Do it Yourself Energy Efficiency Projects: Your Home’s Thermal Envelope (Part 4)

Do it Yourself Energy Efficiency Projects: Your Home’s Thermal Envelope (Part 4)

The most expensive part of doing laundry is using hot water. And while you might be able to switch to using warm or cold water for your laundry, having hot water for bathing or cooking or washing dishes is an important convenience. Currently, the most efficient way to heat water for a home is an on-demand water heater. While these are increasing in popularity in the US, most homes still rely on the old tank-style water heater. Basically, its a 40 or so gallon tank of water that is heated either by natural gas or electric heating elements. True, the method works well but most of the energy used by tank water heaters is just for maintaining hot water on stand-by and ready for use. That means, it’s heating water when you are asleep or at work or on vacation. So, a lot of energy is wasted. Water heater tanks are wrapped with insulation but adding more will save energy.

Put a water heater blanket around your water heater. Most water heater blankets at the home center tend to be about an inch thick so that they can be sold in one piece but not be too heavy to be held up with tape. These are made of plastic-covered fiberglass and you wrap them around your water heater. In terms of R factors of insulation (R-value indicates an insulation’s resistance to heat flow), you will adding about 3 R’s worth.

You can make water heater blanket with higher R-values. One method is to use reflective aluminum foil insulation (a.k.a. foil-clad bubble-wrap) and cut enough strips long enough to go around your water heater twice. You could then add the store-bought water heater blanket and have an R-value of more than 7.5. With this amount of insulation, you should be able to turn down your heater’s thermostat and save even more money.

For safety, do not block any of the control panels, block off the bottom, or put any of insulation across the top of your water heater. Never obstruct the pressure release valve.

Keeping your hot water hot doesn’t stop at the water heater. Insulating your hot water pipes will also save energy and cut energy costs. Consider this: each time you turn on the tap for your shower, you let the water run until it gets warm. Let’s say the pipe from you water heater to your shower is 20 feet long. Now, that might only be a quart but that can turn into a couple of hundred gallons for a family of four in the course of a year. Also, consider that after your shower, there is still hot water in the pipe. By adding insulation, that heated water will cool more slowly. If you insulate your pipes efficiently enough, heat from the water heater will be more efficiently contained in your hot water pipes. You won’t need to wait as long for that hot water, you will waste less water, and you will save more money.

Just Venting…

There are several ways you can improve the efficiency of your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC). If you have an old thermostat that isn’t programmable, turn off your furnace circuit breaker, carefully disconnect the thermostat from your wall, and throw it out.

Programmable thermostats can be found for under $ 25, are commonly found in home centers, and are easy to install. They connect to the same four wire leads that hooked up to your old thermostat. By programming temperature settings in your house to be colder during the winter or warmer during the summer when you are asleep or away, you can save energy and money.

Another easy way of increasing efficiency is to monitor your system’s air filters regularly. Depending on your lifestyle, you should change the filters regularly. If where you live tends to be dusty from busy nearby streets or if you have pets, change the filters every month. In some homes, it can be done every three months.

While disposable filters are cheaper, their expense builds quickly over time. Consider purchasing two washable air filters. Washable air filters usually cost less than $ 20 and can be rinsed out in a bathtub with hot, soapy water (in the summer, I hit mine with a pressure washer). By buying two, you can swap in a clean, dry one right way when its time to change out the other dirty filter.

One way to significantly improve your HVAC is to check your duct work thoroughly to be sure the system is sealed. A home owner can save up to $ 300 from their annual heating and cooling costs by sealing their duct work. Start at your HVAC system and feel for moving air coming from small holes or gaps in the duct work. When you find one, put a piece of aluminum HVAC tape over the hole. Remember: The volume of air leaked adds up; the more leaks you have the less efficient your system is. Check the entire run of your duct work; feel for air leaking from ductwork seams and loose joints. Check at the corners where the metal is folded for leaks, too. Also, make sure that air intake vents are not blocked by furniture or clogged with pet fur.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy Home Energy Saver website, insulating ducts in the typical American home costs about $ 250. Duct insulation will pay for itself in energy savings in about two and a half years, and continue to save energy and money in years to come. Depending on your duct work, there are many ways of doing this. Some 6 inch and 8 inch diameter sheet-metal ductwork can be replaced with insulated flexible ducting that costs less than $ 40 for 25 feet at a home center. If you use this, be sure to attach it so that it is snug with the supply ductwork and use aluminum HVAC tape. Other rectangular metal ductwork can be insulated with reflective aluminum foil insulation (foil-clad bubble-wrap), craft-faced fiberglass insulation, and regular gray duct tape.

Remember: you do not need to insulate the HVAC system intake ductwork, just the output side.

Bounce Energy is a Texas Electric Company based in Houston. Bounce Energy’s goal is provide more than low Texas Electric Rates to our customers. With innovative and flexible plans, excellent customer service, and superior customer rewards, Bounce Energy offers a unique approach to Texas electricity.

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