Energy Saving at Home: How to Maximize Heating and Cooling Efficiency

March 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Efficiency

Everyone is looking for ways to have a more energy efficient home. Not only does it save costs on energy bills, but it contributes to a greener, cleaner environment. What are the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home and join in with the hot trend of eco-friendly home ownership? From minimizing air leaks to upgrading your insulation, there are definite things that you can do to maximize the energy efficiency of heating and cooling your home.

The highest energy costs in your home are the costs to heat and cool it. You want your home to have a tightly sealed thermal envelope, which means the inside is protected from the elements outside. There are many hidden places where hot or cold air can be getting in or out of your home. Fortunately there are ways to protect your home from leaks, reduce unintentional heat transfer, and save on energy bills.

The first thing you need to do is go through the entire house to check for air leaks. Obvious ones are around windows and doors. They can easily be fixed with weather stripping. The harder to find leaks are hidden in attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Take a careful look at the area where the floor or ceiling meets the walls. Check for holes around electrical outlets. Any leaks that you do find can be filled with spray foam or caulking.

Another important area of your home to concentrate on is the insulation. Find out your insulation’s R-value, which is a number given by the manufacturer that measures its ability to resist the transfer of heat. If the R-value of home is no higher than the requirement of your area’s building codes, it can definitely be increased for better energy efficiency. Local building code requirements are only set to meet minimal needs for the regional climate. For peak energy efficiency, your wall insulation should be as close to R-30 as possible, and ceiling insulation as close to R-50 as possible. Though it’s harder to do after construction, it is still possible to add insulation to the foundation and floors, and worth considering for the added energy savings it can provide.

One last consideration for home energy savings is the heating and cooling (HVAC) system itself. If your home has a forced air HVAC system, it is well worth the time to inspect the air ducts for leaks and seal them. The sheet metal joints are particularly vulnerable to leakage, so it’s best to seal them all. This can easily be done with duct sealant which can be found at most hardware stores. For further energy efficiency, use insulation to wrap air ducts. Unfinished areas such as attics, basements or crawl spaces are the best place to do this. The added insulation will prevent unintentional heat transfer.

It’s not as hard as you might think to improve your home’s energy efficiency, and it’s certainly worth the effort. Not only does it contribute to a cleaner environment and cut down on excess pollution, but it will also result in energy cost savings.