Homeowner Tools

Are your utility bills out of control?  Is your house never comfortable? Do you have a problem with mold and mildew?  Are your allergies worse indoors than outdoors?

Start with a Home Audit

We look at your home as a complex system and reun a series of diagnostic test to pinpoint exactly why your home is not energy efficient or comfortable.  Test results are provided in a report that details how your home is performing as well as a home improvement road map.

 Common Symptoms

  • High Energy Bills
  • Drafty Rooms
  • Cold Floors in Winter
  • Mold, Mildew, Must Odors
  • Hot or Cold Spots
  • Excessive Dust
  • Dry Indoor Air
  • Damp Basement
  • Moisture on Windows
  • Roof Ice Dams

Common Problems

Air Sealing and Insulation

Your home continually exchanges air with its surroundings.  A blower door test will reveal where your home is exchanging air to the outside world and pinpoint opportunities where, with proper sealing, your home could do a better job of retaining energy and maintaining comfort.

Insulation allows your home to retain heat;  without it, your home has difficulty maintaining a desired temperature.  Understanding your insulation levels, performance, and target areas are crucial to your family’s comfort as well as your energy efficiency.

Duct Sealing and Duct Design

The average duct system leaks 30% of the delivered air.  Duct leakage can lead to sever indoor air quality problems (in spite of a high-end filter device) and increase your energy use.  Properly sealed ductwork will allow air to reach the intended destination.

Does your furnace turn on and off frequently.  Are some rooms overheating, too cold or an entire level that’s never comfortable?  There are signs of poorly designed ducts.  Properly designed and installed ducts are essential for energy performance and comfort in the home

Energy Bill Analysis

Would you like to knoe the equivelant miles-per-gallon for your major energy-consuming appliances.  Energy modeling allows you to determine the energy demands of your electric appliances  Chief culprits includer outdated washing machines, electric dryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers.

The important players in home performance

Insulation

Insulation is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy waste and lower heating and cooling costs and provide comfort to the home.  Though it’s quick and easy, proper design and installation is vital to performance – having insulation is different than insulation that performs.   A good insulating system includes a combination of products and construction techniques that protect the home from the external environment.

Common Types of Insulation

Rolls and batts – The most common and widely available type of insulation.   Batts or rolls are composed of mineral fibers, from sources of fiberglass and rock wool, most commonly used for areas of standard spacing such as stud cavities in walls or joist cavities in floors or attics.  Manufacturers will often attach a facing to act as a vapor and air barrier.

Loose-fill – Most commonly composed of cellulose, fiberglass and mineral wool, loose-fill insulation consists of small particles of fiber, foam, or other materials. These small particles form an insulation material that can conform to any space without disturbing any structures or finishes. This ability to conform makes loose-fill insulation well suited for retrofits and for places where it’s difficult to install some other types of insulation.  Installation typically  involves special equipment that blows the insulation through the access and into the insulating space.

Foam Board – Rigid panels of insulation that can insulate a defined surface of a home.  Most often used In sheathing as part of the home construction process.

Foam – Liquid foam insulation can be sprayed, foamed-in-place, injected, or poured.  The Liquid foam insulation, combined with a foaming agent, can be applied using small spray containers or in larger quantities as a pressure-sprayed (foamed-in-place) product. Both types expand and harden as the mixture cures. The foam conforms to the shape of the cavity, filling and sealing the insulating space.  The most effective form of insulation that provides a higher R-value per thickness than any other material.  Foam insulation is most effective in areas where higher R-values are required.  Common R-values of 4-6.5 per inch.

Air Sealing

One of the quickest dollar-savings task a homeowner can do is seal all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside.  Air leakage, or infiltration, occurs when outside air enters a house uncontrollably through any number of openings. Properly air sealing such cracks and openings in your home can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs, improve building durability, and create a healthier indoor environment.  Air infiltration also can contribute to problems with moisture control.  Moldy and dusty air can enter a leaky house through such areas as attics or foundations. This air in the house could cause health problems.

Space Heating and Cooling

Heating and cooling account for 2/3rd’s of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes.  There are a wide variety of technologies available that achieve a wide range of efficiencies.

  • Heating & Cooling
  • Geothermal Green Energy

Though we speak most often about energy efficient equipment, a high efficiency unit alone may not have as great an impact on your energy bills as you think.  Components such as sizing and capacity, programmable thermostats and ducts/delivery system also provide substantial opportunities for saving energy (not to mention increased comfort.  Decreasing the size of the unit by air sealing and insulating and upgrading the delivery system’s efficiency will cut your energy use and reduce environmental emissions.

Water Heating

Water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home, accounting for approximately 15% of your utility bill.  There are four ways to cut your water heating bills:

Use less water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate your water heater, or buy a more efficient mode

Air Ducts

Ducts that leak heated or cooled air into unconditioned spaces add hundreds of dollars per year to your heating and cooling bills.  Though hidden from sight, the distribution system is the most important system to provide comfort for you home at an efficient price.  Insulating ducts that are in unconditioned spaces is usually very cost effective and very valuable.   If the supply ducts are leaking, heating or cooled air can be forced out of unsealed joints and lost and lost the attic, basement or closer.   Similarly, unconditioned air can be drawn into return ducts through unsealed joints creating a higher demand on the furnace and air conditioning system causing it to run for longer periods.

Windows

Windows provide homes with character, light, warmth, and ventilation.  Fortunately or unfortunately they are numerous and can negatively impact a home’s energy efficiency.   Windows can account for nearly ¼ of the home’s heating bill and supply a source of solar gain that  force air conditioners to work harder and run longer during summer months.

There are three potential steps to achieving window performance:

Design

Before selecting a window, it’s important to determine what type of window will work best and what areas are crucial to improving your home’s energy efficiency.  Become Familiar with window energy performance and ratings:

U-factor

The rate at which a window conducts non-solar heat flow.  Commonly expressed in Btu/hr-ft2.  The lower the U-factor, the more energy-efficient the window

Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC)

The fraction of solar radiation admitted through the window released as heat.  The lower the SHGC, the less solar heat the window transmits and the greater shading ability.  Climate, window orientation, and shading should all be considered when factoring a window’s SHGC.

Frame

A window frame can conduct heat, contributing to a window’s overall energy efficiency.  There are advantages and disadvantages to all each type of frame material.

Aluminum or Metal Frames

Although very strong, light and almost maintenance free, metal or aluminum window frames conduct heat very rapidly. Because of this, metal makes a very poor insulating material. To reduce heat flow and the U-factor, metal frames should have a thermal break-an insulating plastic strip placed between the inside and outside of the frame and sash.

Composite Frames

Composite window frames consist of composite wood products, such as particle board and laminated strand lumber. These composites are very stable, they have the same or better structural and thermal properties as conventional wood, and they have better moisture and decay resistance

Fiberglass Frames

Fiberglass window frames are dimensionally stable and have air cavities (similar to vinyl). When these cavities are filled with insulation, they offer superior thermal performance compared to wood or vinyl (similar to insulated vinyl frames).

Vinyl Frames

Vinyl window frames are usually made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with ultraviolet light (UV) stabilizers to keep sunlight from breaking down the material. PVC is a very versatile plastic with good insulating value. Vinyl window frames also do not require painting and have good moisture resistance. However, at high temperatures, they may expand and warp; at extremely low temperatures, they may crack. Also, if sunlight hits the material for many hours a day, colors other than white may tend to fade over time.

Wood Frames

Wood window frames insulate well, but they also expand and contract according to weather conditions. They can also be quite heavy and thicker than other frames. This can make storage difficult, reduce the view out the window, and reduce the amount of natural light in the room. Wood frames also require the most maintenance. There are, however, aluminum- or vinyl-clad wood frames that reduce maintenance requirements.

Operation

When selecting windows for your home, it’s also important to consider how they’re operated. Some operating types have lower leakage rates which will improve your home’s energy efficiency.

There are numerous window operating types to consider:

Awning

Hinged at the top and open outward. Because the sash closes by pressing against the frame, they generally have lower air leakage rates than sliding windows.

Casement

Hinged at the sides. Like awning windows, they generally have lower air leakage rates than sliding windows because the sash closes by pressing against the frame.

Fixed

Fixed panes that don’t open. They’re airtight but not suitable in places where window ventilation is desired.

Hopper

Hinged at the bottom and open inward. Like both awning and casement, they generally have lower air leakage rates because the sash closes by pressing against the frame.

Single- and double-hung

Both sashes slide vertically in a double-hung window. Only the bottom sash slides upward in a single-hung window. These sliding windows generally have higher air leakage rates than projecting or hinged windows.

Single- and double-sliding

Both sashes slide horizontally in a double-sliding window. Only one sash slides in a single-sliding window. Like single- and double-hung windows, they generally have higher air leakage rates than projecting or hinged windows.

Lighting

Did you know 90% of the energy in an incandescent bulb is wasted as heat?  Making improvements to your lighting is a simple and instant way to cut your utility bills.   An average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting.  New lighting technologies can reduce lighting energy use by 75%.   Use linear fluorescent tubes and energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to provide high-quality and high-efficiency lighting.  Fluorescent lamps are more efficient (saving about $30 over lifetime), last up to 12 times longer, and emit less heat than incandescent bulbs.

Appliances

The major household appliances (refrigerators, clothes washers & dryers, dishwashers) account for 20% of utility bills.  When it comes to purchasing any household appliance, keep in mind the operating price you are bringing home as most major appliances last 15-20 years.  Look for the Energy Star label and Energy Guide that will identify estimated operating costs and energy consumption.