Winter Energy Saving Tips from EES! #1
Leading up to and during the winter, EcoLogical Energy Systems is going to offer free energy saving tips!
We are strong believers in the, "Efficiency First" mantra that really took off during the America Recovery & Reinvestment Act stimulus package that concentrated heavily on fostering the energy efficiency industry.
Something that we at EES tell our clients when we first meet with them is that if they can lower the loads being consumed by their home, business, church or school, that the size of the renewable energy system they will need will also greatly decrease along with their power bills!
We do stress that the number one step to take in determining the energy efficiency measures your home or business needs is an comprehensive energy audit. There are certified energy auditors in the area that use diagnostic equipment, like a blower door tester, duct blaster tester and thermal imaging camera to name a few. Information is gathered about the site to determine air leakage, insulation levels, appliance and mechanical equipment efficiency and other energy, health and safety related items. A report is provided with the findings of the audit and recommended measures, usually with the low-hanging fruit recommended first.
Today, we are going to talk about air leakage and how to seal it up!
Your home or building will always have the same volume of air inside it. With a blower door tester, an energy auditor is able to record the Air Changes Per Hour (ACH). The ACH of an energy efficient home will be one or fewer ACH and older, leakier homes can have ACH over 15. This would mean that all the air in the building is completely cycled out more than 15 times in an hour with the blower door fan operating.
So, to get your air changes per hour down, we start with doing some air sealing of what the industry calls; thermal bypasses. Thermal bypasses include things like;
- a 2 inch hole cut for 1 1/2 inch plumbing in your floor that leads down to the crawlspace
- an 8 inch square cut for 6 inch duct work that goes through to the attic
- a 3 inch hole cut for a 2 inch radon pipe that goes from the crawlspace all thte way through the roof
- area cut for electrical service or heat pump equipment that was never sealed
- top plate not sealed around wall perimter of home or business in attic
- sill (bottom) plate not sealed around band joist of home or business in basement or crawlspace
These might sound small, but by the time you add all these up, along with areas around window frames and door jambs that have separated as the building ages, and you could possibly be living with a small or medium sized window open all the time, 24/7 all year round.
This means that in the winter, when you are setting your thermostat to a desired heated temperature, that warm air your heating system is working hard (and consuming lots of energy to do so!) is being pushed up through the thermal bypasses into the attic and outside, while being replaced by the thermal bypasses coming up through your crawlspace and/or main floor with cold air that your heating system continually has to work on to keep warming up the new air! Lot's of $$$ going out the door!
What we need to do is seal up those cracks and other spaces. Use cans of spray foam insulation, usually under $4.00 a can, for areas 1/2 inch or greater and use caulking for smaller areas, especially around window seal and door frame craks where the framing is starting to separate from the walls. This is something that just happens over time. You want to seal these areas up as air gets in round these cracks and into the walls. When your walls are cold or hot, they have a negative impact on the thermal comfort of your home and make your heating and cooling system work harder to get to the desired temperature set at the thermostat.
Be sure to use fire retardant spray foam and caulking around areas that can get hot like flue pipes and electrical fixtures.
Here's a classic image of thermal bypasses hard at work that help folks understand what is happening. Do keep in mind, you can make your home too tight! If you've got everything sealed up extra tight (an energy auditor can perform a home ventilation calculation for you), you might need mechanical ventilation!