This is the time of year when your air conditioner is your best friend, but you could be paying too much money to stay cool.
July 2014 - ACS Absolute Comfort Heating & Cooling
Summers in the Houston area are famously hot, with average high temperatures in July almost 10 degrees warmer than the U.S. average. Any Houston area homeowner hoping to reduce electricity usage from running the central air conditioner needs to do a good job sealing and insulating the home envelope. This does not have to bust your budget, and a little investment will return immediate dividends in lower electricity bills. By sealing and insulating the home envelope, you can postpone replacing HVAC equipment or better prepare your Katy or Sugar Land area home for energy-efficient upgrades, too.
Your Katy Home’s Envelope
Sealing and insulating the home envelope means imagining that your home is wrapped in a protective bubble, where outside air stays outside unless you invite it in, and inside air stays inside, treated by your central air conditioner. The outside walls, floors, roof and ceilings make up your home envelope.
In summer, your home must repel heat infiltration while re-circulating cooled air from your central air conditioner. By sealing and insulating the home envelopesealing and insu, you not only save energy; you improve your home’s indoor air quality and make your family more comfortable.
Easy Steps for Sealing and Insulating the Home Envelope
While some work from a professional HVAC contractor may be needed, you can start sealing and insulating the home envelope yourself, with small steps:
- Seal windows, doors and other openings–this is the work of three or four weekends
- Insulate your attic, basement or crawlspace–you can do this yourself, at your own comfortable pace
- Insulate your walls as this may be the work of a professional insulation contractor
- Seal and clean your home’s ductwork as this may require professional assistance
Sealing and insulating the home envelope begins with sealing, using weatherstripping and caulk, and bringing in a professional to seal your ductwork.
Use weatherstripping around windows and doors to make these movable openings air-tight and waterproof. Do not overlook seldom-opened windows in garage, basement or attic, or the attic hatchway and outside basement doors. Some weatherstripping hints and tips:
- Mix and match materials based on durability; around doors, metals last longer; around windows, foam strips will suffice
- Be willing to try new materials; weatherstripping today comes in adhesive-backed foam, vinyl, springy metal and many other forms
- Start at the less visible windows at the back of your home; work your way around to the more visible front, so your skills improve as you work
- Do not feel you must get everything done in a day or weekend; every window and door you seal saves you energy dollars
For immovable openings that pierce your home’s envelope, use caulk. Caulk finishes the sealing part of sealing and insulating the home envelope. Caulk comes in many formulations and colors. Match the caulk to the job:
- Any spot where electrical wires or cables pierce walls or roof
- Around every window and door where casing meets exterior walls
- Around the chimney
- Kitchen vents, dryer vent and bathroom vents
- Where plumbing pierces the foundation or walls
- Where plumbing pipes pierce the roof
In your Houston area home, most of the ductwork is inaccessible. Here a professional HVAC contractor is helpful. The investment is well worth it, since leaky ducts waste as much as 40 percent of the conditioned air in them. A professional can do all this:
- Ensure connections between registers and ducts are sealed
- Inspect and seal flexible ducts
- Reattach loose seams and seal them with mastic
The second part of sealing and insulating the home envelope is improving insulation. Start in the attic. If you can see the joists, your attic needs more insulation. Purchase and roll out unfaced (no paper) fiberglass batt insulation at right angles to the existing insulation. You can also contract an insulation company to blow in an extra layer, making sure not to block the rafter vents at the roof edge.
Check your basement or crawlspace next. Where your home’s wood structure sits on foundation walls, spray foam on the sill plate can be applied by a professional insulation contractor in less than a day. If any ductwork runs through the space, it should be insulated with rigid board insulation (fiberglass gets soggy when exposed to wet basement conditions).
If you ever want to replace your home’s HVAC system, your properly sealed and insulated home can employ smaller, less expensive equipment than it might otherwise, saving you money for years to come.
If sealing and insulating the home envelope seems like more than you want to tackle, contact us at ACS Absolute Comfort, where we will be happy to help.
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The HVAC air filter plays a major role in keeping your energy bills low, ensuring better indoor air quality (IAQ) and lengthening the life of your cooling and heating systems. When the filter is covered with dust, the airflow slows through the air handler. It may create any of these problems throughout your system:
- Dust inside the air handler. When filter is covered with dust, the air handler pulls it inside and it can cover internal components. Should the blower motor get covered with dust, it will run hotter, which shortens its life. The airborne particulates also can cover the evaporator coil through which the refrigerant flows.
People in the Houston area rely heavily upon their air conditioning to beat the heat.
Installing programmable thermostats in your Houston area home is an excellent start toward energy efficiency, but only if each thermostat is set properly. The wise use of programmable thermostats begins with correct selection, based on your home-time habits.
Since programmable thermostats are more sophisticated than the old electro-mechanical versions, they generally are available in three different models, based on your typical schedule:
- Thermostats called 5+2-day models give you four weekday settings (morning, empty house, afternoon and overnight) plus a schedule for both weekend days together
- The 5-1-1 models give you a weekday schedule (four settings per day), a Saturday schedule, and a Sunday schedule (also four settings for each day); this is best if your weekend routine differs from Saturday to Sunday
- The models known as 7-day units provide the greatest flexibility, allowing four settings per day for each of seven days; this is ideal if your weekend routines vary and your weekday schedules change day to day as well.
If you treat programmable thermostats as simple replacements for the old devices with their bimetal coil and mercury-filled glass bulb, you will not gain any energy efficiency. Consult your trustworthy HVAC technician about setting the units for maximum energy efficiency, beginning with these recommended settings:
- At wake and afternoon times, when your Houston-area home is busy, set the air conditioning for 76 degrees; set heat for 68 degrees
- When the house is empty (everyone is at work or school), set the air conditioning for 86 degrees and the heat for 58 degrees; this 10-degree difference for long periods accomplishes your energy savings
- For overnight (when no one will be aware of the change), set air conditioning a few degrees higher in the summer and lower in the winter.
- For vacations, use the thermostats