Energy Awareness – A Little Effort Can Save You Money

Lucas Hamilton

Colder weather is on its way! Don’t wait to make sure your home is operating efficiently. The Federal Energy Tax Credit will expire at the end of the year.  If you have not taken advantage of the $1500 rebate you may want to do so before December 31, 2010.

The benefits of an energy-efficient home are endless but here are a few:

  • You can reduce monthly utility bills
  • Enjoy a more comfortable home by eliminating cold and hot spots
  • Reduce the home’s carbon footprint by using less carbon based energy sources.  This is increasingly important across many communities in the U.S.

Doing a little homework will increase your results. Conduct that energy audit.  Enlist the help of a professional or visit Energysavers.gov for a helpful check list.  But here are a few things to look for:

  • If you can see floor joists in the attic, you need to add more insulation
  • If you can see daylight around a door or window, there’s an air leak.
  • Run a damp hand along the edges of windows and doors.  If there is a draft, it will feel cool to your hand.
  • Look for dirty paint at the edges of your outlets on exterior walls- they may need sealing.
  • Look for dirty carpet along the base boards of your exterior walls- you may need to seal the drywall to your sub-floor.

Seal leaks, caulk or weather-strip around fireplaces, electrical outlets and door and window frames.

Insulation is the most important addition to a home for improving comfort and savings. Homeowners have options in the type of insulation that would be best in solving the problem:  fiberglass batt insulation, blown-in insulation or spray foam insulation.  The key areas to focus on are:

  • Unfinished basements which can contribute to one-third of a home’s heat loss
  • The attic: especially if the home is more than 30 years old. It is likely it is substantially below current code recommendations for energy-efficiency.
  • Add insulation to exterior walls.  Consult a contractor to drill small holes in the stud cavity and add blown-in insulation.
  • Use insulation backed siding when re-siding your home.

Rob Brockman, marketing manager for CertainTeed Insulation was a guest on Talk Philly sharing tips for Energy Awareness month and making your home more energy-efficient.  You can view the segment here.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Homestar: Finally a Job Creation Program

On Tuesday, March 3, 2010 President Obama announced his Homestar Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program.  This new version addresses the very thing that was missing from the Energy Tax Rebate program – job creation. CertainTeed president and CEO, Peter Dachowski was present at the announcement, illustrating CertainTeed’s support of the Homestar initiative. 

The Energy Tax Credit program has been available for several years but was given a boost last year by President Obama.  The maximum $1,500 dollar rebate did not provide enough funding for the average homeowner to invest upfront in a professional audit to achieve the maximum improvement in whole house performance. Nor did it cover the cost of installation labor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           The key aspect of this new initiative is the Gold Star Rebate provision.  This enables consumers to be eligible for a $3,000 rebate if they achieve a 20 percent energy savings in their homes. Doing this will require a whole home energy audit and performance confirmation.

The average homeowner does not have the knowledge of building science to make the best or safest choices in this arena.  The proper application of insulation to achieve maximum performance and life safety requires knowledge and thought. In the attic, for example, there are many issues to be aware of when adding insulation. Care must be given not to block roof ventilation, to not create cold vapor resistive surfaces, to not cause fire hazards by insulating against unrated recessed lights, flues, or knob & tube wiring, etc.

By doubling the money, the homeowner now has the funding to bring in a professional to evaluate what they need and provide the expertise to suggest next steps.  This aspect of the Gold Star program actually creates new green professionals.  It will require the training of construction professionals to become energy raters and professionals who can become skilled in efficiencies.  This now has meaning because it creates the very jobs discussed in a previous Blog on the need for energy auditors

The fact that consumers are gaining knowledge about the importance of energy efficiency and the need to upgrade older dwellings will continue beyond the life of any rebate program and the need for green professionals will only increase. The addition of the Gold Star aspect starts us on the way by creating an initial demand for this knowledge and service which goes beyond the previously existing programs.

Homestar jumpstarts the process and all I can say is, it’s about time.

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation. 

Energy Awareness: A Life Long Pursuit

yhtp_cm_eam09_lgThe U.S Department of Energy has declared October as Energy Awareness Month to call attention to the need for all of us to adopt new habits to help lower our carbon footprint. The theme for 2009 is A Sustainable Energy Future: We’re Putting all the Pieces Together.

Energy awareness was first observed in the U.S. in 1981 as American Energy Week but was expanded to a month-long observance by the Department of Energy in 1986.  On September 13, 1991, President Bush officially proclaimed October Energy Awareness Month. It’s hard to believe that, in more than 25 years since the initiative began, we haven’t made more headway in energy conservation.  That is why I believe, as I mentioned in my previous Blog Stars Align for Energy Efficiency, that now is, indeed, the time to change our energy consumption habits.

Building Science Engineering has come a long way in understanding and communicating the physical, chemical and biological reactions among a building’s components.  These advances also help to drive the development of products to improve the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings.  Of course, the older the building the less energy efficient it probably is, but many structures can benefit from a mild energy efficiency makeover. 

Here are some tips to determine and improve energy efficiency:

  • Conduct an energy audit.  Locate obvious air leaks by examining gaps along the baseboard or edge of the flooring, at junctures of the walls and ceilings, and at electrical box openings and plumbing penetrations. If cracks are present, caulk and weather strip.
  • Understanding the R-value of fiberglass insulation is important. R-value means resistance to heat flow – the greater the R-value, the greater the insulation power. Visit www.energystar.gov for a map of the recommended R-value insulation levels needed in your region.
  •  Properly controlling moisture will improve the effectiveness of air sealing and insulation efforts. Some insulation systems can provide the added benefit of moisture management in addition to traditional insulation performance. Any insulation that is exposed to significant levels of moisture can decrease R-value performance.
  •  Insulated siding helps improve R-value, up to 30 percent.  Insulated siding can help reduce the heating and cooling costs of a home.
  • Solar reflective roofs can provide long-term protection as well as savings. Cool roofing technology is another simple way to lower energy consumption. This means less work for the air conditioning system, and minimizing the absorption of solar heat through the roof. Solar reflective coatings and solar reflective shingles should be considered for a roofing project.

 The Federal Energy Tax Credit creates a great opportunity for all of us to improve the energy efficiency of our homes.  Let’s not let Energy Awareness Month pass by without taking advantage of savings and efficiency all year long.Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation.