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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 here 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.

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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 here 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.

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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 here 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.

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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 here 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.

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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 here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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 here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Do 1 Thing ENERGY STAR: Find More Comfort and Savings by Adding Insulation to Your Attic

2013 November 22

Attic Insulation

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 fourth 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 yesterday’s blog, I covered how the attic is typically where the largest energy savings opportunity exists and how to seal air leaks in this area. To complete your attic energy-efficiency improvements, you then need to install additional insulation. By increasing your attic insulation levels, you can save energy and greatly improve the overall comfort of your home.

Attic Insulation: Deciding whether to do it yourself or hire a contractor

If your attic is accessible and not too difficult to move around in, and you enjoy tackling bigger home improvement projects, adding attic insulation may be a good do-it-yourself (DIY) project for you. EPA’s Seal and Insulate with ENERGY STAR program provides great DIY resources to guide you through the process. Even if you are not comfortable taking on this project yourself, there are many qualified contractors who can help you get the work done.

Also, consider consulting a contractor if your attic has wet or damp insulation, moldy or rotted rafters or floor joists, little or no ventilation, or pre-1930 knob and tube wiring. These may require repairs before starting.

Check the Level

Whether you are planning to do the project yourself or hire a contractor, start by checking your attic insulation levels or depth.  All you need is a tape measure or yardstick.  Taking a few pictures of the existing insulation in each direction inside your attic can provide a good record of where you are starting from, so bring a cell phone camera or digital camera with you.

Use the tape measure or yardstick to measure the depth of your existing insulation.  Insulation often varies in depth so check in a few places.  Knowing your current insulation depth will help you determine whether you should add more and how much more you should to add.

Choosing your insulation

Next, choose the right insulation for the job. Rolls of insulation can cover large areas of the attic and are great for wide open rectangular attics. They are available in fiber glass, mineral wool, plastic fibers, and natural fibers, such as cotton.   Loose fill insulation is another common attic insulation made up of loose fibers of cellulose, fiberglass, or mineral wool that can conform to any space, making it ideal for odd shaped or hard to reach locations.

Installing attic insulation

When installing additional insulation, you do not have to use the same type of insulation that currently exists in your attic. You can add loose fill on top of rolls, and vice versa. If you use roll insulation over loose fill, make sure the roll has no paper or foil backing; it needs to be “unfaced.” Rolls installed over existing rolls should be placed side-by-side perpendicularly to the joists to cover the entire space.  Think carefully before you choose this option.  The many rolls you will need can be large to carry back from the store in a small car, and can be difficult to squeeze through small attic hatch openings.

If you choose to add loose fill, it may be wise to hire a professional, as the application requires the use of a blowing machine.  Some home improvement stores offer rentals of this machine for the motivated DIYer.  The machines are heavy and usually require an SUV or pickup to get home.

Keep in mind that insulation can create a fire hazard if it comes into direct contact with places that can get hot, like light fixtures, chimneys or flues, so you should take the proper precautions. Use sheet metal or wire mesh to help create a barrier around them.  Some home improvement stores now sell insulation covers for insulating around recessed lights.

Learn More

Visit the newly updated Seal and Insulate with ENERGY STAR website for more detailed information on how to install attic insulation.

Do 1 Thing ENERGY STAR this week. Start insulating your attic to get more energy savings and comfort for your home!

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 here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Do 1 Thing ENERGY STAR: Unlocking the Comfort and Savings by Air Sealing Your Attic

2013 November 21

Attic Air Sealing

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 third in a 5 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 yesterday’s blog, we covered how to check your home’s insulation levels and how to look for air leaks. We also covered how to use ENERGY STAR resources to help choose and prioritize your sealing and insulation projects.

To make the largest impact on your utility bill and comfort, you will want to start with the attic.  ENERGY STAR recommends that you always seal the attic first before adding any insulation.

Air sealing the attic: Do it yourself or hire a contractor?

Air sealing the attic is generally a challenging do-it-yourself (DIY) project, but can be well worth the savings in labor costs. If your attic is accessible and not too difficult to move around in, you don’t mind getting a bit dirty, and you enjoy tackling bigger home improvement projects, attic air sealing may be a good DIY project for you.

Even if you are not comfortable taking on this project yourself, don’t let that stop you – there are many qualified contractors who can do the job for you.

How to seal attic air leaks

If you have decided to do it yourself, you will want to start by identifying the locations of leaks, which was covered in the last blog.

Once you have found the leaks, they can be sealed using a variety of materials.  To seal the larger leaks use unfaced fiberglass insulation stuffed into plastic bags, rigid board insulation, a piece of drywall, or expanding spray foam in-a-can.  In some cases, you will need to use metal (such as aluminum) flashing and high temperature caulk to seal holes or gaps near areas that can get hot (such as near chimneys, furnace flues, or water heater flues). Then, seal smaller holes and cracks (under a ¼ inch) with long-lasting, flexible indoor/outdoor caulk like silicone or acrylic latex.

Safety First

After making home improvements that result in a tighter house, there can be an increased opportunity for carbon monoxide (CO) to build up if your gas- or oil-burning appliances are not venting properly.   Have your heating and cooling technician check your combustion appliances (gas- or oil-fired furnace, water heater, and dryer) for proper venting.  This testing is called combustion safety testing.  The testing is easy, but should be done by professional contractor who can sign-off that the systems are OK.

Also, in certain parts of the country, sealing may also trap dangerous indoor air pollutants (like radon) in your home.  To see if you live in these areas or if you just want to learn more about radon, check out the EPA website here.  You can test for radon 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.

Learn More

For more detailed instructions on how to identify and seal air leaks in the attic and throughout the home, visit the Seal and Insulate with ENERGY STAR website.

Do 1 Thing ENERGY STAR this week. Start sealing attic air leaks to unlock the savings in your attic!

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 here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Do 1 Thing ENERGY STAR: Check Your Attic Insulation and Look for Air Leaks

2013 November 20

 

Winterizing blog 2.0

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 second in a 5 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 yesterday’s blog, I talked about why sealing and insulating your home is one of the most important winter preparations you can do this fall. So if you are ready to get started, the first thing you will need to do is run a quick check of your home and list all of the opportunities for air sealing and adding insulation.

Start with a quick check of your attic insulation

Gather up a few handy tools, including a ladder, flashlight and camera. Find and open your attic hatch(es) and enter the attic or simply look inside. You can take a few pictures with your camera or cell phone of the insulation to study later or show to a retail associate or contractor so they understand what your current insulation levels are.

A rule of thumb is if the insulation is level with or below the floor joists, you probably need to add more insulation. You can also measure the depth to calculate the R-value. Typically you want at least R-30. It is recommended that you have R-48 in Northern climates.

Figure 1 - Add more insulation

Figure 1 – Add more insulation

 

Figure 2 - Probably enough insulation

Figure 2 – Probably enough insulation

 Next check for air leaks in the attic

While you are in the attic, do a quick visual inspection for common locations of air leaks. All you will need is a note pad, pen, flashlight and camera.  Record these in a sketch and take pictures so you know where to come back to later seal them.

Then check for air leaks in the rest of the house

Walk around the interior and exterior of your home and do a similar visual inspection for common locations of air leaks in around the house. You can also run simple do-it-yourself tests that can help you find hidden leaks and test if air is actually passing through gaps and cracks.

Want a more thorough evaluation?

Consider hiring a home energy professional to perform a comprehensive energy audit to find hidden air leaks, pinpoint specific solutions for your home, and identify potential safety issues.

Get started!

Once you have a list of potential insulating and air sealing projects, visit the newly updated Seal and Insulate with ENERGY STAR website for guidance on how to prioritize your projects based on three factors: effort and costs, savings opportunity, and the problem you would like to fix.

Do 1 Thing ENERGY STAR this week. Check your home insulation and look for air leaks!

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 here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Do 1 Thing ENERGY STAR: Seal and Insulate Your Home for the Winter

2013 November 19

Seal and Insulate

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 first in a 5 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.

When you hear “getting ready for winter,” what comes to mind? Pulling winter coats out of storage? Buying new snow shovels, or maybe getting a new pair of winter boots? How about sealing and insulating your home? In fact, sealing holes and adding insulation in the attic could be some of the most important projects you do this fall.

Believe it or not, many homes are not ready for chilly winter weather. Older, and even some newer homes, are often under-insulated and teeming with hidden gaps and cracks, resulting in winter electric/gas bill spikes, and sometimes an inability to keep rooms comfortable. In fact, if you added up all the holes and gaps in a typical home, they would be equivalent to having one window open all the time!

By doing a few ENERGY STAR-recommended air sealing and insulation projects yourself, or hiring a contractor, you can start enjoying significant benefits, including:

  • Reduced home energy use
  • Lower utility bills
  • Improved comfort (especially during summer and winter)
  • Less household carbon emissions for a reduced environmental impact

How much can I expect to save from sealing and insulating?

EPA estimates that you can save $200 a year* (10 percent off your annual energy bills) by sealing and insulating your home according to guidance from ENERGY STAR. With many utility incentives and tax credits available today, these investments can pay for themselves over time.

The savings come from keeping heat in the home during the winter and outside during the summer. When your home is well-insulated and sealed, your heater and air conditioner can run less, saving electricity, natural gas, and money. Making the proper investments today means less waste and more savings.

Other sealing and insulating benefits

The benefits extend beyond just saving energy and money. By sealing and insulating your home according to ENERGY STAR recommendations, you may also improve your home in other ways, including:

  • Reduced noise from outside
  • Less pollen, dust, and pests entering your home
  • Better humidity control
  • Lower chance for ice dams on the roof/eves

Getting started on your sealing and insulating projects

Visit the newly updated Seal and Insulate with ENERGY STAR website for more in-depth information and resources on:

Do 1 Thing ENERGY STAR this week. Start sealing and insulating your home!

*Note: Assumes that the typical U.S. home spends $2000 per year on utility costs. This amount may be higher or lower depending on your location.

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 here 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.

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