Building a new home to be extremely energy efficient undoubtedly saves money on the ongoing operation of the house. Wouldn’t it be nice if all homes had been built to the same energy efficiency standards as new homes are today? Even if you live in an older house, however, there are steps you can take to make it more energy efficient.
Deltec recently began offering its employees a ‘weatherization program’, whereby participating employees spend less than $100 on materials and a few hours of elbow grease at each others houses to tackle common energy efficiency shortfalls in existing homes.
A few months ago we worked on the engineering director’s house, sealing up leaky spots in his semi-finished basement and tightening up his home’s duct-work. This time around, it was the sales director whose home we put in the spotlight.
Our work began with inspecting underneath the registers, those vents in the floor that allow the heated/cooled air to circulate in your home. Often the ends of air ducts don’t fit perfectly within the hole cut for the register, allowing some of the air meant to heat or cool your home to escape back down into the basement or crawlspace. Sealing the perimeter of each register boot in your home to the floor can help make sure more of the air you’ve already heated actually makes it into your living space.
Joe using caulk to seal the duct-work in the register to the floor.
Materials needed: one or two tubes of caulk and a caulk gun
Time required: one hour or less to do the work, plus an hour or two to let caulk dry before replacing register covers
Our next stop was to tackle a particular problem in the attic: In Joe’s house, as is common in two-story homes with a basement, a long shaft called a chase serves to enclose the duct-work that runs from the furnace in the basement up into the attic and over the second story of the house. This chase is about 4×4 feet in size, large enough to fit several large ducts. However, as is often the case, in Joe’s house the top of this chase was not capped off, leaving a hole in the floor of the attic. Covering this hole keeps warm air inside the house from escaping into the attic, and creates a surface for attic insulation to rest on so that it doesn’t fall down the hole.
Steve in the attic, using rigid foam insulation to seal off the top of a chase.
Materials needed: rigid foam insulation, measuring tape to measure the hole, something to cut the foam to size, mastic and a brush to seal it in place.
Time required: one hour or less.
We still had some more work to do in the attic. When holes are cut in a ceiling for water pipes, bath fans, or electrical wires, those holes are generally a little bigger than they need to be, thus allowing some air from the home to escape into the attic. In addition, where the tops of interior walls intersect with the ceiling sheet-rock there is often a small crack where the two materials are not installed completely flush to each other. We dug through the insulation to find as many of these holes and cracks as we could, and sealed them with mastic.
Leigha raking insulation back into place after sealing various small holes in the attic floor.
Materials needed: mastic and a brush, mask, gloves, and a rake
Time required: Two to three hours to dig through insulation, find things to seal, let the material dry and then rake the insulation back into place
When working in an attic with insulation, it’s a good idea to wear a mask and gloves to avoid irritation by fiberglass insulation. Be sure to watch your step and to stand only on rafters, as a sheet-rock or plaster ceiling cannot support a person’s weight.
This program was a great way for employees to have a little fun while working hard, learn a thing or two about their houses they might not have known, and spend only a little time and money to tackle some “low-hanging fruit” items that can make a big difference in their energy bills this winter.