Claudette Reichel | 1/16/2009 8:24:15 PM
When the cost of heating your home gets uncomfortable, you can do a lot to control how much energy you use to stay warm, according to LSU AgCenter housing specialist Dr. Claudette Reichel. The housing expert offers her top choices to save energy in a southern climate.
– Stop air leaks. On one of these cold days, turn on all your exhaust fans and look (or feel) for all the air leaks everywhere materials are joined or penetrated. To fix these leaks, outlet gaskets, expanding foam sealants, good weatherstripping, door thresholds and caulking interior gaps are inexpensive do-it-yourself solutions to reduce cold air infiltration.
“Don’t forget attention to air leakage around a chimney, exhaust dampers, ceiling fixtures, plumbing and tubs, floors and even interior walls, soffits or other hidden bypasses with air leaks to the attic,” Reichel says, adding, “If you have recessed can lights in insulated ceilings, consider replacing or getting kits to make them airtight.”
– Seal the duct system. If your home is typical, your ductwork may be losing 30 percent of the heating you pay for. That’s because most ducts leak sooner or later. The entire duct system should be sealed with mastic and mesh (not duct tape), tested by a trained professional with specialized equipment and insulated (if in an unconditioned attic) with R-8 or higher.
– Maintain your heater. Professional servicing and faithful filter changing will keep your heater operating as efficiently as it can.
– Insulate the water heater and pipes. It’s easy and inexpensive to install foam tube pipe insulation and water heater insulation kits. Follow safety instructions carefully for gas water heaters.
– Use a set-back thermostat. Don’t waste your money heating an empty home! A programmable thermostat makes it more comfortable to save energy when you’re not home and have a cozy home by the time you return.
– Increase attic insulation. If space permits, increase attic insulation to R-38. Be sure you don’t block the flow of air from soffit vents under the overhangs.
– Buy Energy Star. When replacing your heater, appliances, windows, doors, lighting or electronics, look for the Energy Star label.
“That’s an easy way to identify what will really save you money on your utility bills,” Reichel says. The housing specialist also advises comparing Energy Guide labels to compare the hidden operating costs of your new appliance.
– Insulate voids. If you have single-pane windows and wood doors, consider temporary or permanent storm windows and doors or replacement with Energy Star insulated units as your next investment after doing all of the above improvements. If you have no insulation in walls, dense pack blown-in insulation or specialized low-expansion foams for retrofit can be good investments for savings and comfort.
– Online home-improvement adviser. For both energy product information and energy improvement ideas tailored to your house and climate, visit the www.energystar.gov Web site. You can get your Home Energy Yardstick score to see if your energy use at home is above-average. You can also get a list of recommended improvements and estimated savings from the Energy Star home adviser.
For more research-based information on creating a “high performance” home, which is green, durable and healthy, visit www.lsuagcenter.com/LaHouse.