Recently, Hero Power hosted a live webinar that looked at common problem areas in everyone’s homes and easy fixes to stop energy loss now. The energy assessment started with a look at air leakage and circulation in the home. A great deal of our energy loss comes from air escaping the home, whether it’s heat in the winter or cool air in the summer. This is also one of the biggest areas of improvement available to us. Air sealing, according to Energy New England, is typically the most cost effective improvement you can make to your home. Outlets, doors, windows, lights in the house, attic doors, the rim joist and seal area above your foundation, these can all pose major problems. We took a look at outlets first.
How to fix air-leaking outlets
Here’s a great test you can do at home to see if there are leaks. On a windy day, turn off your air conditioning, shut your windows, and close all doors. Carefully, light a candle or an incense stick and hold it in front of your outlets, particularly those with an air path to the outdoors. Now, watch closely, if you see smoke move horizontally, there is likely an air leak in or around that outlet. You need to add insulation to this electrical outlet. Purchasing foam gaskets, which are as cheap as a dollar or two, can solve the problem. Double-check that the gaskets you buy are the right size for your outlet or are pre-cut at the store to fit around your outlets or switch plates. Then, simply unscrew the outlet cover and press the foam around the outlets. Finally, reattach the cover and you can cut down on air leakage immediately.
Secondly, you may also want to look for cracks and gaps around the wall plates of your wall plates. Sealing a drafty electrical outlet and fixtures with caulk or putty is an easy fix to prevent these leaks. Again, you got to be careful though. Remember to turn off the power to any outlet before you begin working on it. Other options include applying foam sealant or buying new plug boxes with a built-in sealant. Lastly, consider child-safety plugs for any outlets that are often not in use. This is an easy way to help prevent additional cold air from coming into your home.
How to make minor fixes to improve your windows
Windows are a big problem area for leaking both air and water. You can test your windows for leaks just like you did with the outlets – burn an incense stick or candle and hold it near all the window’s joints and connections. More specifically, you want to double check where a window meets a frame, where the fram meets the wall, and where one window pane meets another. Again, if the smoke flickers, you have an air leak. Often, water leaks can be caused from a breakdown in the connection between the window frame and the wall. You can caulk the window where it meets the exterior siding to prevent leaks. For windows with wood trim, use a high-grade polyurethane caulk to seal all gaps between the trim and the siding.
For bigger fixes, adding weatherstripping to your windows, installing energy efficient curtains, or upgrading to more energy efficient windows can yield you big savings as well but may take much more time and money to complete.
Other Energy Efficiency Considerations
During the Hero Power Virtual Home Energy Audit, we also discussed the effectiveness of swapping up incandescent bulbs with LED lights and using smart power strips or smart power plugs to cut down on “vampire energy” loss. As for appliances, we recommend always looking for the ENERGY STAR label before making any purchases. For your air conditioning needs, we discussed keeping your HVAC maintenance on an annual schedule to extend its life and improve its effectiveness and deploying a smart thermostat or programmable thermostat to make best use of your system.
On the webinar, we also spoke to William Branton, Energy Specialist and Residential Energy Auditor at Energy New England, about the value of specialized, premium home energy audits and other areas of the home he focuses on working with homeowners. Hero Power customers interested in a premium virtual home energy audit may contact Energy New England at 888-772-4242.
To watch the full Virtual Home Energy Audit, check out the video below.