Tag Archives: efficiency

DIY Alert: You Can Insulate Your Pipes

DIY on how to insulate your pipes

Why should I insulate my pipes?

  • As discussed previously, insulating your pipes can keep them from freezing during a cold snap. Even if you hire the experts at Johns Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning to do it for you, it’s a relatively cheap insurance policy against the huge cost and mess of a flood.
  • Even without the risk of flood, insulating your pipes makes good financial sense. Uninsulated hot water pipes cause water to lose some of its heat as it travels through the pipes. But insulating the pipes allows you to lower your water heater temperature by four degrees without any change in the heat of the water when it reaches the faucets.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it only costs $10 to $15 to insulate your pipes, which results in a savings of $8 to $12 a year. This may not seem like much, but it adds up over the years, and the investment amortizes in just one year.
  • Insulating your hot water pipes also keeps water in the pipes warmer for longer, thus reducing the time you have to wait for heated water to flow from the tap if you turn it off for a few minutes and back on. This adds convenience, as well as helping to save water.

How do I insulate my pipes?

  • Foam pipe covers make insulating your pipes a breeze. Your local hardware store stocks several different diameters for different sized pipes, and you can cut the length to fit. Most pipe sleeves have a vertical slit down the side so you can easily slide them over your pipes. Some already have a sticky inside which adheres to the pipe, but you can secure the sleeve with duct tape, wire, or a clamp, and you’re ready to go.
  • Fiberglass spiral-wrap insulation looks a bit like shiny duct tape, but it’s not actually sticky. Secure one end of the insulation around the beginning of the pipe, and then wrap the pipe, overlapping each layer by about a half-inch. Secure the other end of the insulation at the end of the pipe.

Add Heater Vent Lights in Bathrooms for Comfort

A simple thing such as installing a heater vent light provides you with several different advantages. Check to see if you have a HVL (heater vent light) installed in your bathroom. It consists of three items, as the name indicates. A switch for each item is usually located inside your bathroom door at the same place your light switch is located. What is the purpose of a heater vent light and what are the advantages of installing one?

A heater vent light consists of three different items—each with a different purpose.

  • Light: This provides a light that will assist you as you enter your bathroom. The switch to the light is usually the top switch on your HVL switch.
  • Heater: This helps to heat up the bathroom. It is usually the second switch on your HVL switch.
  • Vent: This is a fan motor that helps to exhaust your bathroom. It is usually the bottom switch on your HVL switch.

Advantages of a heater vent light:

  • The heater will enable you to heat up your bathroom before you use it. You can heat up the bathroom only and do not have to heat up the whole house just too make the bathroom warm enough to use.
  • The vent will help exhaust your bathroom. Many times we think the vent is to move the smell out of a bathroom, but the main purpose of this vent is to move moisture that accumulates out of the bathroom. When someone takes a shower or bath, the humidity level rises in the bathroom. If the vent is not turned on to prevent this, the humidity level in the whole house could change. The higher the humidity level, the less comfortable the air is.
  • The light is not the main focus of a HVL, but it does help when you enter your bathroom. It is the first switch you come to when you enter the room. It is easy to turn this switch on so you can see to access what you need to in your bathroom.

If you do not have a HVL installed in your bathroom, now is the time to make the investment and have one installed. In many older homes, HVL’s were not installed. In today’s homes, they are required to be installed in any part of new construction or renovation. Regardless of your situation, it will greatly benefit you to install a HVL in your home. These can be purchased at any building supply store in your area. In many cases, they can be installed using the same wiring that exists for the lights you already have installed in your bathroom. I also recommend that you install these lights in a workroom or perhaps in a room that you use for handicrafts, photography, or any other hobby that you may be involved in.


Seal Your Attic to Save Energy

seal-your-attic-and-save-moneySealing your attic can be a challenging and daunting task for the do-it-yourself person. The benefits will surely be worth the effort you put forth on this project. The ceiling between your attic and your living space is where most of the air leakage from your attic occurs. While your air conditioning is running during the summer, hot air is pulled down from the attic into your living area. During the winter when hot air rises, you lose the warmer air through these air leaks in your ceiling. We will take a look at where these leaks are and what to do to seal these energy-losing air leaks.

Most common location for attic leaks

  • Behind and under knee walls
  • Attic access
  • Electrical wiring holes
  • Pipe holes
  • Recessed lights
  • HVAC air closets

Behind all of your knee walls, stuff the cavities with insulation much the way that your exterior walls were insulated. A knee wall is a short wall usually under three feet  in height that is used to support the rafters in timber roof construction. (You can find images on the internet.) Most attic accesses are located inside the home—usually in a hall or back bedroom. Hot air escapes from the attic into the living area around the attic access door. You can purchase a cover that works really well when installed over your attic access. When you get ready to access your attic, it can be removed and replaced easily.

Another easy fix is to seal around the electrical wiring holes and all of your ceiling fans and lighting fixtures with good quality latex caulking and silicone.  When you pull back the insulation from these fixtures, you can easily see the light from the living area below. Seal these cracks until you do not see any light coming through from the bottom. Recessed lights are some of the most costly lights you can have when it comes to energy loss. The more recessed lights you have, the more heat is pulled in from your attic into your living area. You can make small boxes from foam and place them over your recessed lights (on the attic side), and seal them with a sealer to solve this problem. Make sure that you build the boxes big enough to allow for plenty of room around the fixtures because this type of lighting fixture generates a lot of heat.

Check all of the pipes and exhaust ducts that are coming through your ceilings. You can seal these with a good silicone or caulk. If the cracks are too big to seal with caulking, you can purchase spray foam to fill them. Look into your HVAC closet and see if you can see your attic when you look up. If you can see your attic, you need to seal the top of this closet with insulation or plywood. This simple project can be accomplished in a single day.

If you take the time to follow these simple steps, your house will be more comfortable and your energy costs will go down. Your local HVAC contractor will be more than happy to help you accomplish this task to save you money.

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.


Blower-Door Testing

Blower-door testing is a very adequate way of checking your home for air leakages. The testing-your-blower-doorblower door is an instrument that consists of a panel with a built-in fan that will fit into the opening of your doorway; it is designed to fit any size doorway.  Most often, the test is performed using an exterior door. The fan will pressurize your home to a standard pressure. There are several different gauges that are used to help you monitor the pressures throughout your home to help you find air leaks that are present in your home. Blower-door testing will help professionals to determine if air-sealing work in your house is necessary. If the building needs to be air-sealed, a blower door helps to locate these specific spots.

The blower-door setup includes:

  • a frame and flexible panel to install and seal the doorway.
  • a variable speed fan that will adjust itself according to the inside pressures.
  • a pressure gauge for determining the difference between the outside and inside pressures.
  • a manometer for measuring large air flow volumes.
  • hoses for attaching the manometer to the outdoors and the airflow manometer to the fan.

Compare blower-door testing to inflating a large beach ball that has a leak. When you inflate the ball, it will not take much air to inflate it if it has no leaks. But try inflating the ball if it is full of pin holes or just one large hole. It will take a steady stream of air to keep it inflated. The same thing occurs in your home if you have air that is always escaping—your home will always be at work replacing the air it loses. You will be losing cooled air in the summer and heated air during the winter. Not only are you losing air, but your HVAC or heating unit is running more to replace the air you have lost.

Air pressures in each room of your house can be monitored during a blower-door test. While the blower door is running, you can see how air is escaping from each room. This is the same thing that happens while your air exchanger is running. While the blower-door test is taking place, at some point the operator will put your house through many different scenarios that it could be subjected to in everyday usage.

We know that air moves from high pressure to low pressure. If you have gas appliances, this is a very big issue. The blower-door test can determine if your appliances are properly vented. This is very important because, if the pressure in your house is too low, then there could be a draft pulling the gas fumes back into your house causing carbon monoxide to enter your home. This could be very dangerous! Please check to see if blower-door testing service is available in your area. If you do not know anyone, your local HVAC contractor can assist you in this area.