Your Home's Energy Efficiency

Are your heating and electrical bills driving you from your house to the poor house? Do you cringe every time you go to get your mail when the electrical bills are due? If you find yourself in the category of living in a cold house just to avoid costly bills, there's hope for you. The first step to making your home more energy efficient is understanding two simple principals.

The first principal to understand, is heat loss. After you spend time and hard-earned money to put heat into your home, it escapes through many areas. In fact most people don't even realize that 80% of their homes heat loss is through the roof or attic areas. Understandably, this is the best and most sensible place to spend money improving insulation values. A properly insulated home should have 12" of fiberglass insulation in the roof or attic area. 12" of fiberglass insulation will provide an R-38. If your home has 0"–6" of insulation you should strongly consider adding enough insulation to get you up to an R-38.

Of the remaining 20%, the majority of that heat loss is through doors and windows. Ways to reduce this heat loss is to ensure if your windows are not thermopane windows, that you utilize a reasonably energy efficient storm window unit. You should also ensure that the doors and windows are periodically and professionally re-caulked to eliminate drafts.

One of the next most likely culprits of significant heat loss is through an open fireplace, or a fireplace without a damper to restrict the heat loss. Dampers and fireplace glass doors are excellent energy savers. Fireplaces in general are considered very inefficient when it comes to energy conservation. Fireplaces require a great deal of air for combustion and the draft of the chimney draws much of the homes heat up the chimney and into the atmosphere.

One of the toughest areas to correct if there is a deficiency in insulation is the exterior walls. Many older homes are lacking sufficient insulation if they have any at all. You can usually determine this just by placing your hand on the wall. If the wall feels cold, chances are, there is insufficient insulation. For a finished wall a professional should be contacted to discuss alternatives.

Finally, in the area of heat loss, you should review any areas of your home where heat might escape or cold air infiltrate. Some of these areas include but are not limited to, weather-stripping doors and windows, install ceiling fans in rooms with high ceilings, insulation pads behind receptacles, and insulate your subfloor system with a minimum 6" of insulation if the area below is unheated. All of these precautionary measures will decrease heat loss and increase energy efficiency.

The second primary concern, after heat loss, is ensuring that the heat producing and hot water producing equipment is operating at its most efficient rate. Nothing is more costly and adds to those high bills than, inefficiently operating equipment. Your furnace should be serviced by an experienced technician at least once a year. This should include general cleaning and an operational check of all controls.

If your home has an electric hot water heater, it is recommended that this unit be insulated with a hot water heater blanket. Insulating your hot water heater will dramatically increase its efficiency. You may want to contemplate installing a timer to activate the hot water elements, during the times when you and your family demand hot water. Timer installation prevents the heater from maintaining hot water when the demand is low.

Undoubtedly you are concerned about utility bills and would do almost anything economically feasible to reduce those associated costs. As stated earlier the first step is to evaluate your home. In fact, many local power companies offer programs where they will actually perform this type of analysis for you. And in some cases, power companies have been known to subsidize or even pay in full the cost of buttoning up your home. You should begin this process by making your first call to your local power company to see if these type programs exist. Don't let your hard-earned money go through the roof.