Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Three Ways to Gain Energy Savings in Your Bay Area Home

Sustainable building trends are beginning to dominate the building industry. Modern architectural design and innovative home appliances have allowed homeowners to live in significantly larger homes using a fraction of the energy consumed by their parents' and grandparents' more humble dwellings. While some energy saving solutions such as Energy Star appliances and energy efficient windows are more obvious, there are other things you can do to save on monthly utility bills.

With summer right around the corner, this is a great time to evaluate three ways your family can reduce overall energy consumption and save hundreds (potentially thousands) of dollars on annual utility spending.

3 Hidden Ways to Save Money and Energy

These tips are even more valuable if your home was built prior to the mid-1990s when energy efficiency wasn't a mainstream priority.
  1. Seal the Envelope. You would be amazed at the amount of energy that is literally sucked out of your home when it's not properly sealed. Before the weather gets much warmer, take a walk around your house and assess potential energy leaks. On a cool morning or evening, move your hand around the edges of exterior doors and windows, exterior plumbing penetrations, and electrical outlets on exterior walls. Do you feel any cool air? Do a walk-around the exterior of your home to look for any visible cracks/holes/or obvious penetrations. You'll want to check your attic as well. Sealing leaks is a pretty simple DIY project or you can hire a local contractor to do the work for you.
  2. Insulation. Does your home have sufficient insulation to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures without using excess energy on heating/cooling? Unless your home was built in the last decade, or you've done a major renovation, there is a good chance the answer is no. Your home can lose a significant amount of energy through the attic and exterior walls if they aren't adequately insulated. Take a look in your attic and verify:
    • The R-Value of your insulation. Does it match the recommended R-Value(s) on this Energy Star map?
    • Quantity. Does your insulation come to no more than an inch below your attic floor joists? Ideally, you want insulation be almost equal or even a little higher than your joists.
    • Gaps. Make sure there are no visible holes or gaps. If there are, these are areas where your home is leaking energy.
    If you decide your home would benefit from added insulation, make sure to hire a licensed insulation contractor or read these detailed instructions for a relatively simple DIY insulation project.
  3. Duct Design/Maintenance. Again, if your home was built prior to the mid-1990s, your duct design is probably poorly designed and/or inadequately sized. Hire a licensed HVAC contractor to inspect your ducts and make sure they are providing appropriate air flow, have adequate air intakes and returns, and are adequately sealed and insulated. These simple fixes will keep conditioned air where it belongs: in your home!
Paying attention to these "invisible" items will make your home much more energy efficient, not to mention result in valuable utility savings.

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