Getting Ready to Lower Your Heating Bill This FallSeptember 2nd, 2011 | Posted by in Green Building | Green Homes
September has just arrived and that means Autumn will soon arrive. Even though in some places we might still be in the dog days of summer, thinking ahead to the cooler and cold months can ensure you’re not scrambling to weatherize at the last minute, and can even save you money as demand for weatherization projects are in lesser demand.
Weatherizing is a simple concept. Any home that’s not built to be hyper-efficient (like a passive house) typically has drafts. These often come from under doors, around window frames, and from the attic. Each draft is a space in the barrier between the interior of your house and the great outdoors, where heated air (in the winter) and cooled air (in the summer can escape) – raising the cost of heating and cooling a home. Weatherizing involves sealing up those cracks with caulk, insulation, weather strips, and newer windows, among other things.
The idea that weatherizing is not worth the initial cost, or that those initial costs won’t be offset over time, isn’t exactly accurate, even if it’s a common concern. Indeed, weatherization has proven to increase home energy efficiency so significantly that weatherizing programs are common amongst government and community development initiatives. The Department of Energy, for example, has run the Weatherization Assistance Program since 1972, which helps low-income people insulate their homes. The DoE estimates that each of these homes weatherized saves nearly $350 annually, and since 1972 more than 6.2 million homes have been weatherized under the assistance program, saving the United States more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually.
Weatherizing a home can involve any number of home projects, some of which may be major, and some of which may be minor, according to your budget constraints. Sealing cracks with caulk and installing a more energy-efficient thermostat are some examples of small projects; re-insulating your walls and attic (with eco insulation, we hope!) and installing a new furnace or double-paned windows are examples of significantly larger and more expensive projects – although the savings will be even more substantial over time.
We’ve even written in the past about some of the less-obvious places to use VOC-free caulking to weatherize your home. These include gaps between construction materials (think between brink and wood, or the foundation and walls); wherever utility lines enter a house; any vent, including dryer and air conditioning vents; and around mail chutes. For the very ambitious weatherizer, there are ways to check for gaps beyond feeling with the hand. Depressurizing the home by turning off all heating and cooling, closing all windows and doors, and then moving an incense stick around common leak gaps can help determine where there are drafts getting in.
Here are a few examples of some green products that Green Depot carries to get your home as prepared as possible for the upcoming autumn and winter months:
GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS
1. Insulation: We’ve written extensively in the past about insulating homes and the added benefits of fitting your home so that it retains more heat, instead of losing it. This is better for reducing heating costs, and thus for reducing our environmental footprint – approximately 4 metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted each year from residences, most of which is the consequence of home heating. Conventional fiberglass insulation is a suspected carcinogen, so using a green product like Bonded Logic Ultratouch Recycled Cotton Insulation is a major step towards making a greener home. For an even more efficient home, National Fiber Cel-Pak Cellulose Insulation is a blow-in material that settles into the tiniest corners and cracks of walls, ceilings, and attics.
2. Caulks and Sealants: Closing up cracks and drafts in homes is an effective – and inexpensive – way to conserve energy and reduce heating and cooling costs. Using VOC-free caulks is an important way to protect the health of everyone in your home. VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that are “off-gassed” from conventional caulks and can cause serious neurological problems, kidney failure, and is a suspected carcinogen.