Energy Tips & Tricks
Cobb Hill’s Weatherization Team and staff are constantly attending training classes and seminars on new products, techniques and methods that will improve a home’s comfort and save energy. Our experience in building and remodeling homes and offices has given us a wealth of knowledge of best practices.
In these pages, we will share what we have learned and constantly update the information as we learn new things and test out new products and techniques so please return often. These energy saving tips are also valid in the summer so keep them in mind with the temperatures that reach 90 degrees, not just when the thermometer dips below 32.
Residential Tips go to Commercial Building Tips here
This winter save money and stay warm. Keep your energy bill and your pollution output low by taking a whole-house approach to heating.
- During the heating season, keep the draperies and shades on your south facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows. The reason for this is that glass, even in new energy efficient windows, will radiate cold. The draperies will minimize or keep that cold from being radiated into the room, which will make your heating system work less and use less fuel.
- Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable when home. You shouldn’t have to bundle up to be comfortable either. Set your thermostat so that you are comfortable in normal winter clothing.
- By resetting your programmable thermostat from 72 degrees to 65 degrees for eight hours a day (for instance, while no one is home or while everyone is tucked in bed) you can cut your heating bill by up to 10 percent. Programmable thermostats are eligible for significant rebates from NGRID and Unitil. Everyone knows you can save money by turning the thermostat down when you’re asleep or away during the day. There are two great reasons beyond a rebate why this is a no-brainer. One is that you don’t have to remember to do it, the other is that you can also set it to come up to temp just before you get up in the morning and just before you get home from work so the house is nice and warm when you need it to be.
- Weatherize your home—caulk and weatherstrip any doors and windows that leak air. Cobb Hill has learned that air sealing is just as important, if not more so than adding additional insulation. We use a device called a Blower Door tester, which will bring the interior of a building down to a negative 50 Pascal’s pressure. This is an accepted standard that is the equivalent of a 20 mph wind blowing against the building from all four sides at the same time. At that point, we can accurately measure the cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air leakage (loss) in the building. Amazingly enough, we have seen homes as high as 7,000 cfm. Can you imagine how much that heat lost cost the owner each month! Simple air sealing techniques and insulation can reduce that loss dramatically and save real dollars and the environment.
- Properly maintain and clean heating equipment. Your heating system should be cleaned and tuned at least one per year to insure peak efficiency and to reduce the emissions as much as possible. Even if it seems to be running great, get it serviced.
- Replace furnace filters regularly. This one is easy and most homeowners are capable of sliding out the old filter(s) and sliding in a new one. Even though your house probably isn’t dusty, a furnace filter can find and catch dust faster than the dust fairy can make it. As the filter fills with dust, the heated airflow of the system can be reduced, therefore not warming the house as easily as it could. Not only is that a problem, but the fan motor is forced to work harder, and that uses more electricity.
- Check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces to see if it meets the levels recommended for your area. Building code standards for acceptable insulation levels (R-Value) are changing faster than the Red Sox pitching staff. What was the standard level of attic insulation just three years ago, has been increased again. So if your house is more than three years old, and you haven’t added any additional insulation to the attic, you should seriously consider doing that.
One other way to tell if you have heat loss is if you have ice buildup on your roof, you are losing too much heat through your ceiling, fans, ductwork, and light fixtures, or you just lack a sufficient amount of insulation.
- Install compact florescent light bulbs where ever possible. Some people have had a hard time getting used to these. If you haven’t tried them in a while, give them another try. Today’s bulbs come up to normal color and full brightness much faster than the ones from just a year or so ago. They also now make different varieties for different purposes and shades of white. There are bulbs available now that are a warmer white similar to the regular incandescent bulbs we grew up with, and they will save you a lot of money. There are also a variety of rebate programs for these so give them a try!
There are many other ideas and tips you can take advantage of. Here are a few other websites that have information you might consider or use to verify our ideas.
More on insulation and air sealing - here (Energy Star)
More on types of insulation - here (Energy Star)
Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits - here (Energy Star)
Financial Incentives for NH Residents - here (DSIRE)
Federal Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit - here (DSIRE)