Energy Efficiency Works Best When Your Whole House Is on Board

Published on: March 5, 2014

One of the biggest ways people are trying to make a “green” difference is in their homes. Energy-saving light bulbs and appliances are now commonplace. People are paying more attention to efficiency ratings (AFUE – annual fuel utilization efficiency) when shopping for a new furnace. While such measures are great, there are additional ways to reduce a home’s carbon footprint – many of which are relatively simple and inexpensive to do. After making these changes, seeing a big drop in your utility costs is also a major plus. Learn why whole-house energy efficiency is the way to go in the battle to save the planet – and your money.

What Does Whole-House Energy Efficiency Mean?

With a whole-house energy efficiency approach, your entire home is looked at as one single unit made up of interdependent parts. When these individual parts complement each other and work in unison, optimal energy conservation is achieved. A contractor should assist in the design process to make sure your efforts are as successful as possible.

During the evaluation of your home, each feature is carefully considered to figure out where improvements should be made. This includes making upgrades and deploying advances in technology to the different components in your home to ensure you get the most bang for your buck. For example, a furnace with a high AFUE rating will not perform as well if your house is leaking air. In addition to looking at the various mechanical components, the location of your home, the occupants within it and your local climate are considered. Ultimately, you want to work toward converting your home into one that produces as much energy as it uses.

6 Steps to Whole-House Energy Efficiency

To make your home’s transformation as effective as possible, follow a step-by-step approach:

  1. Seal all air leaks. Air leaks can account for significant energy loss in your home. Cracks or holes that allow conditioned air to escape outside and bring the weather inside may be found around windows, doors, electrical outlets and plumbing fixtures, and in crawlspaces, basements and attics. On top of wasting your money, these air leaks may cause drafts that make your home feel less comfortable and place unnecessary strain on your HVAC system. Such leaks should be sealed up with caulking, weatherstripping or expanding spray foam.
  2. Seal leaks in your ductwork and add insulation. Gaps in your ductwork and sections that have become disconnected can easily go unnoticed since ducts are often concealed in walls, ceilings, basements and attics. When there are leaks in your ductwork, conditioned air can be lost to parts of your home that you don’t intend to heat or cool. Mastic sealant is used to seal gaps and metal fasteners are used to close up disconnected sections. Once your ductwork is tightly sealed, a blanket of insulation should be wrapped around duct sections that run through unconditioned areas to create a greater thermal barrier.
  3. Insulate key areas. A well-insulated home means you’ll rely on your HVAC system less often to make your indoor environment comfortable. Your attic can reach temperatures above 130 degrees and is therefore the most important area to insulate (with the R-value for your location). Crawlspaces can be done next, followed by walls and floors.
  4. Make windows energy efficient. On top of sealing air leaks around windows, you can take additional measures to help preserve energy. On the east, west and south sides of your home make sure there’s enough shading to block direct sunlight using trees, awnings and tinted window film. When it’s hot outside, close your blinds and curtains during the sunny part of the day. When it’s cold outside, open them up so the afternoon sunshine warms your indoor spaces. Additionally, installing energy-efficient windows can make a big difference.
  5. Keep a well-maintained HVAC system. Schedule annual pre-season service appointments to keep your system working as efficiently and effectively as possible. Change your filters regularly. If it’s time to upgrade your HVAC system, choose one that’s considered an energy saver.
  6. Use energy-efficient appliances and lighting. When purchasing new products and appliances, choose ones that have earned the Energy Star label. Use CFLs or LED light bulbs to illuminate your home.

Do you need more expert advice on whole-house energy efficiency? Please contact us to find a contractor in your part of the Southeast United States.