The 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 is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation.