We’ve talked a lot about what can be done to conserve energy and lower costs over the years. For many of our customers in the northeast and midwest, winter is when energy use increases as the temperature decreases.
You can’t control the weather, but you do have control over the energy efficiency of your home. There are a lot of ways you can conserve energy by weatherizing your home. Weatherization refers to specific steps that are taken to weatherproof a house. Below are five of the best ways to weatherize during the winter to cut energy consumption and make it more comfortable inside.
Look Into the Weatherization Assistance Program
The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy so that low-income households can weatherize their homes and cut energy costs. Families can qualify for the program whether they rent or own their home.
WAP is administered by 700 local organizations in all 50 states. When a household qualifies for the program contractors will come in and do a whole house weatherization to dramatically improve energy efficiency, comfort and safety. Another great thing about the program is that it uses local products and equipment, which benefits the local economy.
Add Attic Insulation
Dollar for dollar insulation has a great return on investment. That’s largely because it’s relatively low cost and highly effective at keeping the cold at bay and the warm air inside. The first place to check your insulation levels is the attic.
Some signs that your attic could use insulation include:
- Ice dams
- Drafts in the house
- Uneven temperature in rooms
- High heating bills
- Ceilings and walls that are cold to the touch
Typically, batt insulation is the easiest for a DIY project. The rolls should be laid over existing insulation going from the perimeter to the attic opening. Roll out the insulation so that it covers the joists to minimize the heat loss through the frames.
Weatherize the Water Heater
Another place where insulation can be added is around the water heater, which actually accounts for roughly 12% of energy use in a home. If you have an electric water heater that’s warm to the touch it’s a clear indicator you can add insulation to reduce the energy needed to heat water by as much as 16%.
There are three places to insulate around the water heater:
- The bottom of the water heater with rigid board insulation if it’s electric.
- Around the water heater with an insulation jacket or blanket.
- Around the hot water pipes leading into the house.
If you add insulation to the pipes you can further reduce the energy use by as much as 4% so it’s worth it to take the additional step.
Seal Up Air Leaks
With a few canisters of caulk you can keep your home warmer inside during the winter by keeping the cold air from getting in through small cracks. It may not seem like these thin cracks are a big deal, but sealing up air leaks can reduce energy use by 10% when it’s paired with adequate insulation. BONUS: sealing air leaks can cut down on moisture problems inside the home (see below).
To eliminate as many air leaks as possible you’ll want to seal around:
- Attic access
- Basement ceiling
- Basement walls
- Ceiling seams
- Exterior joints
- Porch ceiling seams
- Recessed lights
- Staircase frame (if on exterior wall)
Basically, sealing is beneficial anywhere there’s a seam or crack where air can seep into the conditioned space.
Control Moisture in the Walls and Foundation
Did you know excess moisture can have a negative impact on energy efficiency? If it’s too moist inside it can actually affect the insulation and sealing making both less effective.
Heat transfer and air movement are two of the main causes of excess moisture. So adding insulation and sealing air leaks can help, but there are a few other things you can do to control moisture during the winter. You can also add vapor diffusion retarders to reduce condensation that leads to excess moisture.
If you have a basement, moisture can definitely become a problem. It’s important to keep moisture away from the ground around the home so there’s less chance of it seeping into the basement. Gutters should be cleaned and soil should be sloped away from the foundation so that rainwater doesn’t collect at the base of the house. If you have crawl spaces add a polyethylene ground cover to control moisture from the earth floor.
At Major Energy we offer fixed rate energy plans that make utility costs more predictable no matter what the weather is like. Use your zip code to see if Major Energy plans are available in your area.