Finding Energy Leaks While Remodeling Your Home

We started it in 1976.

That was after the first energy crisis hit in 1973.

It grew by 1979 when the second energy crisis happened.

Since then, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Program has weatherized over 7 million dwellings, and reduced energy consumption by an average of 32%. This influenced more homes to be weatherized in the state, local and private levels.

It was a good start…

But, we are far from finishing.

We need to tighten up our homes today more than ever.

You see, we are taking a lot of resources from the natural world to support the economy. And we are consuming a lot of energy to do that. Increasing global demand for energy, in turn, is a result of our industrial development and population growth. Growth leads to depletion.

Resources are not the only thing dwindling.

Monarch ButterflySome critical organisms are rapidly disappearing in the past few decades. Monarch butterfly populations are declining due to techniques of modern farming. Honey bee colonies are collapsing due to the same pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Minnows, plankton and others at the bottom of the food chain are dying off from our pollutants and their toxins.

Industrial farming and chemical production practices are putting a lot of waste back into the environment. This waste has consequences. We are finding more drugs in our drinking water than anybody knew. Pesticides drifting into homes are causing a rise in local illnesses. Lastly, the air quality in our cities is deteriorating.

This brings us to too much levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These levels are rising as the direct result of our growing consumption of fossil fuels – oil, coal and natural gas. And they lead to such things as climate change and ocean acidification.

Residential buildings account for over 20% of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. We’ve used a lot of energy and resources to get here. And we have our homes to be thankful for that.

Now the same houses we built are going to be a way out of this mess.

Let me explain.

If you actively take care of your home, you can achieve great carbon emissions reductions. A greater impact on stabilizing climate change comes from looking within. When it comes to your home, there’s no better place to contribute.

When a house is old and out of shape, weatherization is a great starting point. The older your home is, the more work it needs. But here’s the big opportunity. You’ll find that aiming for higher levels of energy and carbon reductions will improve the comfort levels in your home. Forget the 32%.

The suggested target here is to reduce the energy use from 50 to 75%.

I know this is difficult to achieve. Such a reduction is both challenging and expensive.

But, we’re talking about finding opportunities to make our home a more comfortable place to live in.

Every home that is weatherized saves that family an average of up to $400 a year on their heating and cooling bills. That’s pretty deep.

Just think about how much more you can save by going deeper.

Reducing your energy loads enough may give your home an awesome position to achieve zero net energy performance. You can enable your home to do that with good solar exposure and rooftop solar panels (photovoltaic and solar-thermal). What you save on energy may end up paying for your mortgage to boot.

Some of you may also eventually want to get your home off the grid. The deep energy retrofit is a great way to get to that level. By focusing on insulation from the exterior to interior transitions, you can eliminate your needs for heating and cooling. It’s about how you maintain comfort without having to use a kWh of electricity.

These are just a couple of opportunities only you can find at home.

Doing some work around the house?

When you do, think about how long you’ll own your home and how much you are willing to spend to make it better.

  • Do you plan to do everything at once?
  • Do you plan to do it in phases?
  • Do you realize that you can do more than you originally thought you can do?

Finding opportunities makes you aware of the potential extra benefits you can derive from what you thought was a simple home improvement project.

For example, if you’re re-siding your home, check to see if your home has an energy leak while you’re at it.

Your home feels cold. You notice the heat is always on. The windows are closed, and you have extra layers of clothing on. You’re thinking your home is leaking heat.

If there is a leak, are you going to fix it?

Now is the opportunity to do something about it while you’re re-siding. Instead of putting that extra sweater on your body, why not do the architectural equivalent?

Put a sweater on your home. That is your thermal insulation. Then you can use less heat and stop wasting energy!

But how much insulation do you need to put on?

Part of the problem is that you don’t know how much your home is leaking. You need to see some data to prove your home is drafty. The first thing you should do is measure the air leakage of your home.

You do this by doing a blower door test.

After taking measurements, you might get something called a HERS rating. It is a standard for measuring a home’s energy efficiency. The higher your score, the greater air changes per hour measured. If you have a high score, your home is leaking.

You might think there are cracks, gaps and some small holes. Find them and fill them. That’s it.

Find a hole. Plug a hole. It’s as easy as that… right?

Sometimes, the leaks are hard to find. You’ve plugged all the holes you can see. You feel the home is still cold. Your home is still losing heat somehow. It’s time to see what’s behind the walls.

How do you make the heat leaks visible? Get an infrared camera and see what your eyes can’t.

What do you find? A masked villain. Something called Thermal Bridging.

Continuous thermal bridging is not good. You spend a lot of money warming your home during the winter to a comfortable 70 degrees. The warm inside air wants to escape to the cool outside air. It does so by going through the wood studs because they are not insulated.

This costs you.

Now is the time to find a solution to break that thermal bridge.

It’s going to save you some money. Invest in gain first and install an insulation-backed siding. Create a blanket for the whole outside of your home. This is your sweater. The studs become insulated, breaking the bridge and stopping your home from wasting energy.

Here are some other opportunity points for finding energy leaks in your home:

When insulating your home, don’t forget the areas behind your overhangs (above the porch).

When insulating your slabs, there are opportunities to fix old plumbing.

When insulating your walls, think about replacing your electrical. It may be a good time to do that.

How about that heat vent on the outside wall or roof? It may not be good to keep that. It’s an area for heat loss.

At Energetic Building, we have the solutions.

You might ask: Well, why do we even need them?

Today, the long lines at the gasoline stations are a distant memory.

It’s even harder to believe that in 1974, 20% of US gasoline stations had no fuel.

The energy crisis, referenced at the beginning of this letter, led to a greater interest in weatherization programs and renewable energy.

It may be just be a passing interest.

We have an abundance of cheap oil right now…

And we are setting ourselves up for the next energy crisis.

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