Saving energy is saving money!
With New England's cold, wet winters and humid summers, your home's energy efficiency has a big effect on your budget.
Here are straightforward steps you can take to maximize your efficiency:
Start with an energy audit
The goal of an energy audit is to identify and prioritize improvements you can make to your home. For example, energy audits provide the best way to identify air leaks in your home.
Check with your local government and your energy company to see if they offer free audits. Masssave.com is a great resource. Another option is to hire a professional, which will often provide a more comprehensive assessment. If you live in a historic home, this audit is invaluable in identifying and sealing air leaks to limit the movement of moisture throughout the structure.
You will want to understand your energy usage over the past few seasons so you can gauge the benefits of energy improvements you will make.
You wouldn't leave your windows open during a winter storm—that's obvious. However, homes can let air in and out in much less obvious ways. And if you are looking for just one thing you can do to improve your home's energy efficiency, this is it: Significantly reduce air infiltration.
Gaps or cracks in a building's exterior envelope of foundation, walls, roof, doors, windows, and especially "holes" in the attic floor can contribute to energy costs by allowing conditioned air to leak outside.
Below are the most common sources of air leaks. Start by checking these areas:
Bypasses in the attic floor, including the attic access door or panel, recessed lighting fixtures or other places around electrical wiring or fixtures, plumbing and ducts, dropped soffits. It's a natural mistake to think attic insulation is taking care of this. Wrong! Insulation by itself is not a complete air barrier. If you see dirty insulation, air is getting through.
Between foundation and rim joist
Between the chimney and drywall
Spots where electrical wiring, gas and water pipes, cable TV and phone lines, and dryer vents enter your home or pass through walls
Window AC units
Under the garage door
Around door and window frames
Cracks in bricks, siding, stucco and the foundation
Mudrooms or breezeways adjacent to garages
The good news is that many of these problems are simple to fix, using solutions that may include closing curtains, shades, and shutters at night, keeping your fireplace flue closed, and using a "snake," or rolled towel to block the draft at the foot of a door.
Other leaks in attics or crawl spaces might be solved with spray foam or other materials available at any hardware store. (As always, follow instructions carefully on any of these products, to apply them in the right situations.)
Find out more:
A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Sealing and Insulating with ENERGY STAR on how to do your own air sealing.
As noted above, public utilities often have programs and incentives to help air sealing.
"Small" leaks aren't as trivial as you might think. A gap of just 1/8 of an inch under a 36-inch-wide door lets in as much air as having a 2.4 inch wide hole in the wall.
Sealing up those cracks will keep you warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and more money-wise all year around.