Monday, February 3, 2014

Guest Post - Winter Check-Up for Energy Savings

The middle of winter and the end of a long cold spell tagged a “winter vortex” gives plenty of reminders about the cost of energy and heating in the winter months. It is also an opportunity to do more than begrudgingly pay the bill. It can be a perfect time to do some easy self-checks to save energy both now and in future years. Some of the corrections can be done immediately, and others will require a contractor in the spring, but now is the best time to schedule those jobs as well.

Mid-Winter Inspection for Energy Efficiency

Take advantage of the very cold weather to do your own inspection to find places to reduce energy usage and costs. It will allow you to help the environment as well as your own budget. The cold weather makes easy work of identifying key areas to save.


Winter Check-Up for Energy Savings
While thermal efficiency ratings and e-ratings are the fodder of a sales pitch, one of the best methods to determine the energy efficiency of your current windows is simply using your hand. Run your hand around the trim of your windows holding it an inch or two from the trim on a cold night or morning. You can easily feel any cool air coming in by doing this on a cold day. To make it even more pronounced use a damp hand. If you feel any drafts or cool air around the trim then pulling off the trim and stuffing gaps with loose insulation is an easy fix. Sometimes a little caulking can be used on the narrow gaps. Doing from the inside, you can do this even in the middle of winter for immediate savings.

Check the air temperature an inch or so in front of the glass on the windows. If the air is noticeably cooler near the glass than in the center of room, you will benefit from a better thermally insulated window. If any frost is visible between the panes of glass then the vacuum or gas sealed in between the panes has escaped and you have lost most of the insulating power of the windows. In this case it is time to consider replacement windows. Look for energy star replacement windows as those give easy to read measurements on energy savings and also often qualify for tax incentives when upgrading.


Winter Check-Up for Energy Savings
A similar method can be used to check exterior doors. As well as check around the trim for needed insulation, ensure that gaps around doors are sealed with weather stripping. You can purchase weather stripping in a variety of widths to fill any gap for a tight seal. When you touch the interior of the door, it should be roughly the same temperature as any wall. If the door panel is cooler than an exterior wall, you need a better insulated door or to add a storm door.

Exterior Walls

Winter Check-Up for Energy Savings
Check the exterior walls of your home in two ways. First, by simply touching the surface of an interior wall and comparing the warmth of that to the surface of the exterior wall. You should not be able to tell the difference by surface temperature to touch of the interior or exterior walls. If you can feel a difference then the insulation in your walls is deficient. This will require adding cavity wall insulation as one possible solution, or depending on construction and needs, you may want to consider adding an energy efficient siding with exterior insulation.

The other method to simply determine the energy efficiency of exterior walls is to go outside on a cold snowy day and watch to see if snow that hits the side of the house gets wet and melts. If the exterior of your home is warm enough to melt snow away, that heat is coming from inside your house and leaking out.


Winter Check-Up for Energy Savings
If you are in a snowy climate, look at the roof on your home. This is best done a few hours after a new snow. If the snow is rapidly melting off the roof (and it is not due to sunshine) then you are losing too much heat. This is especially easy if you have an unheated garage or outbuilding to compare it to. If the snow is significantly less on your heated areas than unheated nearby rooftops then you need to add additional loft or attic insulation. In many homes this can account for 20% or more of all heat loss. Anytime the temperature outside is below 32f and it is not sunny there should not be dripping eves and icicles forming. In addition to saving a lot of energy, correcting this will help prevent the need for expensive roof repairs due to ice building up under the edges of shingles.

A semi-retired freelance writer and blogger living in the United States, Reuben Dickison holds degrees in Marketing and Public Administration. His career path has included consumer financial management and private business management training and consulting. His passion is promoting an environmentally sound business ethos and planet.

Sneak Peek: Do you love Mexican food? Stay tuned because tomorrow I have a fabulous recipe for you!

Images courtesy of Sira Anamwong, nuttakit, photostock, and Evgeni Dinev /