 inch wide. Expanding foam sealant is good for sealing larger cracks and holes that are protected from sunlight and moisture. Rigid foam insulation may be used for very large openings, such as plumbing chases and attic hatch covers. Fiberglass insulation can also be used for sealing large holes, but it needs to be wrapped in plastic or stuffed in plastic bags because air can leak through fiberglass.
There are three types of caulking that cost $5 to $8 a cartridge:
- Silicon, which is the most durable
- Latex with silicon, which is the most economical
- Vinyl, where the caulking cartridge is inserted into a caulking gun.
Caulking guns run from $3 to $10. The best guns are the drip-free models.
How to caulk:
- 1. Scrape and clean the area to be caulked, removing paint chips and dirt.
- 2. Cut 1/4 inch off of the tip of the caulking tube with a utility knife.
- 3. Slide tube into caulking gun.
- 4. Run a 1/8-inch bead of caulk between window frame and siding. Look for any area where the elements outside can get into interior of your home.
- 5. Smooth the bead of caulk with the edge of a putty knife ice cream stick. Clean excess buildup of caulk from the stick every 6 inches.
- 6. Let dry for 24 hours before painting.
Like caulking, weatherstripping seals can make a big difference in your heating and energy bills. Millions of doors across the country have little or no weatherstripping. Since most doors have a space—sometimes as much as 1/4 or more—between the bottom of the door and the floor, large amounts of air can flow in and out of the house. For a typical 36-inch entry door, a crack as small as 1/4 inch can leak as much air as a nine-square-inch hole in the wall.
Weatherstripping comes in many forms, and can be made up of a combination of materials such as wood, rubber, vinyl, metal and foam. Some types work well on both doors and windows, while others are more limited.
Here are the types for use around the house:
Adhesive-Backed Foam or Tape
This material, made from rubber, foam, or sponge rubber, can be installed in the same manner as V-strip to help seal doors and windows. Hardware stores sell it in various widths and thicknesses, and the tape is self-adhesive and easy to install. Simply cut the tape to the length you need with scissors, peel away the backing from the tape and stick it in place.
The size and flexibility of tape make it well suited for blocking irregularly sized cracks. However, it wears out quickly and needs to be replaced often—probably every one to two years.
Felt, either plain or reinforced with a flexible metal strip, is sold in rolls that must be cut to length and stapled or tacked into place. Plain felt should be fitted in a doorjamb so that the door presses against it; reinforced felt can be used to seal around both doors and windows. Felt traditionally lasts one to two years before it needs to be replaced. A variation on felt is pile, a carpet-like material that can be glued or tacked in place. It comes in narrow, furry strips.
Don’t forget about weatherstripping or caulking around electric wall sockets and switches.
Use the following steps to apply either foam or felt types of weatherstripping:
- 1. Clean entire surface to which weatherstripping is to be attached. Use dishwashing detergent and water, and make certain no dirt or grease remains. If pressure-sensitive weatherstripping had been installed previously, use petroleum jelly to remove any old adhesive.
- 2. Dry the surface with rags.
- 3. Use scissors to cut the strip to fit, but do not remove backing paper yet. Starting at one end, slowly peel paper backing as you push sticky foam strips into place. If backing proves stubborn at beginning, stretch foam until seal between backing and the foam breaks.
Properly insulated homes can use 30 to 50 percent less energy than homes without insulation. Insulation acts as a barricade around your home’s walls, ceilings, floors, and ductwork, saving money and energy by keeping heat in during the winter and heat out during the summer.
The effectiveness of a piece of insulation is measured by its R-Value. The R-value in insulation designates its resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating ability. Generally speaking, each time you double the R-value of insulation, you cut your conduction heat loss in that area in half.
Adding insulation to an uninsulated attic is the most cost-effective, energy-saving measure you can take. Most older houses were built with little or no insulation. In more moderate climates, the minimum recommended R-value is R-30 for an attic, R-11 for walls, R-19 for raised floors, and R-4.2 for ductwork.
You can greatly increase energy efficiency by installing insulation with an R-value higher than the minimum requirements. But to truly enjoy the benefits of insulation, it must be installed correctly. Compressing it or leaving gaps through which air can flow can cut insulation’s effectiveness in half.
When insulating your attic, it’s important not to clog the attic vents under the eaves. Keep air circulating freely above the insulation by installing baffles (typically a piece of fiberglass batt placed several inches away from the vent).
For fire safety, keep insulation clear of heat-producing devices such as doorbell transformers and recessed lights, flues or vents from furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, and exhaust fans.
Places to insulate:
- In unfinished attic spaces, insulate between and over the floor joists to seal off living spaces below
- The attic access door
- In finished attic rooms with or without dormer
- All exterior walls
- Walls between living spaces and unheated garages, shed roofs, or storage areas
- Foundation walls above ground level
- Foundation walls in heated basements
- Floors above cold spaces, such as vented craw spaces and unheated garages.
Types of Insulation
The most popular and widely used type of insulation is fiberglass—which is actually made from spun glass. Fiberglass insulation is typically used to insulate floors, walls, ceilings and attics. It comes faced (paper backed) and un-faced, in various widths and R-values.
Other types of insulation include:
- Rigid foam (extruded polystyrene), used primarily for exterior applications.
- Cellulose (made from recycled paper), used for insulating walls, ceilings, attics and floors.
- Radiant barriers (closed cell foam faced on both sides with foil) use for insulating floors, walls, ceilings, attics, garage doors, water heaters and metal commercial buildings, and
- Spray foam (a two-part liquid containing a polymer and a foaming agent) used for insulating walls, ceilings and other interior closed spaces.
These products all have different R-values, material costs, and installation costs.
If a door fits improperly in its frame due to the house settling or is too short for its frame, it will allow cold (or warm) air inside. Door sweeps are easy to install and provide protection outside drafts and weather. They are installed on the inside bottom edge of doors that open into the house, and on the outside bottom edge of doors that open outward.
Steps for installing a door sweep:
- 1. Hold the sweep against the door, matching it flush with the bottom of the closed-door frame.
- 2. Screw one end of the sweep into the door, but leave the screw a little loose to allow for adjustment.
- 3. Move the sweep up or down as needed and screw the second side into the door.
- 4. Open the door completely to be sure the sweep clears the floor for the entire swing of the door.
- 5. Check to see that the sweep closes securely in the frame.
- 6. Tighten the screws and screw the sweep into the middle of the door bottom for added security.
When adjusting door sweeps and door bottoms, expect that they may not sit level on the bottom of the door. To achieve a good seal and adequate weatherproofing, door sweeps and door bottoms may need to slope downward (particularly in older homes where frames are no longer level).
Plastic Window Coverings
Plastic window sheeting can help keep heat and air conditioning inside. Window insulation kits are typically in stock at home supply and hardware stores, and, for less than ten dollars, you can usually get a kit that will insulate five standard size windows or at least one extra large window.
Steps to installing plastic window coverings:
1. Measure the width and height of the area that you will be applying the adhesive to.
2. Cut and apply one strip at a time, pressing firmly along the length of the tape. Repeat this for each area until you a continuous square of adhesive applied around the entire window frame.
3. After you have pressed down firmly on the entire length of adhesive, wait 15 minutes to ensure that it has time to adhere securely. Leave the adhesive backing on until you are ready to apply the plastic.
4. Cut the plastic film into a section large enough to ensure that you have at least one inch of overhang on all sides.
5. Remove the plastic backing from the tape across the top of the frame and apply the upper two corners of the sheet to the adhesive.
6. After corners are hung, press along the length of the top strip so that the plastic is secured all the way across. Repeat this process on each side. Secure the film to the bottom of the frame last.
7. Use a hand-held hairdryer to shrink the film so that it fits tightly across the window.
8. Using the highest heat setting, begin at one of the corners and slowly move the dryer across the film until all of the wrinkles have disappeared.
9. Be sure NOT to let the dryer touch the plastic. It will melt and you’ll have to start all over.
10. Trim off the excess plastic outside of the adhesive strip.
Here is a list of some other easy ways to save energy and money:
Lower your thermostat by just one degree, which may reduce your heating bill by 3 percent. Save even more by lowering your thermostat two degrees during the day and five to ten degrees at bedtime if health conditions allow. If you have air conditioning, raise your thermostat by one degree.
A programmable thermostat can save you money. You program it to a lower temperature when you’re at work or when you’re sleeping. With this type of thermostat, you don’t have to remember to keep turning it up or down.
Clean or replace the furnace filter on hot air heating systems.
Seal flues in fireplaces you don’t use.
Wrap an insulation blanket around the tank of your water heater. Wrap the hot water heater outlet pipe with inexpensive flexible insulating tubing to reduce the time it takes for hot water to reach your shower. Set your hot water heater to no more than 120 degrees.
Install low-flow showerheads and take a five-minute shower instead of a bath. The average household can save up to 25 gallons of water as well as the gas used to heat the water. Install water restrictors on your kitchen and bathroom faucets.
Install compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They last about 10,000 hours—ten times longer than incandescent bulbs—and use 60–75 percent less electricity.
All of these are easy, inexpensive ways to lower energy bill and use less heat and electricity.
For more information go to: