Energy loss is one of our most expensive challenges that we have facing us today. Unless we really stop and take a look at where we are losing most of our money when it comes to energy loss we will not know how much it is really costing. Energy loss is like filling a bucket up 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. We will be taking a look at the building envelope, what it is and how we can locate and detect energy loss within the building envelope.
First we must understand what the building envelope is. 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 would create a space at the top in which we would call your attic. Imagine the area below your roof as a closed in box. This would be your building envelope. The objective that we are after would be to keep air from escaping out or entering into this box we know as our building envelope. We want to keep our heated and cool air in our box and keeping 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 our energy loss is to do a simple test with our air exchanger or handler running. This means run the test with your air conditioner or heater running. When your hvac unit is running there will be a constant flow from throughout the house 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 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 the cracks in the envelope. You will need your hvac unit running during this test. You will also need a candle or incense to do this test. Take your candle or incense and check for cracks in your building envelope. Let us look at where you need to check.
Around Your Exterior Doors
Take the candle and check around all of your exterior doors. Through all the opening and shutting your doors have to endure your weather stripping or doorstops can become extremely worn. Check to see where the smoke from your candle goes. If your smoke is going back into your home your air handler is bringing air in from the outside. Check to see if your door hinges are tight from all the action your door goes through. The main 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 outside of the windows against your framing to see if air is coming in from the outside. If you have air coming in from the inside 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 it is a good idea to replace the window panes. If you have insulated or double pane windows and you see that they are foggy or have moisture between your 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 place for air to be entering into your home but you will 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 get. Just think how warm the air is that is being pulled into your home. You can purchase a simple kit at your 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 your cover off and place the foam over you receptacles and put the covers back on. This is a great cheap and easy way to fix this problem.
As with the receptacles and switches your light fixtures and your ceiling fans need to be checked. It will surprise you 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 a more recent type 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 crack we stop the more energy we save. We can lose as much energy through all the cracks combined together as a window or door being left open. Try this and you will save money on heating and cooling.