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The Amazing LED

2014 April 9

Danny Orlando LED

Danny Orlando LED 2

By: Danny Orlando

It’s amazing how many light fixtures we have in our homes.  According to a December 2012 Residential End-Use Consumption Study by the Department of Energy, U. S. homes range from 50-80 light fixtures.  Changing all of those lights to LED technology is a daunting and expensive undertaking, but it is a worthwhile effort.  Here is why:

LED lighting prices are coming down and are now usually between $10 and $25 dollars each.   And, in some locations there are utility incentives that drive down the price even lower.  Switching over to ENERGY STAR certified LEDs is best achieved one lamp at a time.  One tactic is to buy one light per month and before you know it, you’ve achieved your goal!

You should look for ENERGY STAR certified LED lights because these have been tested by a third-party to assure they meet a range of quality criteria.  Also, pay close attention to the color temperature of the light that you are choosing.  The color temperature is listed on the ‘nutrition’ label on the package.  If you want the familiar glow of an incandescent, look for a color temperature at or below 3000 K. The good news is that everything you need to know is right on the package.

I’m an avowed energy nerd, so I’ve actually counted the light fixtures in my home. My home has 37 light fixtures and seven track light fixtures.  Since I work in the field of energy efficiency, I am an early adopter and have changed 83 percent of the fixtures to LED lights.  I have been able to find LEDs for every variety of fixtures.  One interesting usage is in my stove hood which uses a Par20 lamp.  Usually, this would be a poor location for LEDs because of the hot stove surface as heat is the enemy of LEDs.   But, so far, the LED lamps have lasted for years.

Track light fixtures that use four 50-watt lights (MR-16) are not an energy efficient choice for lighting, but mine are rarely used, and the ones that are used more frequently are controlled by occupancy sensors.  There is one track, however, that is on eight hours each day.  On a recent trip to the home improvement store, I found LED replacement lamps for this fixture, but they were $30 each.  To retrofit this fixture would cost more than the fixture itself, so I returned home empty handed.  But, then I decided to perform the calculations and see if purchasing the LED replacement lamps would make sense.  The results were astounding.  Because of the amount of hours this fixture is on, the payback was about two years and I would save 550 kilowatt-hours each year!  To state that another way, four LED lights eliminated my November electricity bill – forever.  Needless to say, I returned to the store and made the purchase.   I have a few more steps to take to be completely LED, but I only have four fluorescents left to replace.  Although utility costs in my area have increased 60 percent in the last 20 years, my costs have increased only one percent because of consistent energy efficient choices!

It’s amazing to realize we are at a time when our children won’t know what changing a light bulb means.  My kids asked me, “How long do LEDs last?”   And I answered, “I’ll put them in my will for you”.  Now, if you move to a new home, not only will you take your furniture, refrigerator, and clothes, but you’ll also pack up your amazing LED lights.

About the Author: Danny Orlando is the Regional Energy Star Program manager in EPA’s Atlanta office and has been promoting and implementing Energy Star both at work and at home for 21 years.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Join EPA, BGCA, and Spider-Man in Celebrating Earth Hour this Saturday, March 29th

2014 March 28

Earth Hour

By: Jill Vohr

This Saturday, March 29th, is the 8th annual Earth Hour, a global movement that brings together millions of people across the world to switch off their lights for one hour as a symbol of their commitment to the planet. Are you up for the challenge? As a member of the team at ENERGY STAR, I am excited to participate for pretty obvious reasons.  Turning off lights is a great and easy way to save energy and prevent climate change.  Plus, using ENERGY STAR certified lighting saves energy even when our lights are on.

This year, Earth Hour has partnered with the new Sony Pictures movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to make Earth Hour that much more thrilling to people across the globe.  Check out this video to see how the movie stars are playing a part in protecting the environment this Earth Hour.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), a dedicated ENERGY STAR partner, is also working with the makers of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. BGCA uses the movie’s energy theme to help young people learn about saving energy. The movie villain is called Electro and he attacks by shooting bolts of electricity!

The connection between the movie and the work of the BGCA is a great one, and one that I think works for young people across the country. What better way to get your kids to use less energy than by telling them to “Be Your Own Amazing” by joining Spider-Man to stop Electro and save energy, right?  Even without the movie connection, Earth Hour is its own amazing.  It is a way for individuals across the globe to come together to make a difference for the planet through local activities.  And that speaks to us at ENERGY STAR, because we are passionate about using energy efficiently.

Did you know that the average home spends about 12% of its electricity bill on lighting? Lighting accounts for more of the energy that you use than your laundry equipment, refrigerator and dishwasher combined. That fact alone should be a good reason to switch off the lights (non-essential ones) and give Earth Hour a try this weekend. We know that our kids want to be heroes like the Amazing Spider-Man.  So by turning off the lights this weekend, we adults can certainly be our own amazing, too.

Earth Hour will take place on Saturday, March 29th between 8:30pm and 9:30pm in your local time zone.

About the Author: Jill Vohr is the Director of Marketing for the ENERGY STAR Labeling Branch.  When she is not pursuing strategies that encourage individuals to use less energy – she is using up a lot of her own energy with her 7-year old daughter, Ingrid, who thinks spiders are icky.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

The ENERGY STAR LED Bulb Challenge

2014 March 13

LED bulb challenge

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Did you know that nearly 70 percent of sockets in the U.S. still contain an inefficient light bulb? It may be hard to believe, but that stat proves that for the majority of consumers across the country, the message about using energy efficient lighting has yet to sink in. The upside is that there is a huge potential for energy savings that has yet to be tapped. The U.S. EPA is working to tap that potential and is hopeful that ENERGY STAR certified LEDs will be the centerpiece of a dramatic change in the lighting market.

Last Earth Day, EPA issued a bold challenge to its partners: Sell 20 million ENERGY STAR certified LEDs by Earth Day 2014, and help show your customers how to save energy, save money and prevent climate change with their lighting choices. Retailers from across the country joined in, including Ace Hardware, Best Buy, Costco, Lowe’s and The Home Depot.

They took the charge and have made educating their customers about the benefits of ENERGY STAR certified LEDs a priority in their stores across the nation. And these retailers are stocking and promoting ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs for a reason–only bulbs with the ENERGY STAR are independently certified, undergoing extensive testing to assure they perform as promised, overcoming the traditional challenges associated with LED lighting.

The combination of high quality and rapidly declining prices (as low as $5 a bulb in some stores) has led to over 10 million bulbs being sold so far in the challenge, and momentum is gaining as we approach the Earth Day 2014 culmination.

So, have you tried an ENERGY STAR certified LED in your home yet? Here are the top seven reasons now is the time.

1.)    Energy Savings: ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs use 70-90% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb.

2.)    Money Savings: A single ENERGY STAR certified LED can save more than $135 in electricity costs over its lifetime.

3.)    Affordability: The prices for ENERGY STAR certified LEDs are dropping big time—as low as $5 per bulb with in-store rebates.

4.)    Long Lasting: ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs now look and light more like traditional bulbs, but can last 25 times longer—over 20 years total with typical use.

5.)    Quality and Performance: An ENERGY STAR certified bulb will give you the best LED experience. Only bulbs with the ENERGY STAR are independently certified, undergoing extensive testing to assure that they perform as promised.  To earn the ENERGY STAR, these bulbs must demonstrate that they will meet consumer expectations by delivering on brightness and producing light in all directions.

6.)    Peace of Mind: ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs carry a three-year warranty.

7.)    Environmental Protection: By replacing 20 million traditional incandescent bulbs with ENERGY STAR certified LEDs, this country would save more than $118 million each year in energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of more than 150,000 vehicles.

Believe it or not, most people spend more to light their home than to operate their refrigerator, dishwasher, and laundry equipment combined! That little fact should make it pretty clear why your lighting choices matter. Try an ENERGY STAR certified LED today, and tell us about your experience on our website. We will showcase your stories on ENERGY STAR’s Facebook and Twitter pages this spring.

Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the ENERGY STAR communications team. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Save Money and the Environment this Tax Season

2014 March 6

Tax Time

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

As W2s and end-of-year statements pop up in everything from your mailbox to your inbox, it becomes quite clear that we have reached that time of year—tax time. But, there could be a bright spot as you approach filing your taxes this year. If you made certain energy efficient home improvements /purchases in 2013, this may be your year to reap the benefits of saving with ENERGY STAR.

What is Eligible?

ENERGY STAR products in the following categories are eligible for 10% of the product’s cost up to $500, or a specific amount from $50-$300. Products must have been purchased for an existing home that you use as your primary residence. These purchases must have been made by December 31, 2013.

• Air source heat pumps
• Central air conditioners
• Boilers
• Furnaces
• Insulation
• Roofs
• Non-solar water heaters
• Windows and doors

ENERGY STAR certified geothermal heat pumps are eligible for 30% of the product’s cost with no upper limit. Products must have been purchased for new or existing homes, and both primary and secondary residences may apply. This tax credit expires December 31, 2016.

If you made any of the above improvements last year, you will need to file the 2013 version of IRS form 5695, and submit it with your 2013 taxes by April 15, 2014. You should save your receipts and the manufacturer’s certification statement for your records. Check out energystar.gov/taxcredits for more details on filing for your credit.

There are still many ways to save energy, save money and protect the climate after tax season is over. Check out www.energystar.gov for simple ways to keep your energy bills low all year long.

Brittney Gordon is a member of the communications team for the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

How Does Data Center Energy Efficiency Affect Me?

2014 February 12

Data center pic

 

By: RJ Meyers

Before I started working  with EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, I honestly had very little idea how much internet connected devices like laptops, smart phones, tablets, and smart TVs used data centers.  Most web services, such as banking, online gaming, movie streaming, corporate websites, and social networking, are hosted in data centers that range in size from a small side room/closet to sprawling multi-million square foot complexes.  These facilities all contain varying amounts and types of IT equipment, as well as the power and cooling infrastructure needed to keep it all running.  They form a sort of “behind-the-scenes” infrastructure for your computer, performing work at some remote location in response to what you’re doing at home, in the office, or on your phone.

When combined, the electricity consumption of all the data centers in the U.S. amounts to somewhere between 2 and 3% of the total grid.  While that may sound small, it helps to remember that the U.S. grid is huge and 2 or 3% of a huge number is still very large—this works out to nearly 300 kWh of energy per person per year, or approximately six times the annual energy consumption of the average laptop1.

Inefficient data centers cost more in their day-to-day operations, since they are consuming and paying for extra energy to perform their services.  Less efficient equipment will also tend to run hotter and require more energy from cooling systems to keep from overheating.   Inefficient data centers also require more physical space between components to keep temperatures down.  All of these extra operating costs may be passed on to clients and ultimately on to everyone who uses their services (i.e., you and me!).

Higher efficiency simply means that you get more for less.  And “less” doesn’t just involve money.  Since the U.S. electrical grid depends heavily on fossil fuels, it also means fewer emissions of greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants such as mercury.  Power plant emissions lower air and water quality and can affect your health; plus they contribute to the acceleration of climate change.  Reducing emissions through efficiency measures will lead to cleaner air and water, better health, and reduce future damage from climate change.

Please note that while data centers consume lots of energy without your knowledge, they can also be used to avoid other even more consumptive and inefficient activities.  Holding a video conference at work or talking to someone across the country through an internet video chat service consumes far less energy and far fewer pollutants are emitted than flying there to meet in person.  It’s also more efficient to bank online than to drive to the bank in person, or to download a computer game or stream a movie than to go buy/rent a physical copy at the store.

There have been some great strides in IT energy efficiency in recent years, much of it pushed by increasing demand for services and the need to put more and more computing power into smaller and smaller spaces.  ENERGY STAR is proud to recognize and promote high efficiency IT products for data centers and to provide accurate information to data center operators as they look for ways to keep cooling and electricity costs to a minimum.  Doing so helps everyone reduce the impact of their IT infrastructure while improving the online services that we’ve all come to appreciate.

If you would like to learn more about ENERGY STAR certified Data Centers, please head to our website for more information.

About the Author:  RJ joined ENERGY STAR in late 2010 and immediately began work on energy efficiency specifications for a range of IT equipment.  RJ has a background in physics, electrical engineering, and sustainable energy and is told constantly by his family and friends that he is a huge nerd.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

ENERGY STAR’s Top Tips to Save Energy This Winter

2014 January 8

Girl in Winter Hat

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Did you know that the average family spends $2000 on utility bills each year, and nearly half of that amount goes to heating and cooling your home? With the temperature dipping to dangerously low levels in many parts of the country, this is prime time to make sure that your home is ready for the cold temperatures ahead. Check out these energy saving tips from the experts at the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, and get ready to enjoy winter in energy efficient comfort. 

ENERGY STAR’s Top Eight Tips to Save Energy this Winter 

1.)    Use a programmable thermostat: Program your thermostat to match your schedule. To maximize savings without sacrificing comfort, program the thermostat to lower the heat by 8 degrees Fahrenheit or more when you’re away from home or asleep, and you can save about $180 per year.

2.)    Seal leaks and insulate: Hidden gaps and cracks in a home can add up to as much airflow as an open window and cause your heating system to work harder and use more energy. Sealing and insulating can improve your home “envelope”—the outer walls, ceiling, windows and floors—which will make your home more comfortable and improve the efficiency of your heating system by as much as 20 percent. You can save up to $200 a year by sealing and insulating with ENERGY STAR.

3.)    Keep your air filters clean: Check your heating and cooling system’s air filter every month. If the filter looks dirty, change it. At minimum, change the filter every three months. This simple change will help your system work at maximum efficiency—lowering your energy bills and helping your family maintain better indoor air quality.

4.)    Tune up your HVAC equipment yearly: Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort. Learn more here.

5.)    Install a door sweep: Door sweeps–or weather stops for garage doors–seal the gap between the bottom of the door and threshold, preventing cold air from coming in and warm air from escaping.

6.)    Close your fireplace damper: Fireplace dampers eliminate drafts by sealing your fireplace shut when you’re not using it. Consider using a fireplace “balloon” to make the seal even tighter.

7.)    Change a Light: With shorter days and longer nights, many families will turn on more lighting at this time of year. Select ENERGY STAR certified lighting for bulbs that use 75 percent less energy than a standard incandescent and last 10 times longer.

8.)    Look for the ENERGY STAR: If your HVAC equipment is more than 10 years old or not keeping your house comfortable, have it evaluated by a professional HVAC contractor. If it is not performing efficiently or needs upgrading, consider replacing it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR. Depending on where you live, replacing your old heating and cooling system with ENERGY STAR certified equipment can cut your annual energy bill by nearly $200.

Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the communications team for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Big News about Small Devices

2013 December 16

small network equipment

By: Una Song

Way back when I used to get a newspaper delivered to my door every morning, and would read it with my morning coffee.  Now, instead of opening up the paper, I open up my computer and read the news online. But, have you ever paused to think about what it takes to bring you the paragraphs you are currently reading?  In this age of constant connectedness, many people (including me), take access to the internet for granted. But there is a whole network of devices working together to bring you the words you are reading at this very moment. And now, those devices can earn the ENERGY STAR and help save you money, save energy and protect the climate.

When surfing the web, people usually don’t think about the cable and DSL modems, integrated access devices, routers, switches, wireless access points – collectively known as small network equipment (SNE) — needed to connect us the internet and to other devices in our homes. That is, unless they stop working.  According to market research firm Infonetics, close to 57 million SNE products were shipped in North America in 2013.  Most SNE devices are left on all the time and tend to use the same amount of energy, regardless of network activity level.  If that sounds like a lot of wasted energy, you are right—it’s like having your oven constantly set at 350 degrees.

The good news is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program has recently completed a set of performance requirements that will allow these products to earn the ENERGY STAR, and help consumers identify models that are more energy efficient than the rest.  The next time you need a new modem or router, look for the ENERGY STAR.  If your networking equipment is supplied by your internet service provider, ask them if they will supply you with an ENERGY STAR certified one.  That one move will keep you connected and help prevent climate change. Just think–if all small network equipment sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR certified, the energy cost savings would grow to more than $590 million each year and more than 7 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented, equivalent to the emissions from nearly 730,000 vehicles. These devices may be small, but they can make a big difference for the future of our environment.

Una Song works for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program and focuses on consumer electronics marketing.  When she’s not surfing the internet, she’s playing with her two cats.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Be Green and Save Green this Holiday Season

2013 December 9
blog Samantha Nevels

Samantha Nevels, CEA

By: Samantha Nevels

In a recent study, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® found that 60 percent of consumers are concerned about their energy bill. The first step in cutting your bill is understanding your energy use. CEA has made this easy through an interactive consumer electronics energy calculator available at GreenerGadgets.org. In just a few easy steps, the calculator will estimate the amount of energy used by your consumer electronics devices based on what electronics you use and how often you use them. The calculator determines your energy cost per month and per year, and compares your energy use to that of the average U.S. household. It also provides some easy tips to save energy!

Here are some tips on how to be green during the holidays: 

  • Look for the ENERGY STAR: Electronics are a popular gift and now you can give a great present that also gives back.  Look for the ENERGY STAR  when shopping for electronics. The trusted blue label indicates energy efficient products that will save you money on your energy bill and help protect the planet.
  • Recycle your old Electronics: Whether you get or give electronics this holiday season, be sure to recycle the old one, allowing the valuable materials inside to be used again in new products and to save natural resources. Find an electronics recycling site near you at GreenerGadgets.org.
  • Read the Fine Print: Check your owners’ manuals to make sure you are taking full advantage of any energy conservation capabilities that your electronics may have.
  • Plug and Unplug: Plug electronic devices like televisions, game consoles, set-top boxes, and even your holiday lights into eco-friendly power strips. Also, unplug those holiday lights during the day!

With these quick and easy tips you’ll be on your way to having more money in your pocket and contributing to a better, more sustainable world. Visit GreenerGadgets.org to learn more about how you can live green, buy green and recycle responsibly.

Samantha Nevels is the coordinator of Policy Communication for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).  CEA is a consumer electronics authority on market research and forecasts, consumer surveys, legislative and regulatory news, engineering standards, training resources and more.  CEA works closely with EPA through the ENERGY STAR program, to promote greater adoption of ENERGY STAR certified consumer electronics.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

2013 November 26

Christmas Decor

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

With Hanukkah and Thanksgiving just around the corner, the holidays are here, and for people across the country, the hunt for the perfect gift is on. For many, electronics are high on their list, with everything from the latest in TVs to tablets dominating their trips to the mall. Before you head out for Black Friday, be sure to check out ENERGY STAR’s Top Gift Picks for 2013. Looking for the trusted blue label on these products can help you save energy, save money and protect the environment from climate change—all while giving you the latest in innovation and technology.

ENERGY STAR’s Top Gift Picks for 2013

tv

Televisions: TVs are at the top of many holiday wish lists, and this year there are more reasons than ever to look for ENERGY STAR. Televisions that have earned the ENERGY STAR are on average more than 25% more energy efficient than conventional models, and come with all of the latest technology that you are looking for this holiday season. The label can be found on TVs of every size, with features like 3D, streaming capability, internet connectivity and both OLED and LED technology.

audio

Audio: Is your loved one asking for a soundbar or new speakers this year? According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), home audio sales are expected to grow at double-digit percentage rates this year. Make sure that you help your loved one save energy, save money and protect the environment by looking for audio equipment that has earned the ENERGY STAR. AV equipment that meets ENERGY STAR qualifications is up to 60% more efficient than conventional models.

Game Consoles: Gaming systems are always big sellers during the holidays. The best thing about this year’s models is their ability to go to sleep — just like your computer — entering a low power sleep mode when not in use for game play or streaming videos. This is an improvement that will reduce your energy use without reducing the excitement of video game play, and help your family save money long after the holidays are over.

Blu-Ray Players: According to the CEA, this year is expected to be the first in which Blu-Rays outsell DVD players. If this gift is on your list, be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR. Certified Blu-Ray players are on average 45% more efficient than conventional models.

Computers: Does someone on your list want a new computer for the holidays? Look for the ENERGY STAR and help your loved one save energy and the environment every time they log on. An ENERGY STAR certified computer will use between 30-65 percent less energy than a standard model on average. Enable your computer’s power management feature and save up to $90 a year!

battery charger

ENERGY STAR Battery Chargers: You can also save energy on battery-powered tools and appliances. Products ranging from cordless drills to electric lawnmowers and shavers come with chargers that carry the ENERGY STAR. On average, ENERGY STAR certified battery chargers use about 30% less energy than conventional models.

LEDs

LED Light Bulbs: A perfect stocking stuffer, ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs deliver leading energy efficiency and can have a lifespan of over 20 years. A single light bulb that has earned the ENERGY STAR can save $95 in electricity costs over its lifetime.

Saving energy with ENERGY STAR certified home entertainment products helps protect the climate. If each TV, DVD player, and home theatre system purchased in the U.S. this year earned the ENERGY STAR, we would prevent more than 2.2 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every year, equal to the emissions from more than 200,000 cars.

Get the latest in consumer electronics trends in the brand new podcast “Plugged in with ENERGY STAR.” Let experts from ENERGY STAR, the Consumer Electronics Association and more show you how easy it is to make energy efficient buying decisions this year. Check it out here.

light strings

Last, but not least, don’t forget to look for ENERGY STAR certified decorative light strings this holiday season. They use 65% less energy than conventional models and can last up to 10 times longer.

Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the ENERGY STAR communications team. Her favorite holiday activities include Christmas shopping, tree trimming and tryptophan-induced dinners. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Do 1 Thing ENERGY STAR: Find the Savings Under Your Feet by Sealing and Insulating Your Basement or Crawlspace

2013 November 25

 

Basement and Crawl Space

By: Doug Anderson

This week EPA invites you to “Do 1 Thing ENERGY STAR,” by sealing and insulating your home. This blog post is the fifth in a five part series from ENERGY STAR’s home envelope expert Doug Anderson about the benefits of sealing and insulating your home, and how you can get started this fall.

In the last two blogs, I talked about taking steps to seal and insulate your attic to get your home ready for the winter. Second to the attic, the next best way to prepare for chilly winter weather and start saving energy is by sealing and insulating your basement or crawlspace.

Deciding whether to do it yourself or hire a contractor

If your basement or crawlspace is accessible and not too difficult to move around in, this may be a good do-it-yourself (DIY) project. However, it is probably best to call in a professional if your basement or crawlspace has any of these issues:

-       Is wet or damp

-       Has pest infestations (bugs/rodents/snakes)

-       Is very moldy

-       Has strong smells or odors

-       There are loose or dangling ducts/pipes/wires

-       There are foundation problems (such as cracks)

The good news is that there are many qualified contractors that can help you address these issues.

Sealing your basement or crawlspace

If you have decided to make this a DIY project, the first thing to do is inspect your basement or crawlspace for air leaks in common locations. Start sealing any gaps or cracks in exterior walls using long lasting, flexible, indoor/outdoor caulk for any gaps or cracks ¼ inch or less. Larger holes (more than 1/4 inch) in masonry that lead outside can be filled with spray foam-in-a-can and sealed outdoors with masonry caulk or a small amount of cement so the hole is covered and the foam is not exposed to the outdoors.  Chimneys, furnace flues, water heater flues, or dryer flues can all get very hot and require metal flashing and high temperature caulk to properly seal.

Next, seal the rim joist (the wood that sits on top of the foundation wall) as described here, and finish by sealing any remaining holes and cracks to make an airtight space.

Safe Sealing

As mentioned in Blog Post#3, before and after sealing your home, have a heating and cooling technician check your combustion appliances (gas- or oil-fired furnace, water heater, and dryer) for proper venting.  This is called combustion safety testing.  The testing is easy, but should be done by a professional contractor who can sign-off that the systems are working properly.

Also, in certain parts of the country, sealing may trap dangerous indoor air pollutants (like radon) in your home.  Visit the EPA website on radon here for more information.  You can do radon testing yourself for a low cost or hire a professional contractor to conduct tests and discuss solutions if they find problems.  The tests are easy and can give you peace-of-mind.

Additional information on achieving good indoor air quality and proper ventilation in your home can be found here.

Insulating your basement or crawlspace

Insulating basement walls yourself needs to be done carefully and with products that are designed to handle some moisture.  Rigid foam boards and spray foam have been shown to work well for this application because they are less susceptible to moisture issues.  For details on insulating basement walls, visit this technical document for guidance.

Before adding insulation to crawlspaces yourself, you will need to decide whether to insulate the crawlspace ceiling or the crawlspace walls.  Again, in this application it is recommended that you use products that are designed to handle some moisture.  For details on sealing and insulating crawlspace walls check out this technical document  or this technical document for guidance.

Learn More

Visit the newly updated Seal and Insulate with ENERGY STAR website for more detailed information on how to seal and insulate your basement or crawlspace.

We hope you have enjoyed EPA’s five part series on how to improve your home envelope for the winter. Do 1 Thing ENERGY STAR this week! Start sealing and insulating your home and enjoy comfort and energy savings for years to come!

Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 13 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including insulation products and energy efficient residential windows.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.