HVAC efficiency is an important aspect of home maintenance. A fine-tuned, well-maintained HVAC system running at peak performance will use less energy to condition the air inside your home and be less likely to fail. However, no matter how well you maintain your HVAC system, if your home is inefficient or unable to contain the conditioned air, your HVAC system will run more frequently, use more energy and experience a heavier workload. This puts additional strain on system components and shortens their life expectancy.
The Importance of Energy Retention
Energy retention is your home’s ability to contain the conditioned air produced by your HVAC system. An inadequate envelope—the exterior walls and ceiling/roof of your home—is a major contributor to home energy loss. Whether it is heated or cooled air, if your home is unable or inefficient at retaining it, it will escape to the outdoors or allow outdoor air to enter. When this happens, your HVAC system must work overtime to maintain desired indoor temperatures.
Identifying Areas of Concern
The main culprits of home energy loss are related to its exterior envelope. These may include inadequate attic or crawl space insulation, cracks, holes or breaches in exterior walls and leaking or poorly sealed windows and doors.
• Attic insulation can deteriorate over time, leading to increased energy loss
• Both indoor and outdoor caulking around window and door openings can degrade over time by shrinking or developing cracks that allow conditioned air to escape
• Cracks or holes in exterior walls allows outside air to enter or conditioned indoor air to escape
Take Advantage of Home Energy Audits
A professional home energy audit also known as home energy assessment, performed by your utility company or professional energy auditor is a quick and thorough method to asses your homes energy loss. Energy audits are low cost—sometimes free or reduced via rebates through your utility company—inspections of your home that can point to areas that fall short in energy efficiency and energy loss. While energy audits can vary, the following is a brief example of what you can expect during the audit.
• A brief sit down/interview with the energy auditor to discuss the process and any areas of concern
• A thorough walk-through of the property to look for visible signs of problem areas
• Analyze the HVAC system and other appliances to gauge energy efficiency levels
• Inspect attic and crawl spaces to determine insulation levels and if an upgrade is necessary
• Inspect windows and doors for drafts or leakage
• Use specialized—infrared cameras—equipment to inspect walls and ceilings for leakage
• Provide you with a detailed report of their findings including areas that need attention
Do-It-Yourself Energy Audit
While a professional energy audit is the best method to asses your home’s energy efficiency, there are steps you can take on your own to increase efficiency.
• Locate Air Leaks—According to the energy.gov website, the potential savings by reducing air leaks within your home can range from 5 to 30-percent per year. Check for interior air leaks along baseboards, flooring, around electrical outlets and wall and ceiling junctures.
On the home’s exterior, inspect any areas where two different building materials meet and pay close attention to the caulking around window and door openings. In addition, inspect the area around exterior plumbing pipes that enter the wall.
• Seal the Leaks—by plugging, caulking or patching. Replace weathered caulking around windows and doors. Replace worn or missing rubber gaskets on door thresholds. Seal the gaps around exterior plumbing. Fill any cracks, holes or breaches found in exterior walls with the appropriate material.
• Maintain your HVAC by changing or cleaning filters regularly. Do not cut corners when it comes to maintaining your HVAC system as it represents a large investment in your home and comfort. Have your HVAC contractor clean and service your system at least once a year.
Rebates and Incentives for Home Energy Audits
You may be able to reduce or eliminate the costs of a home energy assessment by visiting the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency website. The government sponsored website lists all rebate and incentive programs available in each state in an increased effort to promote energy efficiency. By simply entering your zip code, you can view all of the cost-cutting programs available in your area.
Improving your home’s energy retention is not only good for your budget, but also the environment. With today’s concerns over global warming, it is now more important than ever to reduce our carbon footprint through energy conservation.