5 ways you can save on heating and cooling costs

By Glenn Haege. (Used by permission)

5 ways you can save on heating and cooling costs

It’s not very often that you get paid to do a good thing. That’s exactly what happens when you add insulation, tighten up the house and ductwork and increase ventilation.

You save money on heating and cooling costs while helping our country work its way out of an energy shortage. You even help clean up the air.

Most of our nation’s housing was built when energy was cheap and we saw little reason to save. Organizations like the Department of Energy (DOE) and insulation manufacturers told us how to save on energy but most people tuned out the message.

Then the price of oil went from $27 to $60 a barrel and international experts warn that the cost of a barrel of oil may increase to $100 within the year.

Here are five ways we can all save:

1. Take a test

Owens Corning and the DOE worked together to create a very simple quiz that will tell you how your house is equipped to meet today’s energy challenges. The easiest way to get to it is to go to my help site, www.mas

terhandyman.com, and click on “Home Report Card.”

2. Add insulation

Adding insulation is the single most cost-effective investment you can make to keep your house cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

Bob Maki of Macomb Insulation, (586) 949-1414, specializes in retrofitting homes with Owens Corning fiberglass loose fill and blanket products. Maki says most homes he sees need to add 12-inches (R-30) of loose-fill insulation to bring the insulation up to the current DOE recommendation of R-49.

Since insulation also comes in batts, it is a very homeowner-friendly do-it-yourself project. Gale Tedhams, insulation product manager at Owens Corning, says her company’s pink fiberglass batt insulation is both easy to install and very cost efficient. “Typically, homeowners recover the cost of the insulation within a few years through lower energy bills,” she says.

One of the reasons batt insulation is easy to use is that each batt has a guaranteed R-Value. If your attic already has R-19 insulation, one layer of unfaced R-30 batt insulation or two layers of R-15, perpendicular to each other, brings the attic up to the DOE recommendation. If the attic has R-6 or 7, two layers of R-19 bring the attic to optimum.

3. Add ventilation

Attics require soffit venting and ridge or pot vents. Cooling air comes in the soffit vents, goes up the roof deck boards and out through the ridge vents.

If an attic has too little ventilation, the attic absorbs and stores the sun’s heat during summer and winter. Summer attic temperatures easily go up to 140 degrees. This heats the roof deck, “cooks” the shingles from underneath and places a huge burden on the home’s cooling system.

During winter, insufficient ventilation causes heat to accumulate, warming the roof deck boards, causing ice crystal formation inside the attic and ice dams on the roof.

4. Seal air and energy leaks

According to the DOE, 31 percent of a home’s air leakage slips through the walls, floors and ceilings. Rim joists that connect the house to the foundation and crawl spaces are often uninsulated and lead to large energy losses. Ductwork, fireplaces, plumbing penetrations, doors, windows, fans and vents, and electric outlets are also major sources of energy loss.

A good way to identify the major leaks to your home’s building envelope is to have a blower door test. One major manufacturer of blower door testing equipment, Infiltec ((888) 349-7236, www.infiltrec.com), lists blower door testing companies on their Web site. Locally, Infrared Services of Michigan (ISM), (810) 329-9033, and Mechanical Heating & Cooling, (313) 277-7630, do blower door testing. ISM also has a separate division to provide energy leak sealing services.

5. Install programmable thermostat

If you program the thermostat to let the temperature rise when the family is away from the house or sleeping during the summer and lower the temperature when the family is away or sleeping during the winter, you save energy. The DOE says you can save 10 percent on heating or cooling bills by raising or lowering the temperature 10 degrees while you are away or asleep. Even raising or lowering the temperature by 4 or 5 degrees saves energy. Set the thermostat for the air conditioning up, when you leave the house.

Other things you can do to save energy and keep the house comfortable in summer are to use fans, pull shades during the heat of the day and close vents to unused rooms.

Every bit you do helps. It helps you. It helps your pocket book. It helps the country. Stop wasting energy and brag about it.