In this section we provide information on three easy things that you can do to conserve more energy: home energy audits, sealing leaks and installing insulation.
Home Energy Audit
An energy audit, also known as a home energy assessment helps owners determine where their house is losing energy and what can be done to make it more energy efficient. In an energy assessment, leaks are found, insulation examined, furnaces and ductwork inspected, and more. The results of the assessment will show you problems that may, when corrected, save you significant amounts of energy and money over time.
Energy assessments can be done on your own but hiring a professional is preferable. NYSERDA’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Program makes professional home energy assessments available to New Yorkers for little or no cost. In fact for most New Yorkers it’s free. First go to the NYSERDA website to find a local participating contractor with whom to work, then apply for the assessment either online or by mailing the downloadable application. When you receive confirmation, you and your contractor can then set up an appointment for the assessment.
The contractor will use the assessment to develop a plan that is unique to the needs of your home. There is low-cost financing and On-Bill Recovery Financing available to help pay for the work that you do. Just complete a credit application with the New York: Home Performance ENERGY STAR® Financing Program. You are also eligible to receive a 10% energy cash back incentive on some improvements.
There is a lot of information available on doing an energy audit yourself, and a good place to start is the Do-It-Yourself Energy Audits page on the energy.gov site.
Dirty spots on your ceiling paint or carpet may indicate air leaks at interior wall/ceiling joints and wall/floor joists.
Foam sealants are good to fill large gaps around windows, baseboards and other places where air may leak out, HOWEVER, they must be applied with the proper safety precautions as they contain chemicals that are toxic while the foam is still wet. Click here for information on spray polyurethane foam health and safety. Inexpensive foam gaskets can be fitted behind the covers of light switches and electrical outlets to stop leaks.
Each hole you plug will create a more comfortable home and lower energy costs. Window and door leaks account for about one-half of a home’s total heat loss.
Tips for sealing windows and doors
- Seal all window edges and cracks with rope caulk
- For windows install weather-stripping between the window and for doors install weather-stripping around the whole perimeter to ensure a tight seal when they are closed
- Install quality door sweeps on the bottom of doors
- Repair or replace windows that are rotted, damaged, have cracked glass, are missing putty and have poorly fitting sashes
- Install storm windows if a window only has a single pane. Storm windows reduce temperature loss by sealing leaks and creating a dead airspace between windowpanes, and although they can be expensive to install, they have a relatively short return on investment. If installing storm windows is outside of your budget, plastic film window kits are a low–cost alternative and can be easily installed on the inside or outside of your existing windows. Be sure the air space between your window and the plastic is at least 1/2 inch and not more than 4 inches.
Air leaks from attics are the next biggest leakage culprit.
Tips for sealing attics
Plug large holes where leakage is likely to be the greatest: where the walls meet the attic floor, behind and under attic knee walls (the short wall that is typically under three feet and used to support rafters in timber roof construction) and in dropped-ceiling areas.
Seal small holes that can often be recognized by looking for areas where the insulation is darkened. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the openings around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires. Cover the areas with insulation after the caulk is dry.
Seal up the attic access panel with weather-stripping, cut insulation the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel.
Leaks in and around your fireplace can cause significant energy loss.
Tips for sealing fireplaces
- Keep the fireplace flue damper closed tightly when not in use
- Seal leaks around the fireplace
- Consider an inflatable chimney balloon. Inflatable chimney balloons fit beneath your fireplace flue when not in use, are made from durable plastic, and can be removed easily and reused hundreds of times. If you forget to remove the balloon before making a fire, the balloon will automatically deflate within seconds of coming into contact with heat.
- Cover your kitchen exhaust fan to stop air leaks when not in use
- Check your dryer vent to be sure it is not blocked. This will save energy and could prevent a fire
- Replace door bottoms and thresholds with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets
- Seal around mail slots, pipes and wires
- Seal around wall or window mounted air conditioners
Increasing the amount of insulation in your home slows down the flow of air between the inside and outside, which makes it easier to control your home’s temperature. During the summer it helps keep a building cool, and in the winter it helps to hold heat inside.
Insulation is generally the most effective on the attic floor or under the roof. A well-insulated attic can dramatically cut your air conditioning bills in the warm months and reduce your heating costs in the winter.
Insulating your water heater can reduce heat loss by up to 45%. Low-cost water heater jacket kits are recommended for older water heaters & those in unheated areas. Just check with your manufacturer and follow the instructions on the kit.
When selecting insulation to use in your home, consider the following factors: long-term performance; insulations' raw materials, including recycled content; environmental impacts from its production; and health impacts to installers and your family.
Insulation falls into four categories: (1) loose-fill, (2) blankets (rolls and bats), (3) rigid foam and (4) liquid foam. Loose-fill and blankets are typically used in attics, between roof rafters, in wall cavities of wood-frame homes and between floor joists. Rigid foam insulation is usually applied externally. Liquid foam is most often used in wall cavities or to seal air gaps in a home's envelope (the outside shell), HOWEVER it must be applied using the proper safety precautions as it contains toxic chemicals.
One of the ways to rate insulation is the R-value, which is a measure of resistance to heat flow through a given thickness of material; generally the higher the R-value, the greater the resistance. For example, an R-value of R13 will provide better insulation and efficiency than an R-value of R11. A superior insulation system will also be pneumatically or spray applied so it fills the entire building cavity. Certain kinds of insulation are also flame retardant in the event of a fire and are also good at stopping sound.
For more information go to Energy.gov to find out about types of insulation.