One of the biggest concerns during winter is maintaining a comfortable climate inside the home. However, if your home lacks sufficient insulation, this can get expensive. Heat is an expert escape artist, which means the more escape routes your home contains, the more money you’re going to spend replenishing what you lose. To address this, we’ve asked seven Diamond Certified Experts to give their advice on keeping in the heat during the winter months.
1. Maximize window efficiency. When assessing the many escape routes for furnace-generated heat, windows are at the top of the list. Even if your home has quality double-pane windows (if not, it should), Bob Haven of Window Haven suggests a couple of ways to further augment their performance. One is having them glazed with a low-emissivity (low-E) coating, which is an invisible layer that decreases the amount of heat allowed to pass through the glass. Another option is to add argon or krypton gas between the dual panes, which can reduce heat loss by as much as 20 percent during the winter.
While important, glass isn’t the only aspect of a window’s efficiency. For example, Dave Flores of Javco Window & Glass Contractors, Inc. points out that window frames can have a substantial impact as well, which is why you should consider replacing yours if they’re outdated or inefficient. For a mid-priced home, a good replacement choice is vinyl window frames. Whereas conventional aluminum window frames readily conduct heat and cold, vinyl frames provide ample insulation, supplementing the performance of your window glass.
Yet another way to increase your windows’ efficiency is by installing a high-quality window covering. Amanda Lafferty of National Blinds & Flooring Inc. suggests putting up heavy draperies, which, besides making a stylish aesthetic statement, create a thick barrier against air transmission. If you’re looking for something that’s a little less dramatic but still has good insulating properties, Alan Robinette of Window-ology recommends cellular (aka “honeycomb”) shades. Regardless of what characteristics you’re looking for, a quality window covering dealer can help you find a product that combines your aesthetic preferences and functional needs.
2. Seal your attic. Everyone knows heat rises, so it should come as no surprise that another common escape route is gaps between the living space and the attic. To prevent this, Greg Sutliff of Alcal Specialty Contracting, Inc. recommends having your attic professionally sealed and reinforced with insulation. By sealing joints where the wall meets the ceiling (as well as gaps where electrical wires, water lines, vents and mechanical equipment enter the attic), you can reduce your HVAC system’s workload, saving energy and money in the process.
3. Eliminate minor sources of air loss. Even if you have quality windows and a well-insulated attic, Dustin Cook of D. Cook Construction says there are a several other, less conspicuous areas through which heat can escape. Some of these include un-insulated light switches, circuit plugs and baseboards, as well as gaps around and beneath exterior doors. Added together, these breaches can represent a substantial drain on your home’s energy efficiency. Fortunately, most of these can be easily eliminated with products like caulking, expansive foam and weatherstripping. Prior to winter, inspect your home for sources of air transmission and employ an appropriate insulating application where needed.
4. Repair leaky ductwork. While it’s important to eliminate escape routes for heat in your living space, another area to check is your HVAC system, primarily the air ducts. According to Mike Rebholtz of Alternative Heating & Air Conditioning Solutions, Inc., by repairing leaky ductwork, you’ll likely see your utility bills decrease by 20 to 30 percent. So, if you can’t remember the last time your ductwork was looked at, have an HVAC professional conduct an inspection to assess its condition.
To learn more about home energy efficiency and other topics, visit our Diamond Certified Expert Reports at experts.diamondcertified.org.