If you're searching for energy-saving tips for practical ways to keep heating bills down, increase comfort or both, you've found the right page. Read through these tips and efficiency upgrades for simple savings today, and home-efficiency tuneups and improvements this fall. You can count on greater comfort and lower energy bills when cooler weather settles into the Mid-Atlantic region.
Sealing the Envelope
Tightening up the home’s envelope with air sealing and insulation should be a high-priority project. Air sealing plugs holes and cracks at common infiltration points, such as around windows and doors, and it should be performed before adding insulation.
- Lock windows and doors to ensure they're closed tight to minimize leakage.
- Make a note of any locks that need repair or replacement.
- Use a smoke pencil to help find air leaks by tracing it around the perimeters of windows, doors, fireplace damper, light and outlet plates, and the attic hatch.
- Do you have drafty spots in your home? Drafts are typically caused by air leaks, which could be the mail slot on a door, worn weatherstripping, an open fireplace damper, hidden attic leaks and many more areas.
- Use weatherstripping around door perimeters, including the attic door or hatch.
- Caulk and weatherstripping are used to seal leaky windows. Foam or tension strips weatherstripping are good for sealing frames.
- Plate seals plug leakage from wall outlets and light switches.
- Use foam weatherstripping to ensure the attic hatch is tightly sealed, and use the smoke pencil to check for air leaks in the attic.
- Expanding spray foam is great for filling in larger holes and gaps in the home’s exterior.
Insulating the Envelope
Where air sealing blocks air movement, insulation acts like a blanket and hinders heat movement from a warmer to cooler place. Once your home is sealed, it’s time to check the insulation.
- Check the insulation in the attic for mold and mildew, displacement (strewn loose fill), damaged and missing insulation, and replace as needed.
- The attic should be insulated to R-60, which is approximately 16 to 19 inches for cellulose and fiberglass insulation, respectively.
- It's fine to add different materials of insulation, but make sure a lighter insulation is added on top (For example, fiberglass rolls and loose fill can be added to cellulose, but not the other way around since cellulose is heavier.)
- Use blown in or loose fill fiberglass or cellulose for wall cavities.
Windows provide a connection to exterior views, and, unfortunately, they also provide an easy exit for heating dollars. Consider adding window treatments, along with these tips:
- Typically, drapes on south-facing windows should be open to allow sunlight into the home during the heating months.
- In extremely cold weather, however, you may wish to keep drapes closed as part of your energy-saving strategy to help block heat loss. Definitely keep draperies closed at night.
- Shutters and storm panels provide excellent resistance to heat loss, boosting window efficiency by as much as 50 percent and providing extra security.
- Storm panels may be removed during nice weather, and shutters may open up to let the sun in when you need it.
- Shutters and storm panels may be installed inside or outside the home.
Spotlight on Savings
Lighting consumes approximately 9 to 12 percent of the energy budget in the average home. If you're still using traditional incandescent light bulbs, you're in for some good news.
- Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms, and when leaving a room.
- High-efficiency CFL, halogen and LED lighting save 40 to 75 percent energy compared to incandescent lighting. High-efficiency lighting is also more durable than incandescent and lasts 10 to 25 times longer. Inventory your lighting and replace old bulbs with new high-efficiency lighting.
- Use automated and dimmer switches to adjust lighting as needed.
- If you enjoy decorating your home’s exterior with lights during the holiday seasons, try using LED lights.
Heating Tips and Maintenance
All of the energy-saving strategies you're implementing for sealing, insulating window coverings are to help the heating system operate more efficiently. Since the boiler or furnace in the average Hagertown home accounts for about half or more of the energy budget, heating performance is crucial for shrinking energy bills.
- Check the air filter monthly. A clogged air filter can increase heating bills by 5 percent.
- Make sure venting stays clear of obstructions, such as snow, ice and animal nests.
- If you have window A/C units, or if you use a packaged air-source A/C, make sure to tightly cover the units to prevent cold air entering through.
- If your heating system has needed repairs and is 10 years old or more, consider replacing it with a high-efficiency furnace.
- Zoning systems are exceptional add-ons for an older or replacement heating system that allows you to heat only occupied zones in your home.
- Schedule professional maintenance for your heating system every fall season.
Pay Attention to Ductwork
Be mindful of the importance of good ductwork design for home efficiency and comfort. The air ducts should provide a clear channel for heated airflow through the supply ducts and diffusers, the living spaces, and return grilles and ducts.
- Closed doors obstruct free airflow, unless there's a return grille in the room. Keep doors open.
- Check diffusers for obstructions, such as debris and furniture.
- Check air ducts for leaks and disconnected seams. Rattling and clamoring noises are signs of loose ducts, which should be sealed with metal tape.
- Thin metal ducts should be insulated. Rigid fiber board works well, or wrap ducts with fiberglass batts.
- Any time you are undertaking HVAC system upgrades, make sure your HVAC professional uses best practices for load calculations, system selection and duct sizing (i.e. Manuals J, S and D, respectively, from ACCA).
Thermostats and Temperature Settings
To take advantage of your energy-saving plan and upgrades, you have got to use good thermostat rules.
- Set the thermostat to 68 degrees during the heating months when the home is occupied.
- Use turn-back temperatures of 7 to 12 degrees when the home is unoccupied.
- Use turn-back temperatures of 4 to 8 degrees during sleeping hours.
- Turning the thermostat way up after a turn-back period usually doesn’t heat the home more quickly. Keep the setting at 68 degrees.
- Consider installing a programmable thermostat or smart thermostat for convenient comfort and energy savings according to your lifestyle.
- Select programmable thermostats are compatible with multiple comfort systems, such as a whole-house humidifier, air-purification system and zoning system, for ultimate home comfort control.
Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality
Proper home ventilation helps boost comfort, save energy and maintain good indoor air quality during the heating months when homes are tightly sealed.
- Ceiling fans help reduce energy costs during the cooling months by creating a wind chill effect. Ceiling fans help save energy during the heating months by forcing warmer air near the ceiling down to the occupied spaces of rooms.
- The ceiling fan should pull air up toward the ceiling, not down to the floor like the cooling months.
- Consider installing a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV) during your next upgrades or replacements. HRVs transfer heat from stuffy exhaust air to fresh, but cold, air intake.
- Attics need ventilation too in order to maintain the same temperature as the air outside the home. Consider installing mechanical ventilating fans to force ample ventilation.
The typical storage water heating system uses as much as 20 percent of the energy in a home. Consider these tips and usage habits for saving energy.
- Set the thermostat to 120 degrees. (Manufacturers commonly set temperatures at 140 to 145 degrees.)
- Use cold water for clothes washing.
- Use energy-saving settings on the dish-washing machine.
- Use fiberglass sleeves for all hot water pipes.
- Wrap the water heater with blanket insulation. Be careful not to cover the burner compartment of the flue at top.
- Install aerators and low-flow shower heads.
Appliances and Electronics
Most appliances, both large and small, are always "on" due to sleep modes that continue to use energy, or continuous appliances, such as the refrigerator and water heater.
- Use power strips for electronics and small appliances. When the devices aren't in use, turn off the power strip to halt sleep-mode energy consumption.
- A full refrigerator uses less energy. Use bottled water, canned goods or Styrofoam sections to fill empty spaces.
- Use lids when cooking on the stove top. Food cooks faster, which uses less energy.
- When you're upgrading systems, appliances and devices, look for the blue Energy Star logo to guide your choices. Energy Star-qualified products use less energy and offer more advanced features than non-qualifying systems.
- Work closely with your HVAC professional to make the best choices for your Hagertown home when upgrading or installing for new construction.
For more information about these energy-saving tips for your Hagertown area home, please contact Griffith Energy Services, Inc. today.
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