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An Energy Efficient House From A to Z: Your Efficient Furnace or Heat Pump Requires It

  • January 2014
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An energy efficient house lays the groundwork for realizing all the energy savings a high efficiency heat pump or furnace provides. Without it, you’ll never see the maximum savings these systems offer. A heat pump is especially dependent on a home’s energy efficiency, since it doesn’t use any fuels for home heating other than the heat it extracts from the outdoor air.

The three culprits that reduce your home’s efficiency include its air infiltration rates, the amount and quality of the insulation and the window quality. When you improve one or all of these systems within your home, you’ll help your heating system perform.

It’s especially important to pave the way for a more energy efficient house when you use a heat pump for some or all of your home’s heating. A standard heat pump relies on the heat in the air outside for home heating. As temperatures drop, it’ll have more of a challenge keeping your home comfortably warm. Maintaining indoor temperatures is critical for getting the most from your heat pump and energy costs will be lower.

Air Infiltration

All those cracks throughout your home’s exterior walls can add up to a lot of air infiltration. The cracks and crevices found in the walls, attic and around the foundation bring in unconditioned air, increasing energy costs. The best way to identify where you have air leaks is by having a professional energy audit, but if that’s not possible, you can conduct your own by:

  • Lighting a candle or incense stick and walking through your home slowly. Where you notice the flame or smoke wavering, chances are you have an air leak. You can use exterior caulk to seal them, expanding foam for larger leaks and silicone caulk around pipes that get hot.
  • Looking around the exterior doors for leaks. If they’re present, apply fresh weatherstripping and use a door sweep or a draft blocker at the bottom. Leaky exterior doors often emit light around the frames during the day.

Loose and leaky ductwork will raise your energy bills, depending on the amount. These leaks can occur at any time, regardless of your age of your home. If you can’t locate them yourself, an HVAC pro can examine your system and identify precisely where they are. Seal with mastic or metal tape; never duct tape, which doesn’t last long.

Insulation 

Without adequate insulation, the thermal losses year-round detract from an energy efficient house. Heat always seeks cold and in the winter, a lack of insulation speeds the loss of heat to the outdoors through the walls and attic. The Department of Energy (DOE) states that homes in this region need to have from 16 to 20 inches of insulation in the attic for the best protection against heat loss.

Improving insulation is also one of the most durable and affordable projects you can do to create a more energy efficient house. Options include:

  • Blanket fiberglass insulation
  • Blown cellulose or fiberglass
  • Rigid foam
  • Spray foam

While it’s relatively easy to increase attic insulation in an existing home, it’s more difficult to deal with the existing walls. Installers can blow cellulose or fiberglass into walls or by installing spray foam. If you have air leaks in the walls as well as inadequate insulation, using spray foam will stop most of them. As this type cures, it expands to fit the wall cavity.

Windows

Windows are as aesthetically important to your home as they are to its efficiency. The technology behind modern windows has improved a good deal, and homeowners can access a variety of styles and efficiency ratings. New windows are an expensive upgrade for an energy efficient house, but you don’t have to go that route to cut energy bills by stopping heat loss and gain through the glass.

Storm windows help cut both heat and air losses through single-pane windows, as do window coverings like insulating drapes. For best results, the drapes should reach well above and below the window’s glass and close tightly in the middle.

Clear plastic window kits are also an option for this region. They’ll block some of the thermal losses, along with air entering and leaving your home. You can find these at local home centers or hardware stores.

For more assistance achieving an energy efficient house, contact the pros at Meyer’s. Our team of HVAC professionals has been providing heating and cooling services for homeowners throughout the Highland, Gary, Schererville, St. John, Griffith and Munster areas since 1951.