Mindful Metropolis November 2010 : Page 16

Spending time to winterize your home during November will help save energy and money throughout the year Fill in small cracks Last month, the us energy information administration predicted that consumers will face higher fuel prices this winter. in the midwest, households can expect increased average heating expenditures of 6 percent with natural gas, 10 percent with heating oil, 14 percent with propane and 1 percent with electricity. Fortunately, spending time to winterize your home during november will help save energy and money throughout the year. First, pick up materials from a green supply store like Green depot (2500 n. pulaski, chicago, greendepot.com) or Green Home Experts (823 s. oak park ave., oak park, gh-experts.com). then, whether you call a condo, house, or apartment home, try these tips to get it to eco-friendly code before the first snowfall. by daisy simmons HOW: to find a draft, slowly move an incense stick along floors, windows, doors, vents, and walls—the smoke will flutter around leaks. clean and dry the crack, then squeeze caulk along it. try low-voc aFm safe-coat multi-purpose caulking compound (under $10). simPLE FiXEs Worried your landlord won’t appreciate you ripping out the floor and installing radiant heat? Cut energy costs with these inexpensive diy tactics. make the most of current windows HOW: cut air infiltration with install energysavr Window inserts (windowinserts.com, $39-$89), clear, lightweight insulators that pop into the frame. or try shrink-fit window insulators ($4.50-$11.50 at Green depot), which seal on to the existing window with a hairdryer. WHY: Window inserts can cut heating bills in half. 16 NOvEMbER 2010 WHY: sealing gaps and leaks can boost a home’s heat efficiency by 5-30 percent a year. call on curtains HOW: open shades during the day to let in warmth from the sun. close them at night to retain heat. WHY: investing in insulat-ing window treatments like comfortex symphony cellular Window treatments ($39-$89 at Green depot) or earthline Hemp insuliners (prices vary at Green Home experts) can have the same effect as installing an inch of wall insulation. insulate outlets and switches HOW: since electrical boxes penetrate into the wall cavity, outlets and switches poten-tially cause air leakage. use 10-cent outlet and switch gaskets to make sure they don’t. Just remove the cover plate with a screwdriver, insert the pre-cut foam seal, then put the plate back on. WHY: it’s one of the cheap-est and easiest ways to reduce energy loss. protect the water heater HOW: drape the tank with a wrap or blanket. WHY: this helps keep water hot longer, so the heater doesn’t need to work as hard. a good one can cost about $40 at Green Home experts, but owner maria onesto moran explains that you can make that money back in utility savings within just five months.

Winter Weatherization 101

Daisy Simmons

Spending time to winterize your home during November will help save energy and money throughout the year<br /> <br /> Last month, the US Energy Information Administration predicted that consumers will face higher fuel prices this winter. In the Midwest, households can expect increased average heating expenditures of 6 percent with natural gas, 10 percent with heating oil, 14 percent with propane and 1 percent with electricity. Fortunately, spending time to winterize your home during November will help save energy and money throughout the year.<br /> <br /> First, pick up materials from a green supply store like Green Depot (2500 N. Pulaski, Chicago, greendepot.com) or Green Home Experts (823 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, ghexperts.Com). Then, whether you call a condo, house, or apartment home, try these tips to get it to eco-friendly code before the first snowfall.<br /> <br /> <b>SIMPLE FIXES<br /> <br /> Worried your landlord won't appreciate you ripping out the floor and installing radiant heat? Cut energy costs with these inexpensive DIY tactics.<br /> <br /> Make the most of current windows</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Cut air infiltration with Install EnergySavr Window Inserts (windowinserts.com, $39-$89), clear, lightweight insulators that pop into the frame. Or try shrink-fit window insulators ($4.50- $11.50 at Green Depot), which seal on to the existing window with a hairdryer.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Window inserts can cut heating bills in half.<br /> <br /> <b>Fill in small cracks</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> To find a draft, slowly move an incense stick along floors, windows, doors, vents, and walls-the smoke will flutter around leaks. Clean and dry the crack, then squeeze caulk along it. Try low-VOC AFM Safecoat Multi-Purpose Caulking Compound (under $10).<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Sealing gaps and leaks can boost a home's heat efficiency by 5-30 percent a year.<br /> <br /> <b>Call on curtains</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Open shades during the day to let in warmth from the sun. Close them at night to retain heat.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Investing in insulating window treatments like Comfortex Symphony Cellular Window Treatments ($39-$89 at Green Depot) or Earthline Hemp Insuliners (prices vary at Green Home Experts) can have the same effect as installing an inch of wall insulation.<br /> <br /> <b>Insulate outlets and switches</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Since electrical boxes penetrate into the wall cavity, outlets and switches potentially cause air leakage. Use 10-cent outlet and switch gaskets to make sure they don't. Just remove the cover plate with a screwdriver, insert the pre-cut foam seal, then put the plate back on.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> It's one of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce energy loss.<br /> <br /> <b>Protect the water heater</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Drape the tank with a wrap or blanket.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> This helps keep water hot longer, so the heater doesn't need to work as hard. A good one can cost about $40 at Green Home Experts, but owner Maria Onesto Moran explains that you can make that money back in utility savings within just five months.<br /> <br /> <b>Mind the furnace filter</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Keep the filter free of debris like dust, bacteria, mold, and pollen, all which clog and slow down the furnace. If you've got a throwaway fiberglass panel filter, remember to replace it monthly. But, since these only trap 10-40 percent of pollutants, consider switching to a permanent Permatron Dust- Eater Electrostatic Furnace Filter ($62), which traps 91 percent. Just slide it in where the old filter was, and rinse monthly.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Keeping the furnace clean and properly adjusted reduces energy use, and saves up to 5 percent of household heating costs.<br /> <br /> <b>Decrease water heater temperature</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Check the thermostat dial, often located near the bottom on the gas valve. The US Department of Energy (DOE) recommends 120 degrees for optimum performance/efficiency.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Lowering the temperature by 10 degrees saves about 13 percent on water heating costs.<br /> <br /> <b>Run fans in reverse</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Find the switch on the fan's wire housing and change direction to clockwise. This pulls cool air up and circulates warmer air that's pooled near the ceiling back around the room. Run the fan at its lowest speed.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Reversing the direction cuts your heating costs as much as 10 percent.<br /> <br /> <b>Heat rooms you use, when you use them</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> If you've got a programmable thermostat, remember to use it. If you don't, it's well worth forking over a few bucks. A Honeywell Basic Programmable Thermostat is listed under $30 and they're easy to install in half an hour with just a hammer, screwdriver, and drill.<br /> <br /> While programming the thermostat is key, forced air heat still means you're losing heat in empty rooms. A promising new solution is the Activent (theactivent.com, $75), a wireless thermostat and automatic vent combo that can lower utility bills by 5 percent in each room where it's used. It's easy to install-just place inside the existing heating duct-and it will automatically open and close the vent as programmed.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Switching to a programmable thermostat can save up to 20 percent on heating costs, says People's Gas. And a household using four Activents could save $370 a year.<br /> <br /> <b>BIG PICTURE FIXES<br /> <br /> In your home for the long haul and ready to make a heftier investment on future savings? Give some of these more intensive actions a go.<br /> <br /> Get a home energy audit</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> A professional spends 3-4 hours investigating your home, inside and out, testing doors and ducts and using a thermal scan to find problem areas. Then they make specific recommendations to improve efficiency.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Ray Hurley, owner of Eco Energy Audits (ecoenergyaudits.com) says most of his customers easily recoup the cost of the audit within the first year through savings on energy bills, making for a solid return on the investment and a healthier home environment.<br /> <br /> <b>Add insulation to walls, ceilings, and attic</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Use eco-friendly insulation like Bonded Logic UltraTouch Recycled Cotton Insulation (prices vary) to unfinished attics and basements and crawl spaces. Call in a pro or install yourself by fitting batts firmly into place between studs, cutting to fit around plumbing and electrical boxes.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Boosting insulation helps across the board, with average homes achieving $245 savings a year.<br /> <br /> <b>Get a status update on the heating system</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Schedule a checkup with an HVAC technician to find out how your furnace or boiler is holding up. Ask for an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE ) rating, which indicates how much of the fuel that's burned actually goes to heating your home. Many gas-fired furnaces made before 1992 are only 55-78 percent efficient. Nowadays, you can find efficient new furnaces with an AFUE of 97 percent. If your current AFUE is extremely low, consider replacing it. Ask Green Depot Manager Joe Silver to walk you through the ins and outs of radiant heating, converting to geothermal, or simply moving to a high efficiency furnace.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Replacing an old furnace or heating system isn't cheap, but tax breaks are available for choosing energy efficient options, and in the long term, the return on investment is worth it. Consider: Switching from AFUE of 60 percent to one of 97 percent can cut your heating fuel bill by as much as 30 percent. And moving to radiant heat can be 30- 50 percent less expensive to run than a forced air system. Replace inefficient windows and storm doors<br /> <br /> <b>Replace inefficient windows and storm doors</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Find an Energy Star product that fits your needs (energystar.gov). It may be best to have an expert install these, but if you decide to DIY, be prepared with a hacksaw and level in addition to your usual suspects (hammer, drill, screwdriver, etc). For storm windows, make sure to have tin snips too.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Installing a storm door can increase energy efficiency by 45 percent. Storm windows can reduce heat loss through windows by 25-50 percent. If the current water heater is on its way out, move to a tankless water heater<br /> <br /> <b>If the current water heater is on its way out, move to a tankless water heater</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Instead of consuming the energy to heat an entire tank full of water, tankless water heaters work on-demand. When you turn on a faucet, cold water moves through heating coils that heat the water instantly to 115-120 degrees-and when you turn the tap off, the heating coils turn off too. Up front costs are high ($850- $1,100), but they save energy and space, and have a higher life expectancy than storage water heaters (more than 20 years compared to 10-15).<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> The DOE reports that a tankless water heater can be 24-34 percent more energy-efficient than a conventional one.<br /> <br /> <b>Plug leaky ductwork</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> Using a flashlight, you'll most likely see a layer of dust ductwork-any spots that are dust-free may signify a leak. Ensure that the area around the hole is clean and dry, then patch with a water-based mastic sealant and reinforcing mesh tape (available at most hardware stores).<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> The DOE says ductwork leaks can decrease heating and cooling system efficiency by 20 percent.<br /> <br /> <b>Insulate water pipes</b><br /> <br /> <B>HOW:</B> If water pipes are warm to the touch, they're losing heat. Try a pipe foam like MD Tube Pipe Insulation ($.29/ foot)-basically a foam straw with a slit on the side. Just wrap it around pipes attached to the water heater, under the sink, in crawl spaces, or anywhere else they're exposed and feel warm.<br /> <br /> <B>WHY:</B> Pipe insulation helps reduce heat loss through hot water pipes by up to 80 percent.<br /> <br /> <b>FEELING OVER - WHELMED?<br /> <br /> Taking any one of these actions means greater sustainability and a lower energy bill, so start with whatever feels most comfortable. But do it soon, since federal income tax credits for energy-efficient upgrades expire December 31. See energy.gov/taxbreaks.htm for more information.</b>

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