Ask Eartha: Grow your home more fur for winter
What improvements should I consider for my home for optimum heating before the snow flies to keep from having to sacrifice my pink piggy bank and the circulation in my extremities?
– Rick, Breckenridge
This week folks, I’m going to hand it over to Mr. Steward for some building talk and energy inspiration. According to Mr. Steward …
Rick, you are wise beyond your years, for this is the eternal question (in essence) that all living creatures ask themselves when the white flakes start to fly in the High Country. Our buildings, which we spend so many resources trying to heat, require two essential qualities to retain heat: air sealing and insulation. This is not rocket science, but detecting where the air sealing is taking place, figuring out where insulation is lacking, and deciding upon corrective measures within the context of a budget can take some experience.
Caulking air leaks is the most cost effective and quickest way to improve your home’s ability to save heat. Just like a marmot that has a scuffle with a fox and has a little of its fur ripped away – exposing the skin and making that area cold – your home has had some epic scuffles with the elements and needs a helping hand to grow some more fur to stay warm.
Adding more insulation is also an important step in increasing the energy efficiency of your home. But, you ask, “How do I know where and how much insulation to add?”
Well, young grasshopper, there are a few ways to determine this most worthy of questions. The easiest way to determine how much insulation is to access your attic and use your peepers to detect the amount of insulation present. In addition, the ability to detect the insulation levels in interior walls is a great asset.
The way building energy professionals accomplish this without donning the x-ray glasses is through a blower door test, which creates negative pressure in a home. This results in cool air pulled in through all of the vulnerable places in the walls or ceiling of a home. An infrared camera is then used to get a visual of this cold air, helping to detect where the air is infiltrating.
Analyzing the effectiveness of your heating system through inspection of your furnace or boiler is also an effective way to increase the efficiency of your home and save money for that tropical vacation. Just like your lungs, if the filter in your furnace is clogged, performance will be reduced. Inspecting your duct work if you have a forced air system is also important – why throw heat and money away?
The purpose of an energy audit is to reveal things you don’t know about your house. For example, an energy audit can tell you your insulation has settled or wasn’t installed properly to begin with – or that the gaping cracks in your attic floor are causing more heat loss than all your antique windows put together.
Using a combination of high-tech tests and common sense evaluations, a good auditor provides homeowners with a list of energy- and money-saving steps. An energy auditor explains how and why your house is costing you money and then prioritizes the steps to take so you can knock down those costs over the long haul.
After assessing the work involved and the likely ROI (return on investment), you decide if improvements should be tackled immediately or over time.
A typical audit is comprised of several parts:
(1) Visual inspection
(2) Insulation check
(3) Air leakage test
(4) Testing of ventilation systems
(5) Examination of all visible gas lines, gas stove, and gas powered water heater to insure there are no leaks.
(6) Evaluation of your central heating system
(7) Test of appliances, including old driers or refrigerators, with an electricity meter.
For more information about Home Energy Audits and home weatherization, contact the High Country Conservation Center at (970) 668-5703 or visit our website at http://www.highcountryconservation.org.
Our special guest this week is Mr. Steward or Trevor Schatz, HC3’s new Energy Programs Manager. You can email Trevor your energy issues and questions at email@example.com. The High Country Conservation Center (HC3) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Submit general questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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