ast summer, we had a past client seek our assistance in looking at homes that
they were interested in buying. As we went through and looked at these homes,
one of the primary concerns was the operating cost of the home. The reality is
that home operation costs can be a taxing responsibility and we have more to
manage with the high energy costs of summer.
I had to caution my clients that finding an older home that was energy efficient
was going to be difficult. Basically, most homes built after the IRC code
changes of 2001 would have a good chance of being energy efficient. Any home
built before that time would be questionable unless renovations were made.
If you are looking to sell your home, buy a home or want to save money on your
operating costs, here are some areas that you may need to look at:
HVAC System – This is one of the largest consumers of energy in your home. The top of the
line systems are the ultimate in comfort and will pay for themselves in a few
short years. Be looking for a high SEER rating (16+) and a two-speed system.
Look at the duct work attached to the unit. Old leaking or under insulated duct
work will waste the energy efficiency not to mention bring contaminates like
dust and insulation into the home. Also consider installing a programmable
thermostat. (Energy Tax credits are available.)
Windows & Doors – Windows and doors typically make up 15-20 percent of the exterior surface area
of a home. With your wall insulation R-value at R-13 it only makes sense to
change out those old leaking single pane windows with an R-.91 to new double
pane windows with low-E at a R
–3.13. That is a 350 percent increase in R value. The new designs are also made
with better seals and gaskets to reduce air leakage. (Energy Tax credits are
Insulation – Can you see the top of the joist in your attic, 12-16 inches of insulation is
recommended in the attics to achieve an R-30 rating. But, be careful and make
sure the electrical system in the attic is in proper order. Also, older
recessed can lights have a warning posted on them: They can not be covered in
Radiant Barriers – These products reduce the radiant heat
transferred into the attics of your home, reducing the attic temperatures and
transfer of heat to the conditioned spaces. There are many product choices for
—roof decking, spray on paints, roof shingles and applied films.
Lighting – The new codes require “air sealed” recessed can lights for attic spaces. The old cans or non-sealed cans have
slots in the housing that are basically openings to your attic. With most
manufactures you can now get new air-seal trims to reduce this air flow to the
attic. Of course changing out your incandescent bulbs to new CFL
’s will reduce your energy consumption.
Appliances – Look for the new Energy Star compliant appliances to make an impact on the
energy consumption of your home. You would be amazed at how much energy that
old spare refrigerator uses each and every month.
Exterior – Look for cracks in the caulking around windows, doors and other areas of
penetration to the exterior. Keeping the exterior of the home sealed and
maintained is a good way to reduce air leaking from the interior that you just
paid to cool or heat.
Hot Water Heater – Look for new energy efficient water heaters or consider a tank-less system.
Just by lowering the temperature setting to a comfortable level will reduce the
energy consumption. Maintain your water heater: Drain a few gallons directly
from the unit twice a year to remove sediment on the bottom that reduces the
transfer of heat to the water. (Of course, do not waste this water
—use it to clean the sidewalks, driveway, etc.)
Interior – Seal any penetrations in the drywall of exterior walls and ceilings to reduce
air transfers within
Ventilation – A well-ventilated attic will reduce the attic temperatures 10 to 20 degrees.
This will reduce the amount of heat transfer to your living areas and HVAC
equipment. Keep these vents secure and check them regularly.
Allen W. Griffin, CGR, GMB, CAPS, CGP