Having a whole-house approach to energy efficiency is the only way for Gretna homeowners to see a maximum return on energy system investments. Most people understand the HVAC system is one of the primary consumers of energy in a household, so they automatically begin there. However, this isn’t always the wisest approach. There’s no point in implementing costly HVAC equipment replacement or repairs if the money you’re investing will be figuratively blown out the window via air leaks, aging ductwork or inadequate insulation.
When you take a whole-house approach, you know that your dollars are being protected by every nook and cranny in your home. Optimizing the energy systems in your home will reduce energy consumption, which translates to lower annual utility spending. It will also save your HVAC system from unnecessary wear-and-tear, which will lower your repair bills and increase the life span of your system.
The following is a step-by-step approaching to optimizing the energy efficiency in your home.
Perform a Home Energy Audit
If your budget allows, a professional home energy audit is the best way to determine exactly which areas of your home would benefit from upgrades, repairs or improvements. The auditor will perform a thorough inspection of your home and its systems. He or she may use high-tech testing procedures to see where heat gain/loss is occurring, as well as how much air is leaking from your home. The tech will also ask a series of questions to determine your lifestyle habits, which will lead to more well-rounded solutions.
Once your energy audit is complete, begin to organize your improvements by order of importance and/or budget. Ideally, your improvements would be done in the following order:
Seal the Home’s Envelope
In the construction industry, we call a home’s exterior “the envelope.” The laws of thermodynamics show us that warm air likes to move into cooler spaces. By sealing leaks in the exterior of your home, you ensure that warm, conditioned air stays inside during the cold months and that hot exterior air can’t infiltrate your home during the warmer months. Use caulking to seal any visible cracks, holes, or gaps around your home’s exterior. This can save up to 10 percent on your utility bills.
Pay careful attention to areas where your siding meets the foundation and roof line, as well as places where the exterior walls have been penetrated by electrical or plumbing work. Also check around window and door frames, the chimney and crawl spaces beneath the home.
And don’t forget to inspect the weatherstripping around doors and windows and replace any that is old or corroded.
Aging or poorly maintained ductwork allows conditioned air to leak out of the system before it ever reaches your living space. In addition to energy waste, compromised ductwork affects indoor air quality and humidity levels. Have your ductwork inspected. If your HVAC contractor recommends a redesign, make sure they use Manual D. Otherwise,a thorough duct cleaning, sealing and updated insulation will restore your ducts’ energy efficiency.
Insulation is another important line of defense in preventing undesirable heat gain and loss. Roof temperatures can soar in the summer months, and hot air will rise right up and out of your attic during the winter if it isn’t adequately insulated. Start by upgrading attic insulation and then move on to crawl spaces and exterior walls. Follow these guidelines when selecting the R-Value for your insulation. The New Orleans area is in Zone 2.
If you live in an older home, you’re probably experiencing significant heat gain and loss via your windows. Start planning to replace older windows with new, Energy Star-rated counterparts.
If your system is less than 10 years old, make sure you’re observing a regular maintenance schedule. Routine maintenance is the key to optimizing HVAC energy efficiency and improving your whole-house comfort and indoor air quality. If your system is 15 years old or more, you may want to consider a replacement. Make sure the new system is sized accurately for your home. An over- or under-sized system will fail to meet it’s AFUE rating and will have mechanical issues throughout its lifetime. Your contractor should use Manual J to get accurate load calculations. An energy efficient HVAC should pay for itself in energy savings.
Feel your Gretna home would benefit from a whole-house approach to energy efficiency? Contact us at Bryans United Air Conditioning. We’ll get your house in shape from top to bottom.
Written by Zach Mouton