EcoHomes Action for October, 2023
As winter approaches it is time to consider energy conservation in our homes. We all have a shared desire to save money on energy while also enhancing comfort and lowering our carbon footprint. Reducing our energy use is the first and most important maxim in our quest for a sustainable lifestyle. And what better place to save energy than in our homes which make up the largest share of the energy we consume.
So let’s look at do it yourself actions around your house that pay attention to that principle. We’ll go from the easiest to the more complex.
- If you have a furnace or a boiler, make sure that it is inspected and filters are replaced annually. How old is the unit? If it is greater than 15 years old for a furnace, consider a plan for replacement before unit failure. A heat pump could be considered in replacing your furnace or boiler.
- What is the temperature of the water in your water heater? Often this is set at 140 degrees. In almost all cases this is unnecessarily high. A 120 degree setting is adequate. The following video may be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGlWuer5Ylc. And while we are talking about water temperature, don’t forget to wash your clothes with cold water which is just as effective as a hot water wash.
- Pay attention to your windows:
- Remove any window a/c units for the winter. Failure to do this means you are essentially leaving a window open all winter.
- Remove screens and wash windows. Allow as much radiant heat from sunlight into your house as possible.
Use curtains and shades judiciously – opening during day for the sunlight and closing at night to lower heat loss from windows.
4. Insulate accessible hot water pipes in the basement with foam insulating tubes.
5. Are you losing heat up your fireplace? Do you remember to close the damper after using? Great, but the metal on metal air sealing with the damper is often suboptimal with the metal warping on the damper. There are several options for inserting air sealing materials below the damper for a better seal. This video explains one DIY option with low cost materials. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rthiq2_PYro. Insert the blocker after every fire and remove before building your fire.
6. Window and door air sealing is easy to perform and prevents air leaks. This video does a great job in describing options. For your doors, install “door sweeps” as well
A local alternative to storm windows or window replacement are inexpensive custom made window inserts from Windowdressers based in Rockland, Maine. A window measuring duo will come to your house and then the windows are fabricated by a volunteer team at a local window build. https://windowdressers.org/
7. More important than air sealing doors and windows is air sealing your attic. A home’s heat loss begins with air moving up and out of the attic. If there is significant air leakage from the attic, a chimney effect occurs. There is warm air moving upward and out through attic leaks. Weatherization experts put their first priority on air sealing the attic. Once the attic is sealed, this upward air pressure ceases and heat loss diminishes. The following videos provided excellent advice re air sealing techniques.
9. Significant heat loss can occur through your attic hatch or attic pull-down stairs both from air leaks and lack of insulation. Many solutions are available. Here are 2 simple ones using readily available materials.
10 Now let’s go into the basement. There are several opportunities here for DIY solutions, both with air sealing and insulation.
Is your heating system a forced hot air system with visible ducts throughout the basement? There is significant potential loss of energy through poorly sealed and uninsulated ducts. The following video speaks to that:
How about your basement windows? They have essentially no insulating value and let in very little light anyway. Here is a very quick and easy solution which can be removed in the non-winter months.
11. Now if you are interested in a more involved project, your exposed rim joists have great potential for both air sealing and insulation. What is a rim joist? It is the basement joist that runs along the perimeter of the building, perpendicular to the floor joists. The following video provides a neat solution to this problem area.
Start with 2 or 3 of these actions. Then keep picking away at the list as time and energy allows. They can make a significant difference in your winter energy usage as well as comfort.