For many in Central Virginia, fall is a favorite time of year, that wonderful period between the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Though we enjoy many outdoor activities during this period, homeowners should be mindful of the fact that the chill of winter is on its way. Fall is a great time to take stock of how energy-efficient our homes are and to repair and/or replace items that are in less-than-optimal condition.
One of the most important ways to improve the energy efficiency of our homes is to inspect and update (or replace) the insulation where necessary. A properly sealed and insulated home contributes to lower heating and cooling costs, more comfortable living areas, and greater peace of mind.
Floors which are directly over a crawl space or basement, and tend to be cold to the touch, should be insulated to prevent energy loss. Fiberglass insulation is typically used in this application. It is considered non-combustible, does not absorb moisture, and lasts a long time. This type of insulation does not typically need to be replaced unless the home suffers extensive damage to its walls or roofing system.
Another type of insulation is loose-fill or “blown in” insulation. This involves the use of a high-powered machine which is filled with loose insulation and literally blown into the home. This process is used mainly in new construction and in older homes to insulate hard-to-reach areas.
Many homes today have open areas or great rooms with cathedral ceilings, requiring more energy to heat and cool. These areas should be insulated with high-density products for maximum efficiency.
Now is a great time to ensure that your doors and windows are sealed and secured against drafts. Weather stripping should be intact and evenly applied around the door jamb. It is sold in various lengths and widths to fit most standard door sizes. It is usually applied by a “peel and stick” method, but sometimes can be nailed or screwed to secure it to the door frame. Many times homeowners tend to overlook the condition of the threshold. The threshold is a strip approximately three to four inches wide. It seals the bottom of the door against drafts and outside elements. It is available in wood, metal and ceramic. The part that typically wears out is the rubber strip that runs the length of the threshold. Replacements are available at most home centers or hardware stores and are fairly easy to install. Replacing weather stripping around windows is similar to replacing weather stripping around doors. Always be sure to caulk and seal any cracks or uneven spaces.
There are several places where utility pipes and lines enter the home. Caulk and seal around all plumbing and electrical lines. Also, entrances around HVAC and dryer vents, as well as satellite or cable entrances, should be sealed with a weatherproof silicone product.
Many homes lose energy through receptacle and outlet covers located on exterior walls. Take a moment to feel around the perimeter of these outlet covers on a cold day. Cool air indicates heat loss around these outlets and receptacle covers. Insulators are available at most home centers to seal gaps behind the covers; these consist of a thin strip of foam rubber cut to fit an electrical outlet or switch. These are installed by simply removing the cover, placing the insulating material inside, and replacing the cover.
There are many rewards for making your home more energy efficient. You make a positive impact on the environment. You save on energy costs while making your home more comfortable and adding value at the same time. There are even tax breaks for the homeowner whose improvements qualify under the Federal Energy Star Program. This program rewards homeowners who improve the energy efficiency of their homes by updating and replacing certain items with Energy Star qualified products. Additional information on this program may be found at energystar.com.