Energy costs will continue to rise in the near constant race between energy cost and energy efficiency. As the SEER and AFUE ratings on our home heating and cooling systems get better and better, energy prices will continue to fluctuate, likely trending towards higher costs. Fortunately, there are better ways to increase the efficiency of your home that don’t include buying a more efficient system every time energy prices spike. Better home insulation and sealing are key to keeping heat in one place.
Sealing Your Home
A drafty home is an energy inefficient home. Regardless of the season, keeping your home comfortable is about regulating where heat is located. You want to keep things warm inside during the winter and hot outside during the summer. A leaky, drafty home makes this difficult by allowing heat to travel freely. According to the law of thermodynamics, heat will try to balance the temperature in a room. If your home has a draft anywhere then heat will flow in during the summer and flow out during the winter.
How do you ensure you aren’t losing comfort to leakage in your home?
Start by testing for air tightness.
Look for potential leaks. Check weather-stripping on doors and windows and make sure that fireplace flues are closed tightly. During the summer, covering your chimney or using a fireplace balloon to seal it are good ways to prevent heat loss through a fireplace. You can find other leaks by feeling for drafts. If you aren’t sure where a leak is coming from, light an incense stick and move the stick around the room. The smoke will follow the flow of air and you can identify leak points. Otherwise, perform a visual inspection of every opening, wall, or port in your home. Exterior vents for dryers or your furnace can also be spots for leaks.
- Use caulking and weather-stripping to seal any exterior features. These include: Doors, windows, plumbing ports, exhaust vents, ducting, or wiring.
- Use foam gaskets behind outlets and switch plates to reduce heat lost to interior walls.
- Inspect dirty spots on ventilation for potential leaks. This also applies to ceiling joins and baseboards.
- Windows should be replaced with double-pane or storm windows to mitigate heat loss. Otherwise, use heavy curtains to control heat or heat wraps for the glass.
- Use foam sealants on large gaps.
- Replace doors with new doors that have sealing gaskets along the bottom.
Insulating your Home
Even with a properly sealed home, conduction (the movement of energy such as heat or electricity through a material) still promotes heat transfer. The best way to protect against heat loss during the winter or cooling loss during the summer is through proper insulation of your home. Insulation works by creating multiple pockets of air within the walls of your home. These pockets make it difficult for heat to travel in either direction, keeping your home warm it the winter and cool in the summer. Over time the insulation of your walls and ceiling will slowly compress, reducing the number of air pockets and increasing conductivity of heat. If your walls feel cold during the winter, consult a specialist about whether or not you should replace the insulation in them.
For ceilings, take a look in your attic. The fiberglass insulation is either sprayed in between the rafters or laid out in mats. If the insulation isn’t reaching the tops of the wooden beams in your ceiling, then you likely need to replace the insulation.