Is your home as energy efficient as it should be? Or is money literally escaping through cracks in your windows and doors? Typical energy leaks are found around fireplaces, doors, windows, and plumbing penetrations. Anytime you see dirty insulation, whether it’s on the ductwork or in your attic – that means that the air’s moving through the insulation. And where air moves through the insulation, the insulation doesn’t work and you need to do some air sealing or some duct sealing.

Learn more with Sydney Roberts of SouthFace Energy Institute as she conducts a “whole house evaluation” with Mark and Kitty Brown to figure out exactly where their home is losing valuable energy.

For more everyday ways to save the environment and save money at the same time, visit Jennie Garlington at EcoSense for Living. (SaltRun Productions, Inc.)


[[transcript]]

Jennie: EcoSense for Living.  Everyday ways to save the environment and save money at the same time.

Mark:  We have a very old furnace.  And it’s approaching 20 years old.  And the ductwork, I’ve been down there and it is falling apart.  And since Kitty doesn’t see it, she thinks it’s perfect, in perfect condition.  She never goes down there.  So she wants a new kitchen.  I want a new furnace.

Sydney:   So the question is where to put your money first?

Mark:   Mm-hmm.

Sydney:    Mm-hmm, okay. 

Kitty:  There’s also another debate going on in the house.  And typically I stay colder; he’s warmer.  There’s a constant battle with where the thermostat should be set.  And I, in my mind, setting the thermostat at 50 degrees when we’re not in the home and then coming home and turning the thermostat up to 67, the furnace is going to work that much harder to get it back up to the 60’s, you know, when we get home.  To me that puts more drain on the system than just leaving the thermostat at like maybe 64 or 65 and then jumping it up to 67.

Mark:   Well, my reasoning for this is that we have an old furnace, we have a house that is drafty as can be, and if we leave the heat on at 60 degrees and it’s 58 degrees outside, it is gonna just stay on all day long.  And I’d rather not have the heater blowing and wasting that money all day long.

Sydney:  Well, it turns out the guy who got an A in physics is right about this one.

[laughter]

Mark’s right.  Because the house will be losing heat all day long.  In terms of energy, it makes a lot of sense in the winter to let it get cold in the house when you're not here.  You might have other residual effects, especially if you're doing this in the summer.  If you let the humidity rise a lot in the house, you might have moisture-related issues.  But in the winter, it makes a lot of sense.

There are a number of things to notice looking into the crawl space.  So let’s just start from the top and go down.  First of all, somebody’s made a pretty good effort to put insulation under the floor and they use the fiberglass bat insulation.  It was a good effort.  The problem with doing that is, you're fighting gravity.  Eventually, it’s gonna fall out.  So, if you leave it how it is, just make sure to keep an eye on it.  It needs to be always in contact with the subfloor.  And you can use metal stays to keep it up, or staple it, that’s another option.  Looking at the duct system itself, I see a lot of exposed insulation.  When I see insulation, that means that if I’m an air particle, I can get to the duct.  That means that the moisture can condense on that duct and eventually rust out your duct.  So you don't ever want to be able to see the actual insulation that’s on your ducts.  Anytime you see dirty insulation, whether it’s on the ductwork or in your attic, wherever, that means that air is moving through the insulation.  And where air moves through the insulation, the insulation doesn’t work.  So where you see dirty insulation, you need to do some air sealing or some duct sealing. 

Jennie:  If you suspect that your hard-earned money is pouring out of your home, find out if your utility company offers free or discounted home energy audits.  If they don't, you can hire a certified home energy professional for about $150 to $450 or you can do a visual audit yourself.  To find out more, go to EnergyStar.gov and check out Home Energy Audit.