With the transition from warm summer weather into cooler fall and winter temperatures, you want to be sure your home is as energy efficient as possible. One of the biggest drains on your heating bill come from drafty windows.
Air leaks are not always easily seen. One way to test air leaks in your home, and especially around your windows, is to do a “smoke test.” All you need is a lit incense stick. To conduct the test, close all of the windows and doors in your home and turn off any combustion appliances, like a furnace or water heater. Turn on your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans so that you create a negative pressure in your house. This negative pressure sucks outside air into your home through cracks or openings.
Now, to check for leaks, hold the lit incense stick close to the spaces around the edges of your windows and doors and look for a noticeable change in the smoke coming from the lit incense stick. If there is an air leak, the smoke with be drawn inwards by the outside air being pulled into your home by the exhaust fans. If the smoke doesn’t change or remains undisturbed, you can assume that there are no leaks in that specific area. You will want to repeat this test throughout your home, checking all windows and doorways as well as any other areas you suspect a leak.
If your windows are the source of your air leak, you will want to consider replacing your windows with a more energy efficient window. For our area, you will want to look for at least a double pane window with argon gas that is rated for Energy Star Northern Zone. To increase the thermal efficiency of your windows, you could choose a triple pane window or even a triple pane with krypton gas (that could even keep Superman out!).
Today, there are many window manufacturers to choose from as well as different window styles. Your contractor can help you choose the best window for your home and insure they are properly installed.
Is your home losing energy?
Five tips to check your home for energy saving opportunities
Do you feel a draft in a room or wonder why your energy bills are so high? Especially during the winter months, you may tend to wonder if you can do anything to make your home more energy efficient.
A home energy audit is the best way to determine where your home is losing energy and what you can do to make your home more efficient. A “do-it-yourself” home energy audit is not as thorough as a professional assessment, but it can help you find areas that need addressed.
- Check for Air Leaks – Make a list of areas that you have obvious drafts. Check for indoor air leaks like gaps along baseboards or junctures of walls and ceilings and flooring edges. There can also be leaks outside of your home, especially where two different building materials meet.
- Seal all air leaks – Any holes or penetrations for faucets, pipes, electric outlets and wiring should be plugged and caulked. Look for cracks and holes and your foundation and siding. You’ll also want to look for leaks around windows and doors. You can seal all of these areas with sealant and caulk or by applying weather stripping.
- Check for Insulation –If the insulation levels of your home are less than the recommended minimum, you will sustain heat loss through ceilings and walls. Insulation was likely installed when your home was built. But given today’s energy prices, the level of insulation may not be adequate, especially in older homes. Check your attic to see how much insulation may be there. Also check for weather stripping and ensure it closes tightly. Check any openings for items such as pipe, ductwork or chimneys and ensure they are sealed. You can seal any gaps with caulk or other permanent sealant. Be sure to use non-combustible sealant around chimneys or other heat producing devices.
- Make sure your attic vents are not blocked by insulation.
- You’ll also need to check your walls for insulation. You can check this by selecting an exterior wall and turn off the circuit breaker for any outlets on that wall. Ensure the outlet is off and remove the cover plate. Then, gently probe into the wall with a thin, long stick or screwdriver. A plastic crochet hook works great and will retrieve small bits of any insulation material for easy identification. If you encounter a slight resistance, you have insulation there. This method will not tell you if the entire wall is insulated or if the insulation has settled. This will only tell you if there is something there.
- Inspect any heating and cooling equipment in your home annually. For example, if you have a forced air furnace, check your filters and replace them as needed. Filters should be changed about every month or two, especially during periods of high usage. If your furnace is more than 15 years old, you may want to consider replacing it with a newer, energy efficient unit. Insulate any ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces.
- Are you using the most efficient lighting? – Energy for lighting accounts for about 10% of your electric bill. Check the light bulbs in your home and consider replacing inefficient bulbs with more efficient bulbs, like CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) or LEDs (light-emitting diodes). Consider the brightness of the bulbs you want and check the labels for lumens. While LEDs may be more expensive at first, your savings will pay you back.
Your contractor can work with you on checking areas of your home for air leaks and recommend the best method to make your home as efficient as