Rule Your Attic by Hiring a Contractor

This is the second installment of blogs related to ENERGY STAR’s “Rule Your Attic!” outreach campaign encouraging homeowners to properly insulate their attics to reduce energy use, decrease utility bills, and increase comfort this heating season.

By Doug Anderson

If you know you have low insulation levels in your attic (see my first “Rule Your Attic!” blog about measuring attic insulation levels) but are just not interested in making improvements yourself, now is the time to call a contractor to properly seal air leaks and add insulation to your attic BEFORE the high heating bills come. Insulation contractors have all the equipment and experience to do the job right the first time. Let them do the dirty work. Your job is to find a good contractor to help you “Rule Your Attic!”

Shop Around – Selecting a Contractor

As with any home improvement project, you want to make sure you’re getting a good price and that the work will be done right. Here’s how:

Check with your electric utility or State Energy Office to see if they offer incentives for improvements or have pre-screened program contractors. (See energystar.gov/dime or www.dsireusa.org for lists of incentives.)

  • Get several estimates from contractors (know the square footage of your attic).
  • Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured in your state.
  • Ask if the crew chief is certified to do insulation work.
  • Ask how the contractor will keep your house clean during the work.
  • Make sure the contractor understands you want attic holes and gaps sealed before any insulation is added. If they do not agree to “seal before insulating,” call another contractor!

You may find local pre-screened, trained, and certified contractors available through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. These programs are run by local utilities or State Energy Offices and are a great place to start looking for contractors to help you with your project.

Make Sure the Job’s Done Right – What to Look For

When hiring a contractor, make sure that you clearly understand the work they’ll be doing. Don’t hesitate to ask questions before the contractor starts, and stay involved throughout the process! Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Contractors should seal air leaks in the attic floor before adding insulation. It’s much easier to seal first to ensure you get the full performance out of your insulation.
  • If you have air ducts in the attic, make sure contractors do not step on or damage them.
  • Burying any ducts on the floor in insulation is okay to do – it can even improve efficiency. Just make sure the ducts are well sealed first.
  • Unless your old insulation is wet, moldy, smelly, or contains animal waste, contractors can just add new insulation on top. It is usually not necessary to remove existing insulation.
  • Most contractors use blown-in, loose fill insulation for attic floors, which is quick and easy to install with the right equipment. Typical materials include fiberglass or cellulose – both contain some recycled content (glass or ground up paper) and are inexpensive and safe. If traditional insulation rolls are used for the attic floor instead, be sure that it is “unfaced” (no foil or paper backing needed) so moisture does not get trapped.
  • Any project estimate should also include installing insulation baffles (rafter vents). This ensures that as you add insulation, soffit vents (which allow outside air to enter the attic) are not blocked and your attic has proper air flow.

attic

 

Make sure your contractor seals attic air leaks before adding insulation.

  • If you have older recessed light fixtures (can lights) that stick up into the attic floor, the contractor should cover and seal them before installing insulation using specially designed covers that are available at most home improvement stores.
  • Contractors should also seal the chase (hole) in the attic around the plumbing vent pipe.
  • It’s also important to weather strip and insulate the attic hatch or door. There are several off-the-shelf products available for standard-sized openings.
  • EPA recommends having a professional contractor conduct combustion safety testing before and after any air sealing as this might affect the drafting of any combustion (oil or gas) appliances in the house.

Document the Contractor’s Work

Finally, tell the contractor that you expect documentation at the end of the job to show how much insulation has been added and what the new insulation R-value is for your attic. When it’s done, take a picture and compare it to the pictures you took earlier to see the improvement. Post your before and after pictures on ENERGY STAR’s “Rule Your Attic!” Pinterest board. Then, you can sit back and enjoy the cooler weather knowing your home is more comfortable and energy efficient.

For more information on deciding to DIY or hire a contractor, watch the second video in our “Rule Your Attic!” video series.

attic2

 

Adding “blown” attic insulation

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including sealing and insulation products and energy-efficient residential windows.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Rule Your Attic and Save Energy and Money This Winter

This is the first installment of blogs related to ENERGY STAR’s “Rule Your Attic!” outreach campaign encouraging homeowners to insulate their attics to reduce energy use, decrease utility bills, and increase comfort this heating season.

By Doug Anderson

Homeowners throughout the U.S. are starting to wake up to frost on the grass and furnaces or boilers running full blast. Cold weather is here! Now is the time to do a quick, simple check of your attic insulation levels to save money on energy bills and be more comfortable this winter. We call checking your attic insulation level: RULE YOUR ATTIC!

Don’t waste your hard earned money, just check your insulation level today to know if you have a problem or not. It only takes a few minutes. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Grab a tape measure or ruler and a flashlight. (You can also bring your cell phone)
  2. Carefully climb up your attic stairs or ladder and raise the attic hatch or door.
  3. Reach out and stick the ruler into the insulation and measure the depth in inches. Jot down the number or take a picture with your cell phone to record the number.

Now, check your results. For commonly used blown (loose-fill) fiberglass, mineral wool or cellulose insulation (assuming an R-value of about R-3 per inch):

  1. If you live in a Northern State and have less than 16-18 inches of insulation you are below the recommended levels.
  2. If you live in a Southern State and have less than 12-14 inches of insulation you are below the recommended levels.

 

insulation map

 

In the map above, zones 4-8 are considered Northern, zones 2-3 are Southern.

Now, if your levels are good, relax and have a cup of hot cider. If you are below the recommended levels, don’t sweat it. It’s not too late to make an improvement and lower your annual energy bills by up to 10% by sealing air leaks and adding insulation to your home.

From now through November 26, post a picture or short video of your attic floor insulation using the hashtag #RuleYourAttic and include @ENERGYSTAR in your post. ENERGY STAR experts will then provide feedback on how to improve your attic insulation. For more information visit www.energystar.gov/ruleyourattic. To learn how to measure your attic insulation level watch our short video. If you haven’t already followed us, check out the ENERGY STAR Twitter page.

Now, the next question is: should you do it yourself or hire a contractor? We have helpful information whatever you decide to do.

rule your attic

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including sealing and insulation products and energy-efficient residential windows.

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Top 5 Ways to Chill out this Summer with ENERGY STAR

By: Brittney Gordon

Even when the temperature goes up, your utility bills can still stay low. With help from ENERGY STAR you can keep your cool, tame those bills, and help fight climate change. The secret is to keep your cooling system from working too hard. Discover these Top 5 Ways to Chill Out with ENERGY STAR, so that you and your cooling system can both enjoy the summer!

1. Keep the heat out

Insulation_graphic (1)

Take advantage of shades, blinds, curtains, awnings and even trees to  keep the sun out during the day, especially on the south and west side of your house. If you are upgrading your windows, consider ENERGY STAR certified windows, which will keep even more heat out. Find and seal leaks (the biggest ones are in your attic and basement) – this will also help reduce humidity and keep out pests and pollen.  Consider adding attic insulation so less heat radiates down into your house from your hot attic.  Sealing air leaks and improving your home’s insulation could save you up to $200 a year in cooling/heating costs (or about 10 percent of your annual energy bill).  Finally, if you’re replacing your roof, you can reduce the effects of the hot sun by installing ENERGY STAR certified roof products.

2. Keep the cool in

Seal and Insulate 2

You’re paying for your AC’s cool air, so don’t let it leak out of your ducts before it gets to the vent and the rooms you want to cool. That’s YOUR air!  In most homes, 25 percent of air that flows through air conditioning ducts leaks out before it gets to you. So get a contractor to test your ducts, seal them, and insulate them so you’re not paying for cool air you don’t get to use. You could reduce your cooling energy bill by about 20 percent.

3. Maintain Your Cooling System

Thermostat

A simple tune up of your HVAC equipment can do wonders.  Make sure you also change your air filter regularly – EPA recommends every three months at a minimum.   And, if you do not have a programmable thermostat – install one and program it around your family’s summer schedule. Setting the thermostat up by seven degrees when you’re away from home and up by four degrees when you’re asleep can save more than $180 a year.

4. Be a fan of fans

ceiling fan

If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan instead, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Use bedroom fans on those cooler summer nights when you might be able to turn off your central air conditioning and naturally cool your home for a lot less. Plus, don’t forget to use your ENERGY STAR certified vent fans to get rid of that unwanted humid air in your bathroom after a shower.

5. Look for the ENERGY STAR

ENERGY STAR Logo

If your central air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR certified model could cut your cooling costs by 30 percent. In the market for a new room air conditioner? Find one that has earned the ENERGY STAR and use about 15 percent less energy. ENERGY STAR certified dehumidifiers also use 15 percent less energy than a conventional unit.  One last easy tip is to change out those old, hot, incandescent bulbs with ENERGY STAR certified CFL and LED bulbs–they produce 75% less heat!

Looking for more great tips? Head to www.energystar.gov/cooling.

About the Author: Brittney Gordon-Williams works on the ENERGY STAR communication’s team. Her summer cooling project will involve trying out ENERGY STAR certified LEDs in her new home.

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

How Does Your Home Compare to Your Neighbor’s?

Yardstick

By: Brian Ng

It’s springtime! Now that the dark, cold days of winter are gone, it’s time to do things to tidy up the outside of your home. After all, who wants to be the “messy” house in the neighborhood? Now is also the perfect time to tidy up your home’s energy efficiency, especially compared to your neighbors’ homes. After all, who wants to have the highest utility bill in the neighborhood? Plus, reducing our energy consumption at home helps fight climate change since using energy means having to produce energy, which typically involves the burning of fossil fuels that generate greenhouse gases and cause climate change.

But short of knocking on their door, how do you find out how your home’s energy use compares to your neighbor’s home? The ENERGY STAR program offers a free, online tool called the Home Energy Yardstick, available here. It allows you to compare your home’s energy use to similar homes across the country. By entering your home’s annual energy use, the number of occupants, conditioned square footage, and its ZIP code, the Yardstick computes a score between 0 and 10, indicating the relative energy consumption of your home compared to a nationally representative sample of single family homes.  On the Yardstick scale, 0 is the most energy-consuming household and 10 is the least energy-consuming household. An “average” home scores a 5 on the Yardstick. So the higher the Yardstick score, the better! You can even print a certificate and brag to your neighbors if your score warrants bragging rights.

To use the Yardstick, you’ll need the last 12 months of utility bills for your home.  Typically you can find a 12-month usage summary on your most recent bill or through the utility’s web site.  It only takes about five minutes to enter the information and get a score.  Some utilities provide customers with the ability to download a “Green Button” file that provides detailed information about energy usage for their home.  If your utility participates in Green Button, you can simply upload your home’s utility data directly into the Yardstick. To find out if your utility offers Green Button, visit:  www.greenbuttondata.org. For those whose Yardstick score is less than brag-worthy, fret not. ENERGY STAR’s Home Energy Advisor provides recommendations for energy-saving improvements for typical homes in your area.

Although these tools provide good insight into your energy consumption and how to reduce it, they are not meant to replace a professional’s help. So if you need an expert opinion on how to improve the efficiency and comfort of your home, a good place to start is with a local Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR offers a whole-house approach to improving the efficiency and comfort of your home. A participating Home Performance contractor will evaluate your home using state-of-the-art equipment, recommend comprehensive improvements to yield the best results, and help you get the work done.

So while you’re doing your spring cleaning this year, take a moment and begin cleaning up your home’s energy use as well.

About the Author: Brian manages communications activities for the ENERGY STAR Residential Branch, which forms voluntary partnerships to promote greater energy efficiency in new and existing homes. He enjoys trying to improve the energy efficiency of his own home when he’s not busy keeping up with his two kids.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Amazing LED

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

ENERGY STAR’s Top Tips to Save Energy This Winter

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Be Green and Save Green this Holiday Season

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

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

 

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

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

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

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

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.