Heating and Air Conditioning
Tips for Improving Energy Efficiency
Sealing the Envelope
While an energy efficient heating and air conditioning system is a necessity for lowering energy costs, proper insulation and sealing of your home will help you to get the most out of your energy dollars. These improvements produce the best results and are among the most reasonably priced.
Insulation is your most successful resource against energy loss. In the winter, it keeps heat in, and in the summer it keeps helps to keep heat out of your home. The term “envelope” is used to describe a home’s outer walls, ceilings, floors, doors and windows. In some cases, outside vent pipes will allow cold or heat to enter the home. By sealing these sources of cold/heat intrusion on the homes envelope, you can reduce your energy costs and noise, as well as increase your comfort.
To determine if your homes envelope requires sealing you need to begin with a home energy inspection. First, inspect the attic. Examine your current attic insulation. Look for dirty areas, frosty areas in the winter or wet spots in the summer. Any of these is an indication that air is passing through the insulation. Pull the insulation back in these areas, you will most likely find there are gaps that need to be filled beneath these areas. Check the point where the roof and wall join. Look for gaps allowing air to enter. Inspect pipes, chimneys or any other structures exiting the attic walls or roof for gaps.
The next part of your inspection will be in the basement or crawlspace. Check for gaps where the exterior walls meet the foundation, as well as around pipes, ducts or any other structure exiting the exterior walls. Then check the floor joists, the wood or concrete supports that support the floor above for gaps where they adjoin the floor.
With the gaps noted to the attic and basement/crawlspace areas it is time to begin sealing the envelope.
First, take care of the gaps located under the attic insulation. If the insulation looks as if it has seen its better days replace it. The Department of Energy and Guidelines have changed its recommendations several times since in just the past 2 years alone
Insulation that meets or exceeds today’s standards will save you even more money. If the insulation is in good condition, filling those holes will depend upon the type of insulation in the attic and personal choice. Some people prefer to use expanding latex spray foam insulationas this insures the hole is filled with no gaps. Others prefer to replace missing insulation. If you only have insulation between the ceiling joists add insulation to cover the ceiling joists. Keep in mind, you can’t compress insulation or it loses insulating capacity.
Determine what type of attic pipes need sealing. Furnace flues or pipe for fireplaces get very hot and to prevent causing a fire require special materials. To fill a gap around a flue use aluminum flashing, and special high temperature caulk. To reduce the risk your flue or chimney pipe will burn the insulation, leave at least a couple of inches between your flue and any fiberglass insulation. Place a barrier between fiberglass insulation and the flue using the flashing. If in doubt, your contractor can quickly place the proper safety precautions around heat sources in your attic.
Seal any gaps surrounding ductwork or vent pipes (not heat conducting vent pipes) with spray foam insulation where they exit the roof. If the attic door isn’t already insulated do so and check to ensure that the weather-stripping around it is intact and not cracked.
With your attic sealed next inspect the basement/crawlspace. Seal small gaps and holes with caulking. Fill larger holes with expanding latex foam. Seal gaps around ducts and pipes exiting your exterior basement walls. Windows and doors should be sealed and weather-stripped. Seal the gaps where the columns meet the floor joists and any gaps where the exterior wall meets the floor above. If the basement is unfinished with wall studs visible this is the time to insulate between wall studs on exterior walls.
In the remainder of the house check your ventilation systems. Many homes have open vent pipes that go through the roof, including the range hood. Your best choices are those that utilize built in flaps to seal them from moisture, insects and intrusive air when not in use. Pipe and/or flaps can be purchased without having to change the vent hood necessarily.
Check light switches and electrical plugs, if cold air is entering foam sleeves are available to install behind the cover plates keeping air out.
Provide regular checks on the dryer exterior exhaust vent. Keeping the dryer, the exhaust pipe and louvered vent on the exterior wall free of lint not only prevents fires and improves the dryers efficiency, but also keeps hot or cold air from entering your home.
Finally, upgrading to energy efficient windows and weather-stripping your doors adds to the final product of a sealed envelope for maximum energy efficiency. Otherwise, check caulking and seals and replace as needed. If you are able to remove window casing, fill gaps with spray foam or insulation to prevent drafts.
If you are unable to install new windows try the films that you can apply yourself. While they won’t insulate your windows or patio doors they will reflect the hot, damaging rays of the summer suns heat and UV, while allowing the suns heat to enter in the winter. Storm windows are option to increase the efficiency of windows, if you have them, use them. Heavy drapes can reduce drafts from windows as can applying plastic film in the winter.
On exterior walls if any vinyl siding is loose repair it to prevent drafts that may occur.
With your envelope sealed, you can enjoy your improved home while saving money on energy costs.Cypress Heating and Air Conditioning serves the Katy and Plano, TX regions. Our quality workmanship sets us apart, no other heating and air conditioning company has more experience or dedication to your comfort.