The average home, in the United States, is approximately 37 years old. To put this in perspective Ronald Regan was President, Apple released the Macintosh, The Terminator, Beverly Hills Cop, and Gremlins all premiered in 1984, and 1 gallon of gas cost $1.10. That was a long time ago, longer than some of the people reading this blog have been alive. This means that most of our homes were built before energy efficiency was considered important. But don’t worry, you can still make an older home extremely energy efficient. But before you can make your home more energy-efficient you must first understand why it is not.
Poorly Performing Building Envelopes
The building envelope consists of the foundation, exterior walls, roof, windows, and doors. Holes in the envelope allow excessive and uncontrolled amounts of heat and air to pass in and out of the building.
Believe it or not, the foundation actually does play a role in the energy consumption of your home. There are generally three types of foundations, slab on grade, crawlspace, or basement. Newer homes are generally built slab on grade, while crawlspaces are more commonly found on older homes.
Slab on grade provides the best foundation for an energy-efficient home. Crawlspace would be the next best option and a non-conditioned basement would be last. But a properly insulated, sealed, and conditioned basement can be as good as slab on grade.
Crawlspaces and basements all for more air to pass in and out of the building envelope. If they are not properly sealed, vented, or insulated. They can make your HVAC systems work harder to cool the actual living spaces. Air also carries moisture and this can get trapped in your home leading to mold and other issues.
The walls in your home play an important role in the energy efficiency of your home. Cracks and holes in your walls can allow unwanted air an moisture into the conditioned space, leading to mold, mildew, wood rot, pest infestation, and cause your HVAC system to work harder than it needs too.
Proper installation of your exterior walls is important too. All of the above issues can also result from lack of installation in your exterior walls as well. An inspection using a thermal camera can help spot areas of poor installation.
The roof, just like the foundation, must be properly insulated, sealed, and/or vented in order to allow your home HVAC systems to function optimally, and prevent moisture from damaging the home.
A poorly functioning roof system can lead to major energy losses and damage to your home.
Windows and Doors
Windows and doors are essentially giant holes in your homes building envelope. Where there are holes there is air and moisture. Ensuring that these areas are properly sealed is extremely important. Worn weatherstripping or caulking can lead to serious energy losses and damage to your home. Weatherization is the process of repairing and/or improving the insulating and weatherproofing performance of your doors and windows.
The types of windows in your homes plays a significant role in the energy efficiency of your home. Triple pane windows are the top performing windows when it comes to energy efficiency, with double pane windows coming in second, and single pane windows being the worst. Most homes have double pane windows, but you can still find single pane windows on older homes.
Double pane and triple pane windows have a space of air or gas between the layers of window pane. This space of air or gas slows the transfer of heat and cold, making it easier for your HVAC system to efficiently condition the air in your home.
As for your home exterior doors, You want to ensure that they have properly installed and functioning weatherstripping, that it is a door meant for exterior usage, and that the casing around it is properly installed and weatherproofed.
Lighting accounts for almost 25% of the electricity usage in our homes. Old lamps, ballast, and high-powered and overlit areas can waste substantial energy. Something as simple as changing to LED light bulbs can help reduce your home’s energy consumption and utility cost by a significant amount.
Replacing old lamps and ballast with newer more efficient ones also helps. One primary example of old ballast would be the fluorescent lights you commonly find in kitchens and garages.
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A lot of the time we leave our outdoor lights on 24/7, this is an unnecessary waste of energy that can easily be solved. You can put your outdoor lights on a timer or use dusk to dawn light sensors to make sure you don’t have these lights on when they’re not needed.
Overlighting can also be an energy waster. Make sure that you are not trying to light up the whole neighborhood with your lights. Light the areas that need illumination and use other types of lighting to light areas that may not need to be illuminated at all times. Such as solar-powered lights with dusk to dawn sensors.
Oversized or Undersized HVAC systems
This is something that most homeowners have no clue about, and why would you? You trust that the system on your home is properly sized, and if you have to replace it, you trust the HVAC technician to install the right system for your home. Usually, your system is properly sized, but sometimes its not. There is math involved, and we know what that means.
To be honest, there are multiple factors that can determine the right size for your HVAC system and an home energy audit can help you determine what improvements you need to make to your home and the proper HVAC system size for your home.
When it comes to the size of your system, oversized units provide too much heating and cooling, making occupants uncomfortable. Oversized units also turn on for very short periods of time, or short-cycle, causing unnecessary stress to the systems leading to decreased life spans. The opposite happens to undersized systems that have to work harder than they were designed, causing them to burn out quickly.
If your HVAC system is properly sized, which it should be, regular maintenance will help to improve to efficiency and longevity of your system. Changing the filter according to the manufacturers suggestions and ensuring that your outside unit or units have proper clearance around to allow necessary air flow will greatly improve their efficiency and reduce your homes energy consumption and cost.
Building Not Being Operated as Designed
It is important to understand how the different MEPS, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, work within your home. Improper operation of building systems can lead to unnecessary waste of any type, energy, water, etc.
For instance, if a home has an automatic lighting system and it isn’t set properly, the lights could stay on all the time, defeating the purpose of having automatic lighting. Or if you HVAC system that is improperly sized, installed, or not maintained. Improper building operation and maintenance can be costly.
Lack of Monitoring and Management of Plug Loads
We have a ton of electronics plug into the walls of our homes. Having large amounts of plug-in devices such as computers, televisions, and other electronics can cause our homes to use more energy than anticipated. Having outlets controlled by switches or by simply unplugging electronics that don’t need to be plugged in continuously can help reduce wasted energy and help meet your energy-saving goal. Monitoring your plug, its the easiest way to save energy and money.
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