Let’s start at the beginning.
1) The typical home in this country loses 25% of it heat (or cooling) from what’s called infiltration.
We experience infiltration as drafts. Every penetration through the skin of the house or the envelope
allows outside air into the house. This includes doors, windows, hose bibs, the electrical service
entrance (where the circuit breaker lives) and any other hole in the envelope that allows air to be
exchanged. So here is the checklist of where to start:
• Weatherstrip all operable windows and doors
• Caulk around hose bibs and at the electrical service entrance
• Look carefully for any other penetrations and seal them
• Look at where the siding meets the foundation. Expandable foam is great for large holes or gaps
• Investigate from the outside in and the inside out
You will be surprised at how many holes you find!
2) Go up into the attic. It may be the first time you’ve been there. Wear a dust mask and old clothes
because it will be dusty and dirty. Be careful to only step on the wood ceiling joists and not on
drywall underneath and fall through. Bring a bright flashlight because you might not be able to get
very far if there are trusses or other obstructions. Bring a straight ruler or a tape measure. Measure
the depth of your insulation. If it is less that a foot deep you are ready for more. If you have loose
insulation, look to see if it is evenly spread out over the ceiling. If not, you can use a leaf rake to
even it out. Attic insulation is one of the easiest things to do to save a lot of energy.
3) Take a close look at your windows. Are they single glazed? Are they wood, metal or vinyl? Do you
have storm windows? Do you use them? No matter what type of window you have you lose up to 10
times more heat through them than through your walls. If you have single glazed windows your
home is a good candidate for replacement windows. Any other type of window is a candidate for
storm windows. This puts another layer of dead air space between you and the outside. Dead air
space is what makes any insulation work.
Storm windows are less expensive that window replacements. If you are on a tight budget look for
indoor plastic storms. These come in rolls from the hardware store and are literally like shrink wrap.
To install them, put double sided tape around the edges of the window, cut the plastic to fit, stick it
to the tape, and blow hot air on the plastic (with a hairdryer) until it shrinks to fit. Simple. This layer
can be pulled off in the spring when you want to open the window.
4) Go on a basement adventure with your kids. Look at your water heater. How old is it? Can’t
remember? Buy a water heater jacket from your local hardware store. It is a fiberglass and vinyl
jacket that wraps around the tank just like putting on a jacket on a cold day. It helps keep the water
in the tank warm and saves energy.
Carefully touch the pipes coming out the top of the water heater. One will be hot the other cold. Get
some pipe insulation and wrap the hot water pipe as far as you can, anywhere it is exposed. It also
helps to wrap the cold water pipe the first 6 feet from the water heater. This keeps water from
circulating through the house when you don’t want it to.
5) If you have forced air heating, look at the ducts in the basement. They are typically sheet metal
(depending on the age of the house). They can be square or round. When the furnace is on, run
your hand along the ducts, especially where they are joined together or change direction. You will
probably feel hot air leaking. That means it is not getting to where you want it to go. Buy a can of
non-toxic, water-based mastic and with a small brush coat the places where you find leaks. This
works much better than duct tape. It is preferable to coat every joint in the ductwork where ever you
can reach from the basement.
6) Walk around the house and count all the lamps and recessed light fixtures in the house. Think
about the fact that if you replaced one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb it will
save the equivalent amount of energy as driving your car from coast to coast. Hmmmm. How many
bulbs did you count? Go buy a few packages of compact fluorescent bulbs and replace them. It might
take some time to get used to the change in light quality but you will accommodate to it. If you don’t
like it after a while, go to a lighting store and buy compact fluorescent bulbs that have a warmer
light, more like the incandescent color.
In less than a weekend you’ve just saved 20-25% on your utility bill and made your house more
comfortable at the same time.
Excerpted from GreenBuilding.com (03.17.09)