When buying new heating and cooling equipment such as a central air conditioning unit, proper sizing and quality installation are critical to your home’s energy efficiency and comfort. Remember: Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Oversized equipment can cause reduced comfort and excessive noise. Oversizing also can shorten the life of the equipment by causing it to cycle on and off more frequently than a properly sized unit. However, undersized equipment can reduce the efficiency and accelerate wear on system components, leading to early failure.
The outdoor porch or post lamp is one of the highest used light fixtures in a home, and is the perfect place to install ENERGY STAR Certified lighting products. Many compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) will fit easily into existing porch lights. Or install a new ENERGY STAR Certified outdoor fixture that saves energy through advanced CFL technology, a motion sensor and/or a photocell that turns the light on only when someone is present or on at night and off in the morning.
Give your car a break. Combine trips whenever possible. Use mass transit, walk or bike whenever possible. Leaving your car at home just 2 days a week will save 1,590 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions each year! Keep your car well-maintained to maximize its fuel efficiency, safety, and reliability. Check your tire pressure regularly to avoid the wear and tear and decreased gas mileage that can result from under-inflated tires.
Air leaks are a large source of heat loss in the home during winter. A common place where air leaks occur is under the door leading from the house to the garage because they are often not as well sealed as doors leading directly to the outside. Install a door sweep to seal the gap between the bottom of your door and the threshold to prevent cold air from coming in and warm air from escaping from your home. Stopping this air flow will keep heated indoor living space more comfortable and prevent increased energy bills.
The exterior of your home-the outer walls, ceiling, windows, and floor-is called the “envelope” or “shell.” Sealing and insulating-done by a knowledgeable homeowner or skilled contractor-can save more than $200 a year in heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% on total annual energy bills). It will also make your home more comfortable and help your heating and cooling system run more efficiently. If your attic is accessible and you like home improvement projects, you can Do-It-Yourself with help from our DIY Guide to Sealing and Insulating with ENERGY STAR, which offers step-by-step instructions for sealing common air leaks and adding insulation to the attic. You can also hire a contractor who can use special diagnostic tools to pinpoint and seal the hidden air leaks in your home before adding insulation.
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The attic is one of the places where you often find the biggest air leaks, which can increase your energy bills and make you uncomfortably hot in summer and cold in winter. It is also a place that is generally accessible, making it easier to air seal and insulate to improve your home’s comfort and overall energy performance.
Proper ventilation of the attic with natural air flow keeps the roof deck cool and dry, extending the life of roof shingles and preventing ice dams without using the energy needed to run an attic vent fan. Be sure attic soffit vents and gable vents are not blocked so air flows freely through them. Some homes have ridge vents or vents through the roof deck instead of gable vents.
Look for holes, tears, and other signs of leaking ducts and seal them using mastic or metal (foil) tape (never use ‘duct tape,’ as it is not long-lasting). Insulate all the ducts you can access (such as those in the attic, crawlspace, unfinished basement, or garage).
Ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout houses with forced-air heating and cooling systems. In typical houses, about 20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts. The result is an inefficient HVAC system, high utility bills, and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how the thermostat is set.
Always find and seal air leaks before adding more insulation. Chimneys or furnace flues that penetrate your attic floor have holes or gaps around them that can allow the air in your home to escape through the attic, increasing your energy bill and causing more drafts. Around chimney and furnace flues that can get hot, cover the gaps with metal flashing and caulk small gaps with high temperature caulk.
Plumbing stacks, vents, ducts, or electrical wires often have holes or gaps around them that can allow the air in your home to escape through the attic, increasing your energy bill and causing drafts. Seal small gaps with caulk and seal holes up to 3 inches in diameter with spray foam. Cover spaces larger than 3 inches with a piece of foam board and seal with spray foam.
Attic Hatch or Door
Weather strip and insulate your home’s attic hatch or door to help keep your home more comfortable and save energy. You can do this with weatherizing materials and insulation or with a pre-made attic cover available from local home improvement centers and on the web.
The exterior of your home — the outer walls, ceiling, windows, and floor — is called the “envelope” or “shell.” Sealing and insulating — done by a knowledgeable homeowner or skilled contractor — can save more than $200 a year in heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% on total annual energy bills). It will also make your home more comfortable and help your heating and cooling system run more efficiently. If your attic is accessible and you like home improvement projects, you can Do-It-Yourself with help from our DIY Guide to Sealing and Insulating with ENERGY STAR (PDF, 12.7 MB), which offers step-by-step instructions for sealing common air leaks and adding insulation to the attic. You can also hire a contractor who can use special diagnostic tools to pinpoint and seal the hidden air leaks in your home before adding insulation. To get the biggest savings, the easiest place to add insulation is usually in the attic. A quick way to see if you need more insulation is to look across your uncovered attic floor. If your insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, you probably need to add more. The recommended insulation level for most attics is R-38 (or about 12–15 inches, depending on the insulation type). In the coldest climates, insulating up to R-49 is recommended.