WEATHERPROOFING AND SAVING ENERGY
For those who don’t live in temperate areas, home weatherization – AKA weatherproofing – can help you save huge on energy. Whether you’re trying to keep your house hot or cold, windows, doors, ceilings, walls, and floors must be properly sealed in insulated. As most people won’t be building their house from scratch – when inner-wall insulation is easiest to install– there are cheap and easy approaches one can take to cut down on energy costs that don’t require a building permit.
First, make sure your house is air tight by caulking/foaming all the gaps and holes and insuring that there’s functional weather stripping around the doors and windows. A common problem area is the gap between doors and the floor. To plug this gap, use a homemade excluder, which you can create by stuffing a pair of tights with socks, rice, lentils, or gravel. Keyholes, letterboxes, and doggy/kitty doors are major causes of draught. To thwart this issue, covers can be paced over keyholes and dog/cat door flaps can be bulked up using sheep wool insulation or pieces of a thick blanket. With regards to your letterbox, brush-like draught excluders can either be purchased, or made from basic household items.
Energy can also be conserved by closing the doors and air supply registers in unused rooms and closets. Fireplaces with chimneys are major contributors to heat loss. To inhibit this loss, special laminate devices called chimney balloons can be placed inside the chimney, just above eyesight. Similarly, woolen insulators called flueblockers can also be made or purchased and subsequently shoved into your chimney hole. Whichever option you choose though, remember to take it out before starting a fire.
If your house uses radiation heat exchangers, heat can be directed away from the walls (where it quickly dissipates into the outside world) by using tin foil. Simply line the wall behind the radiators with regular kitchen foil (although there are specialty foils that can be bought which are more effective). Additionally, make sure that your radiators aren’t blocked by bulky furniture. If you have high ceilings or radiators that are below windows, you can help channel their warmth by installing wall-mounted shelves above them.
Windows (especially in old houses) are major sources of heat loss. Single pane windows are the worst; allowing cold air to infiltrate with minimal ease. Double glazing (having two layers of glass with a space between them) helps tremendously, but it is rather expensive. A cheap fix is to buy and install thick, thermal lined, curtains. Cheap fleece, old rugs, and even PVC shower curtains can be hung over both windows and doors to reduce heat loss. Additionally, special films can be adhered over top your windows, giving the same effect as double glazing – the only caveat being that once you’ve installed the film, you can no longer open the window.
For those of you with uncarpeted floors (and especially those with wood flooring), utilizing rugs and/or blankets on the ground prevents heat from escaping through the floor. If there are cracks or gaps in your flooring, inject them with silicone-based fillers that will contract and expand with the wood. Rugs and floor mats have the added advantage of keeping your feet warm!
Along with carpets and rugs for the ground, insulation for the ceiling is also a must. Cheap rolls of fiberglass insulation can be purchased from the local hardware store and placed in your attic or loft. Because hot air rises, an insulated ceiling is your best bet for trapping heat. Keep in mind, however, that you must also insulate the access hatch to your loft or attic. This can be easily done by adhering insulation to the top and fortifying the perimeter with the same weather stripping used on windows and doors. While we’re on the topic of ceilings, if you live in a hot climate, painting your roof white will reflect more of the sun’s heat, thereby lowering your cooling costs.
If your heating system has an adjustable timer, use it. If it doesn’t, buy one. There is no need to have your heater on full blast if you are gone or sleeping soundly under a thick duvet. You should also program the thermostat to turn on earlier than needed (rather than cranking up the heat to full blast when you get cold) so it can gradually and efficiently warm the house to a comfortable temperature.
The hot water heater is a major source of energy consumption. Setting it at a lower temperature and wrapping it with an insulated blanket can dramatically reduce its energy draw. Other techniques to save on the electric/gas bill include: washing your clothes in cold water; changing/cleaning the filters in your heater, dishwasher, etc.; and making sure that your air conditioning unit is in the shade. It is also prudent to replace old heaters/coolers with energy efficient appliances. Although you will pay more initially, you’ll save money in the long run. Unplugging your electronics at night will cut standby power loads and using solar, CFL, or LED lights will reduce your energy demand for lighting.