Category Archives: Home Energy Audits

Emerging Technologies for Energy Savings

emerging technologies

In 2016, as told by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the energy produced in the United States was about equal to the amount consumed by residential and commercial sectors. Per person, total U.S. energy consumption was approximately 301 million Btus., although energy consumption varies depending on the climate where we live and the types and numbers of energy consuming devices we use (EIA, 2016). For example, residents of the Southwest states such as Arizona, California and New Mexico, often use the most energy to cool their homes during the summer.

In recent years, however, using energy more efficiently has become an important priority for residents, businesses, and governmental agencies alike. In fact, many states have adopted policies to encourage energy efficiency; Washington included. Homeowners are making energy efficient improvements by installing ENERGY STAR certified equipment and insulation with high R-values. New technologies designed for energy savings are also beginning to emerge. Here are just two of the emerging technologies we can look forward to soon, but in the meantime, there are many things you can do save energy.

Smart Windows

First there were smartphones, then came smart speakers, and now smart windows. Researchers at Princeton University have developed a futuristic smart window that has the potential to reduce energy costs by up to 40 percent. According to Science Daily, “the self-powered smart window controls the amount of visible light and infrared heat into the building, while the new type of solar cell uses near-UV light to power the window.” The technology promises to be inexpensive and easy to apply to existing windows. Researchers hope that once installed, users will be able to control the amount of sunlight entering their homes, and thereby improving energy efficiency, comfort and privacy via an app.

R25 Insulating Materials

Insulation can greatly reduce your heating and cooling costs. Other advantages include absorbing emitted sounds and controlling humidity. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Building Technologies Office (BTO) is developing two-inch thick polyisocyanurate board insulation with modified atmosphere insulation (MAI) cores that have an R-value of 25 (R12/inch). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “these panels have the potential to pay for themselves from energy savings within 10 years, while saving more than one percent of all of the energy used in the U.S. today.” This insulation would be beneficial for both residential and commercial applications.

Winter Energy-Saving Tips

Winter Energy-Saving Tips

Find easy, cost-effective ways to use less energy without sacrificing comfort with the following six winter energy-saving tips.

Change Your Filter Regularly

Now is the perfect time to change the filter in your HVAC unit. This easy, affordable home maintenance task allows your heating system to operate more efficiently, ensuring better distribution of heat. You should check and change your filter once a month; HEPA filters every few months.

Reverse Those Ceiling Fans

During winter, switch the direction that your ceiling fan blades turn, so that cooler air is drawn upwards and warmer air pushed down. This allows you to turn the temperature down and still stay warm. There is usually a small switch on the fan that allows you to reverse the blade’s direction. Remember, clockwise in winter, and counterclockwise in summer.

Turn Down the Thermostat

When you’re home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable, dressing for warmth. When you’re asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day, and save up-to 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs. Smart or programmable thermostats can adjust the temperature for you.

Insulate Your Attic

To maintain comfort, heat loss must be minimized in the winter by ensuring an effective resistance to the flow of heat, which is something insulating materials do quite well. Plug your zip code into the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Saver tool to find insulation recommendations tailored to your Washington State home.

Replace Worn Weatherstripping

Worn weatherstripping around doors and windows creates drafts, letting cold air in, and heated air out. Caulking and weatherstripping – found at most local home improvement stores – are two cost-effective ways to cut heating and cooling costs and increase occupant comfort. Before air sealing, you should schedule a professional energy audit.

Schedule a Home Energy Audit

An energy audit can help you determine where your house is losing energy and money.  An energy auditor will check for leaks, examine insulation, inspect your heating system, and perform a blower door test using an infrared camera. The auditor will then recommend low-cost improvements that you can make to save energy.

Use LED Holiday Lights

Incandescent holiday lights are terribly inefficient, and despite careful storage, often emerge damaged. LEDs are a much better option. They use up to 75% less energy and last 25 times longer. Because they also produce very little heat, they are much safer to use for indoor and outdoor holiday lighting displays, as well.

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

fall home maintenance

With the arrival of chillier days, football watching and pumpkin everything, it’s time to think about getting your home ready for the winter months ahead. Check these easy to do tasks off your fall home maintenance checklist starting today.

Interior Fall Home Maintenance:

Conduct an energy audit. Through visual inspection and thermal imaging, a certified auditor can assess your home’s current energy efficiency. They will also provide you a list of recommended improvements you can make, such as upgrading to ENERGY STAR appliances, adding insulation to the attic or sealing air leaks.

Seal air leaks. While it’s well-known that homes require adequate levels of insulation to mitigate heat loss through your home’s walls, ceilings and floors, the concept of air sealing is often less understood. Air leaks can be found around windows, doors, attics, lighting fixtures, outlet, and vents. Some measures you can do include:

  • Caulking around windows and doors
  • Installing foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates
  • Installing weatherstripping around windows and doors (include the garage door)
  • Replacing door bottoms (thresholds) with those that feature pliable gaskets

Declutter closets and garage. Free your closets and/or garage of things you rarely use or items that have lost their novelty once and for all this fall. When it comes to decluttering these spaces, it’s important to have a game plan in mind, and to set up organizational systems that are sure to eliminate clutter.

Start by sorting all contents of these spaces into three piles; toss, donate/sell, and keep. It’s a great idea to increase shelving and use bins in the closets. In the garage, install wall and overhead storage. Items infrequently used, such as holiday decorations and camping gear, should be stored further away than those you use more often.

Install a programmable thermostat. Save on home heating and cooling expenses with a programmable thermostat. For as low as $40, programmable thermostats allow you to set different temperatures for different times of the day. You can do the same on the weekends. That way your air conditioner or furnace isn’t running all day, costing you money when the house is unoccupied.

Replace furnace filters. This easy task allows your HVAC system to operate more efficiently, ensuring better heat distribution. Use high-efficiency filters labeled with a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating of 11 or 12. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time.

Schedule heating system maintenance. Making sure your furnace is cleaned, maintained, and in working order before you need to turn on the heat will save you money on energy and prolong system life. Annual servicing of your heating system is affordable – typically less than $100.

Exterior Fall Home Maintenance:

De-gunk your gutters. Once most of the leaves have fallen, clean out gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters during rainstorms can cause water to pool, causing damage to your roof, siding or foundation. You can hire a professional for this project or do it yourself. Either way, make sure the gutters are not sagging, and that all brackets are tightened.

Trim tree branches. Fall is a good time to trim tree branches, when dormancy has set in. It’s a good idea to trim branches back 8-10 feet away from your home, so they don’t damage your roofing or siding in windy conditions, cause moisture problems or make it easy for rodents to sneak into your house and raid your pantry. Always use clean landscaping trimmers to prevent the spread of disease.

Stock up on winter supplies. If you live in an area of the state that experiences blistering cold, snowy winters, it’s a good idea to stock up on some essentials in the fall. Some things you can include:

  • Pack emergency kits for both your home and car
  • If needed, pick up a bag, or two of pet and plant safe ice melt
  • Check the condition of snow shovels, ice scrapers, and sleds; replace as needed

The Importance of Sufficient Insulation Levels

sufficient insulation levels

Do your energy bills seem excessive? Does your air conditioner run all the time? Do you have trouble heating the second floor of your two-story home in the winter? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably lack sufficient insulation levels in your home. Insulation, much like a travel Thermos®, works to keep you comfortably cool during the summer, and cozy warm during the winter.

Ensuring sufficient levels of insulation, as well as the right R-value for your geographical location, provides many benefits. Not only will it make your home more energy efficient – lowering heating and cooling costs – but, it will also make it more comfortable and healthier for all occupants. It also has a positive impact on the environment. However, according to the Department of Energy, few homes today have sufficient insulation.

With energy prices expected to rise within the next few years, this is simply not acceptable, especially when you consider the fact that heating and cooling already account for 48% of your home energy use. Ensuring sufficient insulation levels within your attic, wall, and floor cavities will increase your home’s energy efficiency thus maximizing your return on investment.

Understanding the term “R-value” – a measure of how well it reduces the flow of heat and cold into and out of your home – is also of importance when looking to reap the rewards of insulation. The higher the R-value, the greater the reward! Fiberglass, cellulose, rock wool, and spray foam insulation all have different R-values per inch as you will notice below.

Why Invest in an Energy Audit?

One of the best ways to determine whether or not your home lacks sufficient levels of insulation is to schedule a comprehensive energy audit. This is something most electricity companies provide. A visual inspection and/or thermal imaging scan can detect cold spots, air leaks, energy stealing appliances and electronics, and insufficient levels of insulation. An energy audit should be performed if you live in an older house.

Understanding the Types of Insulation

There are four basic types of home insulation:

Loose Fill Insulation – Loose cellulose or fiberglass insulation that is blown into a wall cavity or attic using a commercial-grade insulation blowing machine.

Roll and Batt Insulation – Composed of mineral materials or fiberglass, this type of insulation material is best suited to homeowners seeking affordability, and high R-values.

Spray Foam Insulation – Expandable spray foam that best suited for wall cavity, ceiling, and roof-deck applications. This type of insulation is resistant to surface heat and cold.

Rigid Foam Insulation – High density foam, mineral or fiberglass boards that are commonly used in cathedral ceilings and on exterior walls.

R-Values of Insulation by Type

The R-values per inch of the most common types of insulation are as follows:

  • Fiberglass (loose): 2.2-2.7
  • Fiberglass (batts): 2.9-3.8
  • Cellulose (loose): 3.2-3.8
  • Rock Wool (loose): 3.0-3.3
  • Foam (sprayed): 3.2-6.5

Winter is coming! Act now to ensure sufficient insulation levels by contacting us at (253) 584-7704 or visiting us at www.carriganddancerinsulation.com for a free initial estimate.

Why Does the Room Over the Garage Feel Like a Sauna?

sauna

Have you ever gone into your walk-in closet after showering just to feel the need to shower again after exiting? Do you have a hard time keeping your room comfortable? Is this room, perhaps, over the garage? With temperatures in the triple digits, and monsoon season’s imminent arrival, it’s little wonder why.

There are several reasons why rooms directly above or adjacent the garage are SO hot in the summer. The main contributor, however, is often due to the fact that these rooms are exposed to the elements on three sides – in addition to sitting on top of a garage that is often just as hot as outside temperatures.

Other key factors for a room being consistently bombarded with heat gain include, but are not limited to, the following. Whether you’re suffering with one, or a combination of these factors, they’re all a recipe for excessive monthly energy bills and uncomfortable living conditions.

  • Missing insulation.
  • Poor air circulation.
  • Heat gain from sun struck windows.
  • Not in close proximity to the air handler.
  • Reduced capacity of the HVAC system from bad duct work.
  • Excessive heat gain from attic to first floor wall cavities.

When your home energy auditor utters the word “heat gain”, they’re more likely to be met with groans and murmurs of “Why me?”, rather than a “Heck yeah.” So how do you combat heat gain? One of the first things you should look at is your sun struck windows.

Windows are meant to allow light in – not for energy efficiency. Even triple paned glass and HD windows need added protection to offset any downsides caused by those that are in the sun’s direct path. Installing shade screens on sun struck windows is your best bet for making these rooms more comfortable.

Shade screens, also referred to as privacy screens, can drastically cut the heat gain in half before it gets the chance to hit the window. Window treatments and film don’t do nearly as a good a job. Weatherization, according to SRP, is yet another nemesis we need to combat.

Weatherization includes sealing any, and all, air leaks within your home. Working from the outside in is important if you’d like to keep your conditioned air inside your home for longer periods of time. Weatherization also includes locating and remedying areas in need of increased insulation materials.

Insulation may be low or completely missing in rooms above the garage – especially if the room is isolated from the rest of the house (often the case in additions). In terms of added comfort, it pays to have an insulation contractor come out, and assess the insulation within this area of your home.