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.

Earth Day and the President’s Climate Action Plan

The arrival of Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the work EPA does to protect the health of Americans and the environment. Early last summer, the President announced his Climate Action Plan calling on the federal government to work together with states, tribes, cities, industries, consumers and the international community to address one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Over the past year, one of our top priorities has been addressing our changing climate, so let me fill you in on our progress so far on the many important steps we are taking to cut harmful greenhouse gas pollution.

Power Plants – Last September, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for New Power Plants .  Based on current trends in the power sector and available pollution control technology, the proposal will protect public health and address climate change while ensuring reliable, affordable, and clean power for American businesses and families. It will also ensure that power companies investing in new fossil fuel-fired power plants – which often operate for more than 40 years – will use technologies that limit emissions of harmful carbon pollution. The agency is now taking public comment on the proposal until May 9. Continue reading

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 Stuff Get Recycled?  Join Reading Rainbow to Find Out”

By Jeffrey Levy

It’s important to reduce how much trash we create, and then reuse stuff as much as possible.  But some things you just can’t figure out how to reuse, so recycling is much better than throwing them away. Recycling conserves natural resources and saves energy, helping to protect our climate.

So when you see a bottle or can on the ground, or are finished with a piece of paper, recycle it!  Don’t toss it in the trash.

Now, have you ever wondered what happens after the recycling gets picked up? For Earth Day this year, Reading Rainbow created a great video that shows us the answer. Follow along as LeVar Burton explores how recycling turns old paper, glass and metal back into stuff we can use.  After you watch the video, learn more on our website about reducing, reusing, and recycling.  (Psst, kids! Try out these fun games and activities.)

About the author: Jeffrey Levy is EPA’s Director of Web Communications.

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.

Earth Month Tip: Spread the word

Happy Earth Day!

One of the most powerful things you can do to act on climate is talk to your friends and neighbors about the challenge we face. This Earth Day, talk to five about climate action.

Why five? If five of your friends, for example, replaced five 60-watt light bulbs with 13-watt Energy Star bulbs, it would save over 50,000 pounds of carbon pollution over the life of the bulb. That’s equivalent to one of the following:

a)  the annual carbon pollution from 5 passenger vehicles
b) the carbon pollution associated with 2,780 gallons of gasoline
c)  3.4 homes’ electricity use for one year

Small changes make a big difference. Tell friends to visit epa.gov/earthday to learn more about reducing carbon pollution.

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

 

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.

EPA Unveils the Winner of the National Building Competition!

Battle of the Buildings2

By: Andrea Schnitzer

Have you ever seen the NBC show, The Biggest Loser? It brings together a group of motivated people, who all have one goal in common—a desire to get healthy and lose unneeded weight.  Today, EPA is announcing the winners of the fourth annual EPA ENERGY STAR National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings, a competition that is inspired by the hit NBC show. But instead of individuals working to lose excess weight, this year-long competition brings together commercial buildings from across the country to see who can reduce the most energy use. Today we are excited to announce this year’s winners and open registration for an exciting new competition year.

The Results are in!

Claiborne Elementary School

Claiborne Elementary School

This year, Claiborne Elementary School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, won the competition by cutting its energy use nearly in half!  But this impressive accomplishment only tells part of the story about the more than 3,000 competitors who threw their hats in the ring this year. The top 15 finishers reduced their energy waste by more than 29 percent, and nearly 50 buildings in the competition achieved at least a 20 percent reduction in energy use. In the end, the competitors saved a combined total of more than 130,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and $20 million on utility bills. To see a list of the competitors and their energy savings, go to www.energystar.gov/battleofthebuildings.

Many were winners. Only one was the biggest loser.

Claiborne Elementary School emerged victorious by cutting its energy use by a whopping 46.9 percent in one year. And they did this largely through low and no-cost efforts, like educating students and teachers about the actions they can take every day to save energy. This included adjusting thermostats, keeping doors and windows closed when the heat or air conditioning is on, turning off lights, and making sure electronic devices are turned off at the end of each day.  The school also fine-tuned automated controls of the HVAC and lighting systems, making sure that lights were turned off in unoccupied areas and that the heating and cooling systems were optimized to run only when necessary.

Small changes make a big difference.  

The results aren’t all that different than what we often see on NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Buildings across the nation compete to work off their energy waste with help from ENERGY STAR. At the end, the building that cuts its energy use the most is declared the winner.

And just like on the TV show, there are ups and downs for every building. Sometimes, drastic measures are needed, but often it just takes small changes every day that add up to big savings. Just like it’s not always necessary to take extreme measures to lose weight, buildings don’t always need to implement expensive technology upgrades to start cutting energy use. Likewise, adopting small lifestyle changes like eating healthier and exercising can make all the difference. Changing behaviors, whether it’s by turning off lights that aren’t being used, not heating or cooling empty spaces, and unplugging energy-wasting equipment, can make a huge impact when it’s done regularly and becomes a lifestyle.

Step on the scale. Repeat.

Of course, one of the most important steps in an energy waste-loss program is stepping on the scale. For buildings, that means entering monthly energy data in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, EPA’s energy and water measurement and tracking tool. By continuing to monitor and track the ups and downs of energy and water use, building owners and managers can find out where they stand…and where they need to go.

Join us for the 2014 competition. Register by May 16!

So who really won this year? The short answer: we all did. When buildings use less energy, the plants that power them emit fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, resulting in a cleaner, healthier environment for all of us.

Want to be a part of the solution? Ask your management to enter your building in the 2014 competition. This year, compete to win EPA recognition for energy and water savings, or join as part of a team competing against other groups to become the next biggest energy or water saver.

Learn more and register at www.energystar.gov/battleofthebuildings

About the Author: Andrea Schnitzer is a National Program Manager with the ENERGY STAR program for Commercial Buildings and Industrial Plants.

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.

We Need Your Help to Protect the Planet

By Jessica Orquina

Will you lend your voice to protecting the climate for Earth Day? I’d bet that since you read our blog, you already know many ways to cut your greenhouse gas emissions. But here’s another big thing you can do: share with your friends what they can do.  To help you do that, we’re using a new tool called Thunderclap, which is like a virtual flash mob. Here’s how it works: you agree to let Thunderclap send a specific, one-time message on your behalf to your social networks on April 22nd, Earth Day, at 12:00 pm EDT.  If 500 or more people agree, the message will go out on everyone’s walls and feeds at the same time (worldwide – hi, international readers!). But if fewer than 500 agree, nothing happens.

Here’s the message:

“For Earth Day, I commit to protect the climate. Take small actions that add up! http://epa.gov/climatechange/wycd #ActOnClimate” Note that bit about 500 people: we need your help to hit our target. To sum up, you can #ActOnClimate as simply as 1-2-3:

  1. Sign up below to join our Thunderclap.
  2. Share the link to the Thunderclap with your friends, so we get at least 500 people sharing the message: a. Facebook b. Twitter c. Google + d. Tumblr
  3. Learn more about what you can do to #ActOnClimate.

 

About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

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 ENERGY STAR LED Bulb Challenge

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 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.

A New Beginning: Headwater Research

By Marguerite Huber

I like beginnings. They are a fresh start and influence our lives further down the road. Just like how we have new beginnings, all rivers have influential beginnings too. In a network of rivers up in the mountains, headwater streams are the uppermost streams furthest from the river’s endpoint or merger with another stream. They are the very beginning of miles and miles of rivers and have a great impact on what flows downstream.headwaterstream

Headwater streams and their catchments, or drainage basins, are necessary for the maintenance of healthy and productive streams and rivers. Headwater catchments also provide numerous ecosystem services to humans and the surrounding environment. These benefits include biodiversity, climate regulation, recreation, timber and crop production, and water supply and purification.

EPA researchers studied the importance of headwater catchments by focusing on the quantity and value of a few ecosystem services, and then projected that importance from a regional to national scale. They focused on three ecosystem services (water supply, climate regulation, and water purification) for 568 headwater streams and their catchments.

To assess the potential economic value of headwater catchments’ ecosystem services, researchers used published economic value estimates based on commodity price (water supply), market value (climate regulation), and damage cost avoidance (water purification).

They found the economic value of each ecosystem service as follows:

  • $470,000 – The average yearly value of water supplied through each headwater catchment.
  • $553, 000 – The average yearly value of climate regulation (through carbon sequestration) of each headwater catchment.
  • $29,759,000 – The average yearly value of improving water quality by reducing nutrient pollution.

Overall, the weighted average economic value for headwater catchments in the United States was $31 million per year per catchment. It is essential to note that the national importance of headwater catchments is even higher since the 568 catchments studied are only a statistical representation of the more than 2 million headwater catchments in the continental United States. I think it’s safe to say these beginnings provide some serious benefits!

About the authorMarguerite Huber is a Student Contractor with EPA’s Science Communications Team.

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.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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 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.

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