In our prior articles, we covered the Weatherization Assistance Program & delved into DOE’s priority list for weatherizing mobile homes. We started with the mobile homes because they generally are some of the biggest energy hogs out there. In this article, we are going to look at DOE’s priority list for single-family homes.
#1 – Sealing the walls, floors and ceilings where air might enter or escape (Air Sealing); One important thing to remember, on the exterior of the house it is not only meant to prevent air from getting inside but also to prevent water from infiltrating the structure. You also do not want to seal up any weep holes, trapping moisture in the cavities.
#2 – Attic Insulation; is an important component from not only keeping that hot air in the summer from entering your house, but also preventing the hot moist air from your house entering your attic during the winter. This will also be addressed fully in a future article, as the choices, methods, and items to watch out for would not leave enough room for the rest of this article.
#3 – Dense-pack sidewalls; this item will not apply to many houses as they already have insulation in them. If your walls do not have insulation in them, the method they are proposing is to dense pack cellulose insulation in them by drilling holes into each stud bay. There are other methods available, which depending on your budget may give you a better bang for your buck.
#4 – Install a smart thermometer; I do not know why they saved this one till so late, or did not include it on the mobile home priority list. This is one of the cheapest methods for lowering ones utilities. By installing a programmable thermostat, you can save money by reducing the usage of your HVAC system when no one is home, or is sound asleep.
#5 – Replace Incandescent light bulbs with Compact Florescent Lights (CFL’s); not only will this save you money on your regular electric bill, a CFL does not produce as much heat as a regular light bulb. I would also mention that the newer LED lights, while expensive are definitely worth looking into and would actually be the better choice in most situations.
#6 – Seal and insulate your ducts; while most houses ducts are installed better than inside a mobile home, they are generally also left exposed inside the crawl space or attic. If they are not properly sealed or insulated, your energy dollars are being wasted in unconditioned spaces that can also cause issues with condensation. All connections and joints should be sealed with mastic or UL 181 tape and the ducts should be insulated with a minimum of R-4 Insulation.
#7 – Install Insulation in the floor joists located in an unfinished basement or crawlspace; while you can do this, I can think of many other items that would give you more bang for your buck. Just a few examples would be creating a sealed crawl space, using closed cell spray foam around the sill plate, installing solar screens and / or storm windows.
#8 – Replace the Refrigerator; as we discussed in the Money saving projects, tips & tricks — Part 2 article, getting rid of an older refrigerator can easily cut $200 off your yearly electric bill.
If you compare the two lists, you will spot some major differences and you might also be left thinking – what does this item or that item have to do with weatherization? In all honesty, some of these items have nothing to do with weatherization, but you must remember DOE’s main purpose is in reducing energy usage. We must also point out that this is the most widely used programs nationwide and it is a good base to start from.
Another good item brought out by this, is it amplifies the point we brought out in the last article – The first thing to keep in mind is that no two houses are ever the same. What your neighbor had done may not be the best option in your case. In the next few articles we will discuss in more depth, ways to properly air seal your house, and insulating options when it come to your house.