Kelly Thompson, Manager, Sustainability

 

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The winter season is upon us so I thought I would talk about how to keep the heat in and the cold out with weatherization. Ever feel drafts when you stand by a window or door? Did you know those small holes could be costing you big money?

Sealing and insulating the “envelope” or “shell” of your building—its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors—is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency and occupant comfort.

 

 

There are three main reasons why you should seal those cracks right away:

  • Save moneyENERGY STAR® estimates that by insulating your building, you can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs.
  • Improve comfort – Buildings are more comfortable and energy efficient during extreme weather conditions, especially during winter cold snaps.
  • Help the environment – In addition to reducing the amount of energy used to heat and cool a building, you’re also reducing air pollution.

 

The U.S. Department of Energy describes a couple ways to check for leaks. First, at night, you could shine a flashlight around door jambs while someone stands outside and looks for rays of light. Another option is to shut a door or window on a piece of paper. You shouldn’t be able to pull it out without ripping it. Or, lastly, shut off all air moving equipment (HVAC, vents, etc.) and close all windows and doors. Light an incense stick and stand by drafty areas. If the smoke is pulled toward the area, you are spending too much on your energy bill.

If any of these methods proves that you have drafts, you’ll need to weatherize. Some of the most common places to weatherize are around windows and doors, the top and bottom of buildings (attic and basement), and around your HVAC systems. See below for some tips on each area:

Sealing Windows and Doors

Things like caulking and weatherstripping seal air leaks around windows and doors have a great impact on improving comfort levels and reducing utility bills. If any part of the glass is broken or loose, be sure to have it fixed. Door sweeps can also be installed on the bottom of doors to reduce drafts.

Insulating the Top and Bottom of Your Buildinginsulation

If you have an attic or basement that is not properly sealed, the cold air that gathers there in the winter could be drafting into the building and costing you money.

A way of stopping the drafts is to insulate the area. Instead of using fiberglass, which can be harmful to human health, try a cellulose material instead. Modern cellulose insulation is made of 75 to 85% recycled newspaper fiber that has been ground down and had a fire retardant added. Not only does it have low toxicity (fiberglass is petrochemical-based and contains glues with formaldehyde in it) but it’s diverting materials from the landfill (the “reuse” concept).

Weatherizing Your HVAC System

Did you know that about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks and poorly sealed connections, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? Duct sealants (like mastic sealants or metal tape) keep the building comfortable and your costs down.

We have put together an easy-to-use weatherization checklist that you can use on your property:

  • Do a walk-through of your property and look for cracks, holes, and leaks to seal.
  • Seal cracks using caulk or weatherstripping.
  • Inspect your heating systems for loose ducts where air can escape.
  • Cover windows with plastic sheeting or install storm windows if possible.
  • Make sure you have proper insulation in the walls and attic, and around your hot water heater and pipes.
  • Find out if you’ve missed any areas with an energy audit from an energy rater (you can find a list on the ENERGY STAR® website).

 

Have you weatherized your property or home yet?  If so, did you feel a difference?

 

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