What is energy efficiency and how does it impact my home? Energy efficiency means designing products that minimize waste. As a homeowner, then energy efficiency includes home design and maintenance activities that provide a comprehensive review of your house. Energy efficiency, particularly in the winter, because inefficient homes produce waste. Therefore, winter energy efficiency tips aim to reduce wasted energy (and your monthly utility bills).
Energy efficiency enables homeowners to do more while using less energy. An efficient home is more than replacing light bulbs (although this is a quick win).
Why work towards energy efficiency in your home? An energy efficient home contributes to the following:
- saves money.
- drives innovation and productivity.
- reduces dependence on imported oil.
If you are curious about your home efficiency, then take a Home Energy Score. The questionnaire provides a rating of your home’s current efficiency. Plus, you’ll receive a list of improvements and potential savings.
After all…winter is coming!
Plus, an efficient home improves your home comfort.
Home Energy Audits Jumpstart Winter Energy Efficiency
A high-quality energy audit is the primary source of home energy saving solutions. Energy audits provide a roadmap, which outlines potential energy efficiency issues. Plus, a comprehensive audit pinpoints the sources of high energy consumption in your home. As a result, the activities outlined in the audit result in lower utility bills, along with an energy efficient, comfortable and healthier home. The energy assessment highlights comfort issues, such as:
- air leaks.
- insufficient insulation.
- excessive moisture.
- defective ducts.
- gas leaks.
- inefficient lighting.
- low efficiency appliances.
Energy Audits Offer Solutions
An effective audit must include energy saving solutions!
For example, common solutions include air sealing and adding insulation. Also, common solutions note how to improve health and safety problems found in the home as well. To enjoy your energy saving solutions, work with your energy auditor. Together, you can select the solutions that will make an immediate impact. First, focus on the high priority recommendations, such as actions that will:
- reduce your utility bills.
- resolve your comfort problems.
- eliminate any health or safety issues.
Also, ask the auditor if there are any financing programs. For example, many local companies offer low interest financing programs. In addition, there are many state and federal subsidies to offset the cost of energy efficient upgrades.
Remember, a quality energy audit will jumpstart your home energy solutions. So, remember to put the plan in action. Follow your plan and install your energy saving solutions. You will feel the difference in your home comfort and wallet each month!
Winter Energy Efficiency Starts with Efficient Home Heating
An energy audit provides an outline. In order to feel the impact, then implement the recommendations and enjoy improved energy efficiency. In particular, in the winter, aim to create an efficient heating system.
Heating efficiency can be a little confusing, so it is important to understand that efficiency is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which is required to be displayed.
There are three main types of heating systems. Homeowners should understand the type of system in their home in order to compare efficiency.
- Old, low-efficiency heating systems require a continuous pilot light that leverages a natural draft to create a flow of combustion gases and roughly 55% to 70% AFUE efficient.
- Mid-efficiency heating systems require an electronic ignition that leverages an exhaust fan to control the flow of combustion air and combustion gases more precisely and is about 80% AFUE efficient.
- High-efficiency heating systems leverages sealed combustion to condense flue gases in a second heat exchanger for extra efficiency around 90 to 98.% AFUE efficient.
AFUE is a measure of how efficient the appliance converts energy or fuel to heat over the course of a typical year.
AFUE does not include heat lost thru your ducts or piping, which can be as much as 35% when ducts are located in the attic, garage, or other partially conditioned or unconditioned space.
Inspect the Furnace and Improve Your Winter Energy Efficiency
Another essential step towards creating winter energy efficiency is checking the furnace. Many homes contain an old, inefficient furnace or boiler as the primary component of their home’s heating system. These systems are unreliable when you need them most and are more expensive to operate and maintain.
Fortunately, there are some simple signs that help tell you when it’s time to call a qualified heating contractor to inspect your HVAC system. To help, here are some general questions to ask yourself to avoid furnace trouble.
- Does the thermostat work?
Turn your heat on and ensure the thermostat works properly by turning the setting to a higher temperature to make sure the heat comes on. Some systems have a built-in time delay so be sure to wait a few minutes to see if the heat comes on. If the heat does not come on, then check the batteries in your thermostat. Still no heat? Check the circuit breaker and check if the circuit tripped.
- How is the blower fan?
Ideally, the blower fan turns on when you turn on the heat in your home. However, if it does not after a few minutes, then check the breaker or the furnace switch. If the breaker tripped, try to reset the breaker and see if the furnace works properly. If the breaker re-trips or the furnace fan doesn’t operate properly with the breaker in the on position, contact a professional for further inspection.
- Did you change the furnace filter?
Inspect and change the furnace filter. A dirty filter creates an inefficient heating system. Always check filters every month during the heating/cooling season and replace filters when necessary.
- Are there any air leaks?
Typically, a furnace connects to the ductwork in your home. Frequently, that distribution ductwork is very leaky and uninsulated. Locate the furnace ductwork (generally near an attic or basement) and feel along the sides. If the ducts are leaky, then you’ll feel hot air escaping. Additionally, if you see black marks, those indicate air leaking.
Save Money with Winter Energy Efficiency Tips
Energy efficiency helps reduce wasted energy, but the main draw remains cost savings. In particular, winter temperatures strain our heating system and increase costs. As a result, winter energy efficiency enables homeowners to reduce energy usage and savings!
Insulate and Air Seal
Although we sound like a broken record, air sealing and insulation are the most impactful action you can take to improve energy efficiency. These actions prevent heat from escaping or cold from entering your home. As a result, lower heating bills.
Additionally, seal air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes, gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
Take Advantage of the Sun!
Just because it is winter doesn’t mean the sun stops shining. The sun continues to provide heat. Therefore, open south facing curtains during the day, which allows sunlight to naturally heat your home. Conversely, close curtains at night, which reduces the chill from cold windows.
Stop (& Lock) Drafty Windows
If you conducted an energy audit, then review the results. If you have drafty windows, then use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
Plus, remember to lock your windows. Not only does this add extra safety, but locks push windows together. For example, when doors and windows are closed, they might not be pressed tight against the weatherstripping. If they are not locked, then cold air may infiltrate the home.
Add a Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats reduce wasted heat by ensuring your heating system is not in full swing when you (or your family) is not regularly home. Plus, set the heat to turn on before you routinely come home!
Also, according to energy.gov:
“When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills. A smart or programmable thermostat can make it easy to set back your temperature. If you have a heat pump, maintain a moderate setting or use a programmable thermostat specially designed for use with heat pumps.”
Watch the Water Heater
Experts recommend turning down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). In particular, if you vacation during the holidays, then set the water heater to the lowest level (or vacation setting). As a result, avoid scalding water when washing your hands or showering. Plus, you’ll experience lower costs. You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands.
Dress (& Decorate) for the Weather
It seems obvious, but remember to dress for the season. For example, dress in layers, wear slippers when at home and don’t forget the winter hat! Plus, remember to dress (or decorate) your home. Add rugs, insulated curtains and flannel sheets, along with blankets throughout your home.
Remember Those Home Resolutions
Winter means a new year is on the way. And a new year means New Year’s resolutions. Take advantage of the season and act on those home resolutions to take care of many routine home maintenance tasks, such as:
“changing the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, vacuuming the refrigerator coils and checking its seals to improve efficiency and changing refrigerator water filters and furnace air filters. Regularly changing filters can be a big energy saver and improve air quality in your home. Keep your HVAC, home and yourself happy this year and change your filter every three months.”
Avoid Excess Electronics
We love our devices. However, vampire devices constantly suck energy. In particular, as the days are shorter, we remain inside longer and rely on electronics for entertainment. If possible, unplug the appliances, TVs, and computers, which use energy even when they are turned off. If unplugging is not an option, then add a power strip!
Look Out For the Lights
In the winter, the days are shorter and the nights are longer. For example, save money by installing motion sensor and timer controls on your external lights. Plus, if you are visiting family during the holidays, then remember to turn the lights off. However, for extended trips, a timer offers extra security protection.
Enhance the Holiday Light Show
If you decorate your home for the holidays, then you know traditional lights add up. As a result, use LED holiday lights, which are at least 75% more efficient and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent lights! Plus, with the energy savings, you can show some extra holiday cheer.
Remember Your Annual Heating Maintenance
Preventative maintenance offers the best way to improve your winter energy efficiency. For example, annual heating tune-ups and inspections catch minor issues before winter weather strikes. If you have not had your heating services inspected, then schedule a tune-up today.
Add Incremental Improvements
It really is the little things that count, especially when it comes to saving energy in your home and reducing your monthly utility bills. Small and simple things add up
and help lower your winter heating bill.
Some of these small and simple things, include:
- reversing your ceiling fans to push the heat down.
- laying down carpets or rugs on bare wood and tile floors.
- using a humidifier.
- using a crock pot more often than your stove.
- letting your dishes air dry in the dishwasher.
- use the appropriate size burner for your pots when cooking on the stove top.
Connecticut’s harsh winter is no time to have your heating system quit on you. Your heating system needs the right attention and care to help protect its value and keep it working efficiently. SolvIt offers reliable and budget-friendly options when your heating system fails you (including expertise in oil to gas conversions and financing help through the Connecticut gas conversion incentive program).
We offer furnace repairs and annual maintenance inspections, as well as installation of new furnaces and boilers. For any heating (or other home service) issues, then contact SolvIt!