Are you one of the many homeowners who is paying too much for their heating and cooling costs? If you are, you most certainly are not alone. In fact, many homeowners routinely overpay for their utilities due to major energy inefficiencies and inadequacies of their homes. For instance, poorly insulated walls and ceilings, older doors and windows responsible for all sorts of unwanted air leaks and cold air drafts, inefficient HVAC equipment, outdated building envelope elements such as roof and exterior walls, old school appliances, without the EnergyStar rating, etc.
Since energy efficiency and true home comfort are incredibly important to your wallet and your family’s comfort and well-being, we would like to share the following 10 ways to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient:
Did you know that you can shave off as much as 30% to 50% of your monthly utilities bill by properly insulating your home? Most homes built before 1972 do not have any insulation in the walls. Many homeowners are unwittingly throwing money away to the wind due to poorly insulated walls, floors, ceilings, and attic space in their homes.
If you are serious about energy efficiency and comfort of your home, insulating your property’s walls is the first step to take.
You can opt for the injection-foam insulation method. This way you will not have to remove any of the existing walls or sheet rock to expose the uninsulated wall cavities/spaces. The challenge will be finding a company that can install injection foam insulation properly. Here is a good read explaining various wall insulation options here.
Once your walls are properly insulated, you will also want to insulate your floors and ceilings, basement, and attic space. You can opt for a blown-in insulation (also called loose fill or blowing wool insulation) method. Spray foam is another popular option to insulate your attic and basement spaces.
Note that when you insulate your attic space, you will need to leave some room for the air intake at the eaves, where the roof rafters meet with the attic floor. It’s very important to make sure that your attic space is also properly ventilated, not just insulated. – Having a properly insulated and ventilated attic space will not only help improve the health and energy efficiency of your home, but it will also help prevent ice dams.
Remember that your attic needs to breathe if you want to avoid a heat and moisture trap that could wreak havoc and cause rotting of the wood in your attic. Therefore, if there are soffit vents in your house, make sure that they remain open for the air intake. Note that soffit vents, which play the role of “air in-take” also require a proper ridge-vent, which plays the role of the exhaust. It’s this air circulation process that keeps your attic space cool and dry.
2. Weatherstripping and Sealing Air Leaks
In addition to insulation, identifying and sealing all the spaces and cracks where air leaks occur such as older windows, doorways, floors and ceilings, and attic floor space, will help further improve energy efficiency of your home. You can use an all purpose caulk or sealant that you can get at your local home improvement store. You can apply weatherstripping underneath doors and windows where there are air leaks. With properly applied weatherstripping, your windows and doors should still open and close properly. If you have a difficult time finding all the corner wall cracks and air leaks in your home on your own, you can have a professional home energy audit performed on you behalf.
3. Energy Efficient & Long Lasting Roofing System
If you currently have an asphalt shingle roof on your house, then there is definitely much room for improvement in terms of reliability, durability, longevity, and energy efficiency of your roof and your home. An asphalt roof can get extremely hot in direct sunlight during the summer, and much of that heat can be transferred into your home through the roof. Not only that, an asphalt roof is only a temporary measure as most will fail within 12 to 17 years. So if you consider your home to be your castle, then you may want to explore more energy efficient and longer-lasting alternatives such as metal shingles or standing seam metal roofing. Both of the systems can easily last a lifetime of your home, that’s why they also call them lifetime roofs.
In terms of energy efficiency, metal roofing has been documented to result in energy savings of 25% to 35% for most homes that have air conditioners in use during the summer. The energy savings could also help pay for your new metal roof overtime. Did you know that with a properly installed metal roof you will no longer have to worry about any emergency roof repairs or maintenance, thereby saving money while also enjoying peace of mind and confidence in your roof. Factor-in not having to replace your roof ever again, improved curb appeal and appraised value of your property, and you can easily see why a metal roof is such a smart remodeling decision for any homeowner.
If you happen to have a lower-slope or flat roof over your house, chances are it’s a tar and gravel, EPDM rubber, or BUR roof. None of the above systems are considered as particularly energy efficient or long lasting. So, if your flat roof is starting to show early signs of roof leaks, then rather than pouring money down the drain by trying to repair and patch up the leaks, consider replacing it altogether with an energy efficient and long-lasting alternative such as a PVC roofing system by IB roofs. A properly installed system like IB roof can last three to four times longer than a conventional system, while also providing some very significant energy savings.
4. PV Solar Panels
Since we just covered energy efficient roofs, it’s only appropriate to mention that both metal roofing and PVC membrane are appropriate platforms for PV solar power upgrade, especially standing seam, which is perfectly suited for PV solar integration.
Interestingly, PV solar panels can also be easily mounted and angled on a PVC flat roof by IB. See the image below:
5. Solar Hot Water System
Similar to PV solar panels, standing seam metal roof can also be easily integrated with solar thermal panels, which could be a great way to make your home more energy efficient, while also reducing your monthly utility bill for hot water expense.
6. Energy Efficient Vinyl Siding or Metal Wall Panels
If your home’s exterior walls are starting to loose their luster and you are considering an upgrade, rather than repainting your old exterior walls, consider installing vinyl siding, or metal wall panels that can provide superior looks and energy efficiency. Whenever you have new siding installed make sure that you also get a layer of appropriate exterior wall insulation installed before the new siding or metal wall panels get installed. This is a crucial step that will help take your home’s energy efficiency to the next level.
7. Double Low-E Energy Efficient Windows
If you still have “old school” windows riddled with window frame gaps/cracks and air leaks in some of the rooms at your house, which is often the case in older homes, then consider replacing them with energy efficient Low-E (low emissivity) windows designed to allow heat from the sun to enter the building, while also significantly reducing the heat loss from inside the building, by reflecting radiant heat back into the room. There are a few different kinds of double Low-E windows designed for various types of climates. Did you know that double low-E window’s surface will be at almost the same temperature as your room, while a regular double pane window will be some 25 degree cooler during the winter.
8. Heat Exchange Pumps Ground Source vs. Air Source
If you can afford the ground-source heat exchange system, which will cost around $30,000 installed depending on your heating needs, then definitely go for it. You will be saving some serious money on your heating costs. But, if the money is in short supply, consider investing in one of the latest air source heat pumps (ASHP), which unlike the older models, works really well even in low temperatures, and can effectively heat a smaller house, especially if it’s well insulated. You can still save a lot of money on your heating expense, without having to spend a fortune upfront. An ASHP will also help boost home’s value by adding air conditioning.
9. Passive Solar Sun Room Addition
If you are planning on building an addition, consider integrating the elements of passive solar design such as adding sun room on a southern side of the house in such away that it could capture and transfer some of the heat inside the house. You could also integrate some thermal mass such as poured concrete, cement blocks filled with sand or concrete in order to store solar thermal energy during the day, and have it radiate inside the building during the night.
10. Home Automation and LED Lights
Consider installing a home automation system that includes programmable thermostats for more-efficient and automated heating and cooling, and automated lighting controls for additional energy savings. If you want to take that energy efficiency to yet another level, consider replacing most of the older light bulbs in your home with energy efficient and long-lasting LED lights.
Bonus Idea. Energy & Resource Efficient Appliances
Why not replace those outdated appliances with the latest EnergyStar rated appliances? It could help you save some energy and natural resources such as water, while also enjoying some brand new appliances at your home! 😉
As always, we welcome your comments and invite to share your thoughts and experience with home energy efficiency. What green home improvement upgrades have you made lately or are planning on tackling in the near future?