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Energy Questions Answered

Weatherstrip Your Furnace

Weatherstrip your furnace. Caulk your solar panels. Drive an electric hot water heater. With so much energy information being thrown about, it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed. So here’s our attempt to break down some simple and straightforward energy advice that goes a bit beyond the norm.

  1. Get an audit. If you’re serious about investing in efficiency, it’s just a no-brainer. End of story. Use a BPI-certified auditor and get a blower door test, IR camera, and duct blaster (if applicable) along with a combustion safety test. The whole enchilada. This will provide you with all of the information you need to prioritize your investments in efficiency. If you are unsure about your willingness to invest but a local utility or organization offers cheap audits, take that incentive and run.
  1. Think outside the box. We’ve all heard “take shorter showers” and “use LEDs” so much that those kind of tips often induce eye rolls. Here are some lower profile but potentially significant opportunities for efficiency gains:
  1. Seal the envelope. With or without an audit, the surest way to long-term energy savings is by sealing up the home’s conditioned area, especially its top and bottom. Leaks and gaps around recessed can lights, attic hatches, dropped ceilings, and crawlspace floor joists can greatly increase the flow of outdoor air into the home year-round. Fireplaces, windows, doors, and HVAC/plumbing penetrations can leak and make you uncomfortable. To seal all of these areas right you’ll probably want to hire a contractor, who can also ensure that your building envelope is well insulated.
  1. Right size. When it comes time to replace an energy user, don’t just buy efficient. If you’re replacing a space heater or cooling unit, make sure that you’re contractor performs a Manual J load calculation in order to size the equipment to your current needs. Investigate the opportunity to switch heating fuels as well.
  1. Consider the sun. Although conventional energy wisdom holds that one should eat efficiency vegetables before indulging in a renewables dessert, there are worse sins than investing in solar photovoltaics. Just do it with your eyes wide open. In other words, use a trusted cost-benefit estimator rather than blindly accepting the rosy outlook of a contractor.

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