Energy Efficiency Techniques for a House in a Cold Climate

November 7, 2012 Written by  Brad Eisenberg Comments Print
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More and more people are considering involving sustainable living and energy efficiency measures to cut costs and reduce consumption. If you live in a cold climate and have ever thought the following questions, you are not alone.

“How can I make my home save as much energy as possible?” “What things could I do surrounding insulation to make it more efficient?“

During cold winters, people can experience high energy bills for a number of reasons. Often, many of these reasons pertain to a home’s building envelope - the building components like attic floors, exterior walls and floors over unconditioned spaces that separate conditioned living spaces from unconditioned or outside spaces. It’s important that these building components are properly sealed and insulated to prevent heat (and money) from escaping out of the house. According to the Department of Energy, proper air sealing and insulation can reduce your home's heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent!

Perhaps the most important part of a home’s building envelope is the attic. The attic on a house is like a hat on your head. It’s the area where the most heat is lost (remember, heat rises), so it’s also the most important area to air seal and insulate. If your house was built before 1990 and has never had any work done to the attic, it’s safe to assume that there’s likely an opportunity for improvement. The older the home, the bigger the opportunity. If you want to be sure, take a look for yourself; there should be at least 12-14” of insulation on the attic floor. If you think your attic could use some more insulation, it’s important to note that attics (and any other part of a home’s building shell) should always be air sealed first before insulating.

In fact, insulating a surface of your home (like the attic floor) without air sealing it is not all that effective. Think about wearing a fleece jacket on a cold windy day. You may be warm at first, but as soon as the wind blows straight through your fleece jacket, you feel pretty cold. A house is the same way; its needs to be air sealed and insulated. So if you’re looking for a company to insulate your attic, make sure they do air sealing as well.

Of course the attic floor is not the only part of your home that needs proper insulation and air sealing, but it’s a great place to start to see big savings. And if you’re not ready to make that kind of investment, there’s plenty of things you can do yourself to air seal your home. We all know about weatherstripping our windows and doors, but how many of us think about our chimneys? While chimneys can be a relatively minor source of air leakage in a home, they are not to be entirely ignored. If you find yourself turning up the thermostat because of the cold draft you feel from the fireplace, then this especially should be a focus for you. A chimney cap, also called a top damper, is a convenient solution for people that use their fireplaces frequently in the winter, but they can be costly. An affordable DIY solution is to use a chimney pillow or chimney balloon. It’s an inflatable plastic pouch that is inserted up into the chimney and inflated to seal off the chimney when the fireplace is not being used. If you want to use the fireplace, you can remove the balloon and then use it again if you don’t plan on lighting another fire any time soon.

Check out our infographic below with tips on how to create an energy-efficient home in cold climates. Click the link to view last week’s blog Natural Gas Savings with greeNEWit or check back next week for more energy saving tips.

11-6 Infographic