ENERGY EFFICIENCY SAVES MONEY WHILE INCREASING COMFORT AND HOME VALUE
- Carl Brahe
For most homeowners heating, cooling and electric costs are the second highest expense of owning a home. New homeowners are often shocked by the increased energy costs that result when they buy their first home, or move up to a larger home. This budget breaker can cause a home purchase to be a financial nightmare with no end in sight for rising energy costs. Energy saving tips.
The good news is that energy costs can be cut by 10-50%. Sealing air leaks, installing setback thermostats, upgrading appliances and HVAC systems may reap more savings than the costs. Elements of an energy efficient house.
Air sealing a drafty house can save more in one heating season that the cost of the materials and labor. A single leaky window can leak as much air as a 3” diameter hole through the wall. Weather stripping and caulking are inexpensive and easy to install.
We usually think of windows and doors as the places of greatest air leakage. In many houses the walls, floors and ceilings create the most air infiltration. A professional air sealer depressurizes a house using a blower door fan. This device allows the technician to find all air leaks and determine how to seal them. This method assures that all leaks will be found. Guide for doing your own air leak testing and sealing.
Before making your house airtight, it is a good idea to evaluate your indoor air quality. Sealing uncontrolled moisture inside or creating conditions that cause moisture to condense in or on the walls, will only make matters worse. If toxic fumes exist in your house, you do not want to seal them in. Find and solve indoor air quality problems.
Set back thermostats can be bought at the local hardware store for $30+ and installed by anyone who can use a screwdriver. This easy improvement will save heating and cooling costs effortlessly by lowering or raising the temperature during sleeping hours and times when occupants are out of the house for extended periods.
Improved efficiency of appliances and cooling/heating systems over older systems is great. Refrigerators, freezers manufactured 15 years ago use twice as much electricity as those made today. Current furnaces are 20-30% more efficient than 15 years ago. Energy savings may recover the costs of these updates over a few years. If financed as part of the mortgage they can even add overall savings by spreading the cost over the period of the mortgage so the energy cost savings are greater than the increase in monthly payments. Energy-Efficient Air Conditioning - Cooling your home naturally
Insulation in the right places can be effective in increasing energy efficiency. Improperly installed insulation can cause mold, rotting building materials and actually increase energy use. Consult an insulation specialist before installing insulation.
Traditional thinking about insulation installation is changing. A few years ago, floors above crawl spaces were insulated and the crawlspace ventilated. The current thinking is that it is more efficient and healthier to insulate the crawlspace walls, seal the vents and install a vapor barrier over the ground. Bringing the crawlspace inside the thermal envelope increases comfort and extends the life of building materials.
While a crawlspace or a basement may now be insulated below freeze line and airflow sealed, an attic must have proper ventilation. Ideally, the air in your attic is the same temperature as the outside air. This requires a constant airflow from outside through the attic space. A rule of thumb is: A minimum of 1 sq ft of ventilation must be provided for each 300 sq ft of roof area, more in hotter or more humid climates. The living area below must be well protected. Adequate insulation is necessary for energy efficiency, but be sure insulation does not block, or impede ventilation.
Rising energy costs along with growing extremes in weather make energy efficiency more important than ever to home buyer and home owners. Increasing world demand for energy will make energy efficiency a greater consideration in home buying decisions in the future. Houses that are energy efficient will sell quicker and bring higher sales prices than similar houses that are not energy efficient.
Many programs exist to help homeowners, buyers and sellers update energy efficiency. Special loans are available, usually with reduced interest rates and closing costs. Short-term loans to allow sellers to do energy improvement and repay the loan are available through Home Energy Tune-uP®. Financing an Energy Efficient Home has a list of lenders that provide these loans. Colorado State Energy Programs has other resources for energy updates.
Xcel Energy in Colorado is currently offering a rebate to customers who install solar photovoltaic systems. The rebates cover about half the cost and Xcel will pay $2.50/watt in renewable energy credits. The Xcel Energy website also offers some great tools for understanding energy use and conservation.
These programs all require documentation of the energy efficiency of the home.