You’ve swapped your incandescent light bulbs for CFLs, turned down the thermostat, and only wash clothes using the cold water setting. Then why are your utility bills still so high? Air leaks are likely culprits, but so are “phantom” power suckers, such as flat-screen TVs, which draw energy even when they’re off. We’ve outlined five common energy wasting issues around the house and provided ways to remedy them below.
1. Drafty Windows:
Outside air comes in and warm air escapes through leaky frames, accounting for 10 to 25 % of your heating costs.
How to spot it: On a blustery day, close all windows and exterior doors and the chimney-flue damper. Light a stick of incense, move it around the perimeter of each window and watch for air that interrupts the rise of smoke.
How to stop it: First check the window from the outside, paying close attention to where its casing meets your home’s siding. Scrape out any cracked or dried caulk, and apply a fresh bead of paintable acrylic latex, such as DAP’s Alex Plus. On the inside, add new weatherstripping.
The result: Shave up to $20 off your annual energy bill for each window you weatherize.
2. Phantom” Appliances and Electronics
Devices with a so-called standby mode that sap power even when they aren’t in use can account for 10% of your electricity costs.
How to spot it: If it has an indicator light, a charger or AC power adapter on the cord, or a digital clock, it’s a phantom. When in doubt, plug the device into a Kill A Watt detector which measures exactly how much power is being drawn from the outlet when the device is supposed to be “off.”
How to change it: Put phone chargers, the flat-screen TV, and computer and stereo equipment on power strips. That way you can easily flip a switch and cut power directly from the outlet before going to bed. Plug devices that are best left on 24/7 directly into dedicated surge protectors; your DVR, for instance, needs power to record programs when you aren’t around to watch them. If you get phone service through the Internet, you’ll want to keep your router plugged in, too.
The result: Save $55 a year just by cutting standby power to your DVD-VCR player, stereo tuner and CD player, and video-game console.
Tip: To cut your dishwasher’s energy usage in half, pull out the racks after the final rinse cycle and let your dishes air-dry.
3. Leaky Ductwork
After years of service, the adhesive on tape that seals joints between duct sections can dry out, allowing heated or cooled air to escape. Damage can also occur when homeowners or technicians access or work in areas where ducts are installed, such as crawl spaces, attics, and basements.
How to spot it: With the furnace or AC on, shine a high-powered flashlight on ducts, especially at junctions where they connect with registers. If you see where dust on the exterior of the ducts has been blown away, that’s usually the sign of a leak.
How to stop it: Patch small holes or misalignments with a water-based mastic sealant and mesh tape. Use HVAC foil tape to seal joints between sections.
The result: Cut your heating bill by 3 to 10% by reducing air leakage by up to 15 percent.
4. An Attic Hatch That’s Not Airtight
Consisting of just a little more than a thin sheet of plywood, an uninsulated attic hatch can suck as much treated air out of living quarters as a fireplace chimney.
How to spot it: With all windows and doors closed, turn on the air conditioner or furnace and do the incense-stick test around the hatch; watch for smoke seeping between the access panel and the wood trim frame it rests on.
How to fix it: Secure rigid foam insulation to the back side of the hatch with duct tape, and affix foam tape around the edges of the panel to create a gasket-like seal. For pull-down stairs, add an insulated fabric housing, such as an Attic Tent. Secured to the attic-side framing with staples, the tent has a zippered hatch for easy attic access.
The result: An airtight hatch leading to a well-insulated attic can save you 30% on your heating bill.
5. Outmoded Furnace
While gas-fired furnaces can last 20 years or more, ones made before 1992 are only 55 to 78 % efficient, compared with up to 97 percent for today’s furnaces.
How to spot it: If your furnace has a pilot light, it’s likely more than 20 years old and only about 60% efficient. If this telltale sign isn’t present, ask a certified HVAC technician to inspect the furnace and assign it an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating based on its age. An AFUE of 80, for instance, means that 80 percent of the fuel burned is converted into heat for your home.
How to stop it: Replace an old furnace with a properly sized modern unit with a high AFUE. Manufacturers now display the rating right on the furnace so that consumers can easily compare the efficiency of various models. On the high end are ultra-efficient furnaces with a rating of 97, like these furnaces from Climatech of Professional Air and American Standard Heating and Air Conditioning. Its variable-speed fan motor adjusts to provide a consistent flow of warm air, making your home cozier and saving you extra cash over the long haul.
The result: Cut your heating-fuel bill by more than 30% by replacing a 60% efficient furnace with one that’s 97% efficient.
Climatech of Professional Air is Pensacola’s trusted HVAC dealer. Our professional staff can answer any questions you might have, and make recommendations as to which system and maintenance plan will work best for your individual needs.
You may call us at 850-968-2161 or email us at [email protected].