HVAC Servicemen Washington DC
Sometimes it takes the chilliest months of the season to inspire folks to look for ways to save energy and - equally important - to be more comfortable. Whether it's that cold draft you feel as you're walking past your fireplace or that sinking feeling you get when you open up a wintertime utility bill, you may realize at some point that your home isn't as energy efficient as it should be. Fortunately, there are several simple ways to improve the situation.
A good first step is to have your heating system serviced, if you haven't already done so. A serviceman from your HVAC, oil or gas company will inspect and tune up your home's heating equipment to ensure it's running at peak performance.
At the very least, if you have a central air system, check the system's return air filter and replace it if necessary. You should continue checking it periodically through the winter, since it is operating more often during this time. Changing your filter monthly may prove to be effective.
While the HVAC serviceman is on the premises, also have him inspect your home's ductwork for leakage. It has been estimated that 35 percent of the conditioned air traveling through ducts leaks out. In addition, some loss of energy efficiency occurs when there are holes in the supply ducts and air actually leaks in. Despite its name, duct tape is not the proper material to use for duct connections, since the tape can dry out and fail, leaving gaps
at the joints. Instead, ask the
serviceman to use mastic duct sealer for maximum long-
lasting sealing power.
Holes in the Envelope
Most homes have two huge holes in the building envelope that represent great opportunities for increased comfort and reduced bills: the fireplace chimney and the attic access.
You don't get much heat from most fireplaces anyway, so you might as well seal off the flue, which constantly drains warm air out of your house. This heat loss can add as much as $500 to your seasonal energy bill. You can purchase foam fireplace plugs or inflatable flue draft-stoppers that can be easily removed when you want the occasional fire. You can also make your own plywood cover for the hearth opening. If you have a natural gas fireplace, remember to turn off the pilot light when the fireplace is not in use.
The attic access can be another energy drain. Most pull-down attic stairs provide only a thin layer of plywood between your living space and the cold air above. Furthermore, they usually don't fit tightly against the ceiling opening.
You can seal this space easily by installing an insulated box over the opening. Choose from one of several models available in home improvement stores, such as the Energy Guardian, or if you're handy, you can make your own. All you need is a sheet of foamboard insulation (1 to 2 inches thick), a razor knife and some duct tape.
Cut a piece of foamboard that is a few inches larger than the attic opening, then add short sides to it with duct tape so you have an insulated box that will cover the attic opening. These boxes can be quite light, so you might want to attach a small weight to the top of the box so it fits tightly against the attic floor.
Seal and Insulate
Another potential project that can make a difference in your energy bills is air-sealing and then adding insulation to your attic. If you inspect your attic space, I guarantee you will find holes in the framing where air is escaping from the conditioned space below.
Start by sealing electrical and plumbing pipe holes with either caulk or insulating spray foam. Also, if you can see the top edges of the drywall panels installed in the room below, run a bead of caulk along the edges of the panels to prevent air from constantly seeping through.
Once you have air-sealed, add insulation where needed. Fiberglass insulation should be fluffy and tight to the framing. Loose-fill insulation should be at least 8 inches deep.
Next, inspect your doors and windows for gaps where the weatherstripping has failed. You can purchase inexpensive weatherstripping that applies like tape. If your door threshold seal is deteriorated and it is difficult to repair or replace the threshold, you can buy inexpensive "door sweeps," which screw in near the bottom of the door and provide a seal that "sweeps" along the surface of the floor.
If your home has an exterior wooden panel door without any insulation sandwiched inside, consider replacing it with an insulated door. I'm constantly surprised at the number of houses with exterior doors that are not much more insulating than interior panel doors. They look nice but they are leakers.
It's best to buy an entire new, pre-hung unit. Although it will cost more than buying just the door itself, the pre-hung door will seal properly, and you can finish the job properly by sealing around the unit's frame with insulating foam.
Other Ways to Save
The strategies I've mentioned so far result in both comfort and energy-savings. But you also should be aware that air movement from heating registers often directly impacts the comfort of those who live in your home. Even though the delivered air is warm, if it is blowing on someone, it will result in a cooling feeling.
One solution is to strategically locate furniture so no one ends up sitting in the path of a register's air discharge. Also, you can purchase deflectors that are designed to fit over heating registers.
Water heating costs can be reduced in a few simple, inexpensive ways, as well. First, if your water heater is not wrapped with an insulation blanket, pick one up at your local home improvement store. If you have a gas heater, make sure that you purchase the proper blanket and follow instructions carefully to avoid obstructing the airflow to the combustion area.
Also, insulate the hot water line leaving your heater tank, especially for the first 6 feet or so. If you have uninsulated hot water pipes running through a crawlspace, those should be insulated as well. You can buy sections of pipe insulation at home improvement stores or plumbing supply houses.
And while you are working on your water heater, be sure to check its thermostat. Water heaters often come from the manufacturer set at around 140 degrees, which is much hotter than you need. Set the thermostat for about 120 degrees. That action - along with the others described above - will impact your winter energy and utility bills in a positive way.