Call Us: 207.450.2071

Email: jpwaredesign@gmail.com

Energy Efficiency and Weatherization

30
Nov

Last time we talked about ways to save energy overall in the winter.  This go-around, we’re going to focus specifically on heat since HVAC is the big spender when it comes to your monthly utility budget.

1. Like we mentioned last time, turn down your thermostat.  Every degree lowered below 70 saves you up to 5% on heating costs.  You can also set the temperature to go down (no lower than 55 though) while you’re away for extended periods of time – even to work – to save even more on the bill.   Don’t be afraid to wear a sweater and slippers in the house.  It’s winter anyway – make yourself feel cozy.  This is where a programmable thermostat comes in handy.  We have ours set to 67 in the morning (we find it makes it easier to leave the warm cocoon of the bed), 60 upon leaving for work (we have a dog), 65 upon returning for work (make sure to pre-plan for an hr ahead of when you actually get home so it’s warm by the time you get there), and 65 throughout the night until morning again (again pre-plan an hr for when you typically wake up).

3. Dial down your hot water heater.  Turn it back to 110 and start there (be aware, though, that some dishwasher require a higher setting – so pull out the manual).  If you find yourself needing more hot water at the end of the day (if you have a bigger family with more showers), turn it up 5 degrees.  Keep testing until you’ve found a setting that works.  The other thing to also dial down is the time you actually spend in the shower.  While not everyone can maintain the military standard of a shower in 3mins, try to keep it to the length of 3 songs.  Egg timers are a simple tracking method for this.  You can do it in the same way you do the water heater.  Time your typical shower, then resolved to cut off a minute every new instance.

2. Clean your furnace filters as frequently as required.  You’d be surprised how much energy this can draw.  Think of it this way: You get in your car in the winter and it’s cold.  You blast the heat to make it comfortable.  What if you put a fishing net over the outlets (normal/clean filter)? Doesn’t really change the flow.  Change the thin film to a cotton ball (dirty filter).  Even stretched out it’s affecting your transfer of heat in a major way.  You should also take the time at the beginning of the season to get your furnace serviced.

4. Seal leaks.  We brought this up last time and it’s getting brought up again for a good reason.  As my dad use to say, he “doesn’t care to heat the outdoors” and that’s basically what you’re doing if you are living in a poorly sealed home.  The same goes for windows – use pane glazing or thick curtains to shut out the night cold.  It might also be time to check your insulation.

5. Winter seems to be the season of cooking.  Let the oven continue to do the work for you.  When you’re done baking, TURN IT OFF, but also leave the oven door open until it’s lost most of its heat.  Obviously you should choose safety over finances, so if you have a little one in the home this may not be ideal.  Our first home was the space above a 2car garage and our winter cooking probably provided half the heat needed on those cold winter nights.

6. This seems like a no-brainer, but we’re still going to mention it.  Heat only the rooms you USE.  You’d be amazed the price savings when you aren’t heating that extra 2000 cubic feet of guest bedroom space.  The same principle applies to sleeping arrangements.  Unless you’re living somewhere in a gluttonous gas environment (and if you live on Earth, we know that’s not the case), it’s cheaper for you to use an electric blanket at night than to heat the entire space of the bedroom.  Or buy a down comforter and live like the nordic do.

7. When the fireplace is on, turn off the heat (or at least turn it down).  When the fireplace is off, remember to shut the damper.

What other ideas do you have?  We hope you’re feeling warm and toasty tonight and that these tips and tricks help you out through the winter ahead!

Category : Energy Efficiency | Energy Efficiency and Weatherization | Blog
17
Nov

As the temperatures begin – or continue – to dip, it’s important to make sure not only you are ready for winter, but also your home.  We’ve created a list of tips for winterizing your home and keeping the energy bill down.  If you follow it, you’ll hopefully have some more spending money for the holiday season.

  1. The first no-brainer is to turn down your thermostat when you’re out of the house.  You can either do that manually each day, or purchase a programmable thermostat that you can set to make sure the house is back to your preferred temperature when you get home.
  2. Install low-flow shower heads to reduce hot water waste.
  3. Check your windows, doors, and any other holes (think cables, vents, etc) for drafts and use caulk or weatherstripping to seal them.  You can use incense, long matches, or anything that will create smoke to check for the air movement caused by leaks.
  4. Seal leaking ducts with metal tape.  You can hire a vendor to check for leaks and seal these if you think it might be too hard to do yourself.
  5. Close any dampers connected to stoves or fireplaces when not in use.
  6. Check your insulation in your attic, exterior walls, and crawl space (if you have one).  If there are spaces lacking insulation, or lacking sufficient insulation, it’s time to consider beefing it up.
  7. If you don’t have newer, energy-efficient windows, install a plastic film (available for purchase at most home improvement stores) on the inside of all windows.  This will help not only keep the cool out in the winter, but also help regulate heat in the summer.
  8. Change your furnace filter, if you don’t already do it regularly.
  9. Check fixtures and appliances to ensure that they are as efficient as possible.
  10. We know you love holiday lights, but try to keep the usage to a minimum.  You’d be amazed how much energy they use.
Category : Energy Efficiency | Energy Efficiency and Weatherization | Blog
14
Feb

Here’s a piece of additional information on ice dams that we recently came across while looking into the ventilation side of repair/prevention for some clients.  You can view it on the webpage here, and there’s also an option for downloading it in a PDF format if you wish to keep it as a resource.

Check back soon, as we will be looking at the fan backdraft side of ventilation in a home.

Category : Energy Efficiency and Weatherization | Blog
1
Feb

Many buildings in the northern states during the winter get those pesky icicles hanging onto the edges of their roofs.  The thing to be certain of is whether it’s just a cute little singular icicle or a larger localized formation of ice.

smaller icicles

smaller icicles

bigger problems

bigger problems

Ice dams can start forming after a heavy snowstorm followed by a couple days of below-freezing temperatures.  They happen when heat either escapes, due to bad insulation, or forms in another way (think electrical box placements, etc) on the underside of the roof.  The warm temperature below the sheathing then melts the layer of snow closest to the roof, causing it to trickle down the roof to the edge.  The problem becomes that when the temperatures are freezing, by the time the liquid water reaches the edge, it becomes solid again in the form of ice.  This process continues until icicles occur, and can lead to what’s called an “ice dam”.

Ice dams are a continuation of the melting/freezing process.  Once a layer of ice has formed on the lower edge of the roof (initially seen as icicles), the water that follows after will freeze on top of, or before, the layer of ice, causing a mound.  This mound continues to grow not only vertically up, but back up the slope of the roof until it reaches the section of the roof that is warm enough to melt the snow.  The ice mound then causes the liquid water to be trapped under the larger layer of snow, but above the roof.  As the melting process continues, both the mound/dam and the reservoir increase in size.  This can be bad both structurally and aesthetically.  The weight of the ice can begin to impact the overhangs and the water can begin to creep back in under the sheathing and get into the house, causing water damage – which can also lead to structural issues, as well as water spots on the ceilings and walls.

heat escape due to lack of insulation

heat escape due to lack of insulation

heat caused by electrical use locations

heat caused by electrical use locations

There are a couple ways to fix, or prevent the occurence of ice dams.  The first is to ensure that you have insulated your roof well and properly.  Seal any air leaks between the interior of the home and the attic and add more insulation if the current layer is proving to be inadequate.  Your insulation value depends on location, for northern states it’s R-49 minimum, middle states need at least R-38.  Obviously exceeding the minimum works out better for you.

Another step that you could take, let’s call it the insurance policy, is to put in a ridge vent.  For most northern states, this is a no-brainer.  In some cases the builder is unable to provide enough insulation given the space between the top of ceiling and the bottom of sheathing, so this technique is used.  In most cases, however, it’s just a wise decision.  What happens is that not only are you now providing adequate insulation between your living spaces and the roof, but you’re also venting out any possible warm air that might still occur between the insulation and the bottom of the sheathing.  This step, though, should only be the LAST in the process of fixing/preventing ice dams.  If you try to vent first, before fixing any air leak issues, you could make ice dams worse and increase  your heating bill to boot!

proper insulation with added ventilation

proper insulation with added ventilation

The last thing to do would be to ensure that you are using a layer of rubberized membrane, also known as Ice & Water Shield.  This should not be applied all over the roof, but from the eave up to the spot on the roof that is 3′ higher in overall elevation than the height of the exterior wall.

These things are sometimes tricky to catch, but it is worth it to your home and wallet to investigate before irreparable damage is done.  Happy hunting!

Category : Energy Efficiency and Weatherization | Blog
16
Jun

Maine is adopting new energy efficiency codes to keep up with Green building standards. Although this type of insulation level is a minimum in a green homes, this new regulation will force the Maine home building industry to produce tighter homes saving energy and fossil fuel for all new home buyers. These new codes are a huge step forward for the new home construction industry, consumers should be aware that while increasing the efficiency of the shell of their home they need to now look at indoor air quality. When you tighten a home up you keep the toxins inside the home, this is why LEED practices require addressing the indoor air quality. Air exchange systems are the best way to accomplish an exchange of stale indoor air with fresh air from the outside while keeping the conditioned air within the home, they do this by using a a heat exchanger to transfer the conditioned temperature of the air exiting the home to the fresh air entering the home.

Read the full article in the Portland Press Herald here.

JP Ware Design is a customer focused design and construction firm. We are members of the US Green Building Council (USGBC), and we practice sustainable design and construction methods. Founded in 2006 by Jesse P. Ware, Leed AP. Want to learn more? Email us now and become a fan on Facebook!

Category : Energy Efficiency and Weatherization | Blog
4
Feb

The Energy tax credit has been extended through 2010, nearly everyone can benefit from this credit, as most homes can use extra weather-sealing, and insulation improvements.  The tax credit is a 30% credit of up to $5000 in total investments which will give you a $1500 break on your taxes.  It is a one time credit so you can not double dip with separate $5000 projects.  Here is a link to the Energy Star page which further outlines the details of the program.

Energy Star

We just completed a weatherstrip retrofit on a custom door opening in a home, the new doors had been installed in an existing opening with old weatherstrip which was not performing well.  We custom made new hardwood stops from Blue Star FSC Certified Red Meranti, and installed Resource Conservation Technology Weatherstripping to seal up the door opening.  Check out the video detailing the installation.

Category : Energy Efficiency and Weatherization | Green Building Tips | Blog
30
Dec

Happy Holidays from JP Ware Design, we thought this was an interesting take on energy efficient construction. We wish everyone the best over the New Years Holiday, stay safe and stay warm….

JP Ware Design is a customer focused design and construction firm. We are members of the US Green Building Council (USGBC), and we practice sustainable design and construction methods. Founded in 2006 by Jesse P. Ware, Leed AP. Want to learn more? Email us now and become a fan on Facebook!

Category : Energy Efficiency and Weatherization | Blog
10
Dec
Air Leaks through a Home

Air Leaks through a Home

It is not to late to do an energy audit, December is a great time to do a Home Energy Audit,  you can evaluate the loss areas in your home and keep you and your family warmer for less and save energy.     You can do a lot yourself with a thorough examination of your house.  Start with your doors and windows, checking for air leaks around the weatherstripping and caulking.  Re-seal with new caulk and weatherstrip from the local hardware store,  heat shrink plastic kits will not only help with sealing the drafts but also give you an added layer air which acts like insulation.

Other area to check are fireplace dampers, foundation cracks and service holes for plumbing and electricity through the foundation, seal these with spray foam in a can.  Electrical outlets can be simply retrofitted with foam air seals.

Here is a link to a page with a do it youself  “blower door”, essentially pressurizing your house with fans to accentuate drafts so they are easier to locate :

Category : Energy Efficiency and Weatherization | Blog