Tuesday, 29 October 2013

How to winterize your home

It’s that time of year again. You have pulled out sweaters and mittens from your closet and cranked up the thermostat to increase warmth inside your home. But is your home properly winterized for the cold months ahead? The autumn season is a prelude to falling winter temperatures where the weather might snow, rain and have chilly winds blowing everywhere. Just for trivia’s sake, there is one place in the United States where outdoor temperatures never fall below zero. Have you guessed it? It’s none other than Hawaii!

If you live in any part of the United States, the fall equinox is the right time of year to start girding your home for winter. As temperatures begin to dip, proper planning and maintenance is required to keep your home in tip-top shape. 

Here are sure fire tips to help your home get cracking for Old Man Winter:

1.    Clean the gutters – The rule of thumb for proper drainage is that water should be at least ten feet away from the home. When the leaves starts falling and debris starts collecting, you need to clean out the gutters by removing them by a spatula, scraper or by hand. Then give it a good hose rinse so that all the snow can drain easily. Drains which are clogged will cause ice dams to form. This will in turn cause the water to back up, freeze and then seep indoors. When hosing the gutters, make sure that there are no misaligned pipes or leaks. Also make sure that water is carried away from the foundation through the downspouts, which will prevent water damage and flooding.
2.    Check the ducting system – A lot of homeowners don’t realize that they could be wasting a huge amount of energy and money while heating their house with improper ducting systems. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home will lose up to 60% of heated air before the conditioned air reaches the vents. This is because the ductwork might travel through unheated spaces or is not well-connected and insulated. Always check the basement, attic and crawlspaces to see if there are leaks, drafts and damaged pipes. Always remember to clean the ducting system every year with a vacuum to get rid of dust, mold, hair and microorganisms that can gather and cause indoor air pollution.
3.    Insulate the house – A way to save money in the long run is to insulate the house thoroughly. Regardless of the climate you live in, you need at least 12 inches of insulation in the attic. It’s not about measuring R values that determine the best possible insulation for your home but it’s about finding areas to seal and prevent the loss of heated or cooled air.
4.    Block leaks – Check for leaks both inside and outside the home. Not many people know that the average American home has leaks that measure up to a nine square foot hole in the wall when combined with all indoor spaces! First, find the leaks. Walk around the house holding an incense stick on a breezy day in drafty areas of home like electric outlets, window/door frames and of course the basement and attic. You can insulate by weather stripping and caulking windows and doors for starters. Put up storm windows to provide better warmth and comfort inside the house.
5.    Check the furnace/heating unit – It’s important to turn on the furnace or heating system and check to see if it functions well before the start of the winter. You can get a maintenance check done before hand to prevent unnecessary problems that could arise later. A HVAC expert will carry out a thorough check up of the furnace/heating system. You also need to get your filters cleaned out regularly or replace worn out ones.
6.    Check the chimney and fireplace – Most people think about cleaning the chimney during spring. This is a common myth and not true as it needs to be inspected and cleaned before use every year. You need a professional to undertake a Level 1 inspection to examine all the accessible portions of the chimney. You can buy a protective cap for your chimney to keep out foreign objects like birds and tennis balls. For the fireplace, make sure the damper is closed when not in use.
7.    Protect the pipes – Before Jack Frost sets his grip on the weather, you need to protect your pipes for the winter. A burst pipe is a real nightmare during the winter freeze, so you need to ensure that the water outlets are shut off and the pipelines drained thoroughly. For pipes that run through basements, garages and crawlspaces, cover them properly with fiber glass insulation or pre molded foam rubber sleeves. If you are worried that your pipe will freeze, wrap it with heating tape which basically is an electrical cord that gives off heat. 

Check your alarms – The smoke detectors should be checked for operation and batteries should also be replaced. Make sure that you replace the detectors every ten years. You can also do a test run inside your home with a little bit of smoke to see if it works. Also make sure that the fire extinguisher is close by for easy access. You can also invest in a carbon monoxide detector for the safety of your family. It’s mandatory that every home has one.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Curb Inefficient Heating and Cooling With Energy Audits

An inefficient heating and cooling system does not go unnoticed for any home as it will be uncomfortably hot during summer and cold and drafty during winter. There are also problems associated with excessive dust due to indoor air pollution, expensive energy bills, peeling paint on the walls and ice dams on the roof due to bad insulation. With hot and cold spots in various areas of your home, it definitely depicts inefficient heating and cooling systems. If you are always trying to set the right temperature on your thermostat for comfort or adjusting the air vents, then there may be improper airflow indoors.  
If you have improper airflow, it will definitely bring harm to the working life of your furnace and air conditioning systems in the long run and contribute to high energy costs. There are several areas that need to be addressed if your home has uneven heating and cooling:-
  • Sizes of the HVAC unit – Many homeowners make the mistake of buying the wrong size heating and cooling units. Bigger units for small indoor areas and smaller units for larger indoor areas end up consuming more energy. This is because bigger units consume more energy and are not required for heating and cooling small indoor areas. Smaller units consume more energy because they need to yank up more power to heat and cool larger indoor areas. This will increase your utility bills and reduce the working life of your system. A large unit will also cause fluctuations in electricity supply for your home due to over capacity. You can ask a technician to run a check on your units and replace it if it’s not of the correct size.
  • Speed motors – The motors in your unit could also be one more feature that contributes to improper heating or cooling. For better control of indoor airflow, check to see if it’s a variable speed motor. This kind of motor moves the air slowly through the system and provides even heating and cooling. Variable motors also aid in air filtration and moisture control for optimum working efficiency of the system
  • Ductwork – Improperly sized ducts causes constriction in the air flow which provides imbalance in heating and cooling. Leakages and blocks in the ducts will also cause uneven conditioning of air. If your ducts are not of the proper size, they need to be replaced at the earliest. For proper airflow, blocks and leaks also need to be removed. You can get a professional HVAC contractor to fix all of the technical glitches in your heating and cooling systems. Only a professional can find out the underlying causes of the problem and take the necessary steps to rectify it.  

The advantages of an energy audit

To go one more step further for energy efficiency, undertake an energy audit of your entire home. Homeowners can determine where the home loses its energy efficiency and where maximum consumption takes place that causes expensive utility bills. An energy auditor is the right person to detect problem areas indoors and find a solution for it. Only a professional audit will help in determining the amount of energy that is used and evaluate techniques and processes to improve efficiency. State of the art equipments are used by energy auditors to carry out the inspection. Leaks in the building are measured by blower doors and missing insulation in hard to reveal areas like basements, attics and crawlspaces are detected by infrared cameras.
One of the biggest advantages of performing an energy audit is that it pushes homeowners into doing stuff they know they should have done long before.