Respect the Original, Reuse What You Can, and Update for the Next 100 Years
Air sealing, insulation improvements, and equipment upgrades save energy dollars
Tuning up a house's performance can be quick and relatively inexpensive
Weatherization is an opportunity to improve energy efficiency without extensive modifications to the structure of the house. It should involve a whole-house systems approach that considers energy efficiency, combustion safety, moisture management and building durability.
Test for leaks, make improvements, then test again.
A whole-house systems approach to home performance generally includes a battery of before-and-after tests that check for air leakage and measure the performance of the heating, cooling and ventilation systems. Hiring a home energy auditor is a good first step for evaluating the performance of a house. An auditor will typically use a blower door, duct blaster and infrared camera, among other tools, both to quantify and qualify the energy wasting areas of a home. After the testing, the remediation work begins, and when it is finished, the auditor comes back to retest. The results of his second visit tells you how well the improvements are working to save energy.
Air sealing is the most important
Contrary to what some homeowners might have read or been lead to believe, replacememt windows and more insulation are not the first steps toward a more efficient house. Before any other improvements are made, air leaks must be sealed. Adding insulation to a very leaky house is counterproductive, and it makes it harder to find the leaks in the future with all the new insulation piled on top.
Will it take more than weatherizing to make the house efficient?
Some houses may not be worth energy efficiency improvements until structural problems or serious site or plumbing problems are addressed--problems that may be beyond the expertise of a weatherization contractor. Concerns may include mold in a bathroom that doesn’t have a fan or an operable window or old windows that won’t are stuck or won’t close completely; serious water leaks in the basement; or weakened foundations or structural framing.
Informed homeowners use less energy
Some energy problems aren’t directly related to the building but to the people who live there. If homeowners leave incandescent lights on 24 hours a day, won’t use exhaust fans in bathrooms and the kitchen or leave windows open in winter, homeowner education may be just as important as anything else.
Conduct blower-door tests before and after the project, along with room-to-room pressurization tests. Perform air-sealing work in the basement and attic. Use infrared imaging to find places where insulation is inadequate. If required, weatherstrip doors and windows. If required, add insulation in the attic, using formaldehyde-free insulation.
In houses that have forced-air heating systems, test ducts for air tightness. Check the operation of the combustion equipment for efficiency and combustion safety. Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms if they’re not already present.
Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents.
Insulate hot water pipes and, if necessary, the water heater.
Image Credits: Julia Jandrisits/REGREEN, Matt Golden/REGREEN, Mark Piepkorn/REGREEN