Inspect windows for air leaks and sun exposure.
A very cost effective energy-saver is to not allow the sun's rays to even enter your home. Solar screens can reduce the sunlight entering a window by as much as 95%.
On Solar Day, Check Out Your Home's Energy
Courtesy, John Reed of Elevator Communications
On June 21st, the first day of summer, as we celebrate the first Solar Day across the nation, its a great time to give your home or office an energy audit to find out how much energy you may be losing.
When auditing your home, keep a checklist of areas you have inspected and problems you found. This list will help you prioritize your energy efficiency upgrades.
Locate Air Leaks
Make a list of obvious air leaks and drafts. Fixing them could save you up to 30% per year, and your home is generally much more comfortable afterward. Check for gaps along the baseboard or edge of the flooring and at junctures of the walls and ceiling. Check to see if air can flow through electrical outlets, Switch plates, Window frames, Baseboards, Weather stripping around doors, Fireplace dampers, Attic hatches, Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.
Also look for gaps around pipes and wires, electrical outlets, foundation seals, and mail slots. Check to see if the caulking and weather stripping are applied properly, leaving no gaps or cracks, and are in good condition.
Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. See if you can rattle them, since movement means possible air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window leaks. You can usually seal these leaks by caulking or weather-stripping them. Check out our Sage Learning Center about Windows to maximize their efficient use and lower your energy bills.
On the outside of your house, inspect all areas where two different building materials meet, including all exterior corners, Where siding and chimneys meet, areas where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet.
Plug and caulk holes and areas around faucets, pipes, electric outlets, and wiring. Look for cracks and holes in the mortar, foundation, and siding, and seal them with the appropriate material. Check the exterior caulking around doors and windows, and see whether exterior storm doors and primary doors seal tightly.
When sealing any home, you must always be aware of the danger of indoor air pollution and combustion appliance "back drafts." Back drafting is when the various combustion appliances and exhaust fans in the home compete for air. An exhaust fan may pull the combustion gases back into the living space. This can obviously create a very dangerous and unhealthy situation in the home.
In homes where a fuel is burned (i.e., natural gas, fuel oil, propane, or wood) for heating, be certain the appliance has an adequate air supply. Generally, one square inch of vent opening is required for each 1,000 Btu of appliance input heat. When in doubt, contact your local utility company, energy professional, or ventilation contractor.
Heat loss through the ceiling and walls in your home could be very large if the insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum. When your house was built, the builder likely installed the amount of insulation recommended at that time. That level might now be inadequate, especially if you have an older home.
If the attic hatch is located above a conditioned space, check to see if it is at least as heavily insulated as the attic, is weather stripped, and closes tightly. In the attic, determine whether openings for items such as pipes, ductwork, and chimneys are sealed. Seal any gaps with an expanding foam caulk or some other permanent sealant.
While you are inspecting the attic, check to see if there is a vapor barrier under the attic insulation. The vapor barrier might be tarpaper, Kraft paper attached to fiberglass batts, or a plastic sheet. If there does not appear to be a vapor barrier, you might consider painting the interior ceilings with vapor barrier paint. This reduces the amount of water vapor that can pass through the ceiling. Large amounts of moisture can reduce the effectiveness of insulation and promote structural damage.
Make sure that the attic vents are not blocked by insulation. You also should seal any electrical boxes in the ceiling with flexible caulk (from the living room side or attic side) and cover the entire attic floor with at least the current recommended amount of insulation.
Checking a wall's insulation level is more difficult. Select an exterior wall and turn off the circuit breaker or unscrew the fuse for any outlets in the wall. Be sure to test the outlets to make certain that they are not "hot." Check the outlet by plugging in a functioning lamp or portable radio. Once you are sure your outlets are not getting any electricity, remove the cover plate from one of the outlets and gently probe into the wall with a thin, long stick or screwdriver. If you encounter a slight resistance, you have some insulation there. You could also make a small hole in a closet, behind a couch, or in some other unobtrusive place to see what, if anything, the wall cavity is filled with. Ideally, the wall cavity should be totally filled with some form of insulation material. Unfortunately, this method cannot tell you if the entire wall is insulated, or if the insulation has settled. Only a thermographic inspection can do this.
If your basement is unheated, determine whether there is insulation under the living area flooring. In most areas of the country, an R-value of 25 is the recommended minimum level of insulation. The insulation at the top of the foundation wall and first floor perimeter should have an R-value of 19 or greater. If the basement is heated, the foundation walls should be insulated to at least R-19. Your water heater, hot water pipes, and furnace ducts should all be insulated.
Inspect heating and cooling equipment annually, or as recommended by the manufacturer. If you have a forced-air furnace, check your filters and replace them as needed. Generally, you should change them about once every month or two, especially during periods of high usage. Have a professional check and clean your equipment once a year.
If the unit is more than 15 years old, you should consider replacing your system with one of the newer, energy-efficient units. A new unit would greatly reduce your energy consumption, especially if the existing equipment is in poor condition. Check your ductwork for dirt streaks, especially near seams. These indicate air leaks, and they should be sealed with duct mastic. Insulate any ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces. An insulation R-Value of 6 is the recommended minimum.
Energy for lighting accounts for about 10% of your electric bill. Examine the wattage size of the light bulbs in your house. You may have 100-watt (or larger) bulbs where 60 or 75 watts would do. You should also consider compact fluorescent lamps for areas where lights are on for hours at a time. Your electric utility may offer rebates or other incentives for purchasing energy-efficient lamps.
How'd You Do? Once you make your home or office more energy efficient, it's time to start thinking about a solar energy system that will protect you against further increases in energy prices. And, where applicable, your solar system allows you to feed the energy you don't use from your solar power installation back into your local utility power grid for even more energy savings on your energy bills.
Solar Day 2009 will be celebrated across the United States on the first day of summer, Sunday, June 21 this year.
John Reed, Director of Elevator Communications, LLC explained the need for this new annual celebration of American energy independence through the adoption of solar energy installations and policies, stating while oil prices have recently declined, the partys over for cheap fossil fuels, forever. Sooner or later well be looking, again, at $4.50 a gallon gasoline and we need to focus on steps we can take, as individuals and businesses to permanently reduce our need on fossil fuels and the environmental hazards of greenhouse gases. Reed adds, The new Obama administration provides us with a fresh start to dramatically grow the solar and green energy we need to meet our energy needs.
This information was compiled from government sources by Elevator Communications, San Francisco, CA.