Home Energy Loss: Closing the Envelope

Energy loss is one of the most expensive home challenges that we have today. Unless we take a look at where we are losing most of our money when it comes to energy loss, we willhome-energy-loss not know how much it is really costing. Energy loss is like filling up a bucket with water one drop at a time. After a period of time, the bucket will fill up with water. Every little crack we have around our doors, windows, electrical outlets, and ceiling fixtures all add up to major losses when it comes to energy. Let’s look at the building envelope—what it is and how we can locate and detect energy loss within it.

Think of your home as a closed box. Now take a roof and set it on top of your box. When you set your roof on top of the box, this creates a space at the top which we call your attic. Imagine the area below your roof as a closed-in box. This is your building envelope. The objective is to keep air from escaping or entering into the box we know as our building envelope. We want to keep heated and cooled air in our box and keep outside air from moving in. We will look at the most critical places we lose energy and how to detect them. We will also look at a few easy things we can do to stop this loss.

One of the simplest ways to detect energy loss is to perform a simple test while the air exchanger or handler is running. (Run the test with your air conditioner or heater running.) When your hvac unit is running, there will be a constant flow of air throughout the house and back to your air return. You will notice this from the crack at the bottom of your bedroom doors. Feel at the bottom of the doors when they are shut to see if you can feel air coming from the room traveling to the air return in you hvac. You should have a good return throughout your house. This return keeps fresh air moving and the moisture level down in your house. This air flow is the same air flow that will bring outside air into your home through cracks in the envelope. You will need your hvac unit running during this test; you will also need a candle or incense to carry out the test. Use your candle or incense to check for cracks in your building envelope. The following are the places you need to check:

Around Exterior Doors

Because of all the opening and closing of your doors day-to-day, the weather stripping or doorstops can become extremely worn. Notice where the smoke from your candle goes. If the candle smoke is going back into your home, your air handler is bringing air in from the outside. Check your door hinges to determine whether they are tight. The chief concern here is your weather stripping. It is probably a good idea to replace or add to your weather stripping.

Around Your Windows

Check around the windows to see if you have air coming in from the outside. First check around the inside of the windows against the framing to see if air is coming in from the outside. If you have air coming in from the outside, it is a good idea to use a high quality caulking to seal around the window against your frames. If you have any cracks in your windows, you should replace the window panes. If you have insulated or double pane windows and you see that they are foggy or have moisture between the panes, they need to be replaced because they have lost their insulating value.

Around Your Electrical Outlets and Switches

This may not seem to be a likely pace for air to be entering your home, but you would be surprised. Any air entering your room through your sockets and switches is air being pulled from your attic. During the summer, we know how warm our attics become. That very warm air is being pulled into your home. You can purchase a simple kit at the hardware store that is simple to install. The kit consists of precut foam rubber that you can place over your receptacles and switches. You just simply pull the cover off  your receptacles and switches and place the foam over them, then put the covers back on. This is a great cheap and easy way to fix this problem.

Ceiling Fixtures

As with the receptacles and switches, your light fixtures and ceiling fans need to be checked. It will surprise you to learn how much air is being pulled down from your attics around your ceiling fixtures. These can be sealed in much the same manner as your wall receptacles and switches. Also try switching to more recent types of light bulbs that burn cooler. If you can feel how hot a bulb is burning, just think of the heat being pushed down by your ceiling fans.

These are just a few helpful tricks to help you cut down on the energy loss that occurs through your building envelope. Every little bit is important. The more cracks you seal, the more energy you save. You can lose as much energy through all the cracks combined as through a window or door that has been left open. Try this and you will save money on heating and cooling.


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