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Glossary of Improvements

Blower Door Test:

By using a fan to lower the inside air pressure of a building it is possible to determine the air infiltration rate through unsealed cracks and openings. Energy modeling software uses this information to calculate the building’s convective heat loss. This process is generally used on residences but can be used on small commercial buildings.

Building Envelope:

The roof, walls, windows, doors, and floors comprise the building envelope. By sealing air leaks and adding insulation you can improve the comfort and energy efficiency of your building. Drafts felt during the colder months are usually the result of unsealed spaces between the interior and exterior of a building. During the summer months those same unsealed spaces allow the conditioned air to escape to the outside. Air leakage and improperly installed insulation can waste over 20% of the energy used to heat and cool your building.

Caulk:

Flexible sealant used to fill gaps and cracks allows air infiltration. Eventually all buildings will need to replace or refresh their existing caulking. It is also the least expensive means of reducing your energy bill by as much as 10%. Preventing moisture and bugs from entering the building are added benefits.

Cool Roofs:

Building owners save money with a cool roof by reducing energy bills and the roof operating temperature, which may extend the service life of the roof. Just as wearing light-colored clothing can keep you cooler, cool roofs reflect solar rays to lower roof temperatures. The temperature of a traditional dark roof can reach a temperature of 150º F. However, under the same conditions a cool roof can stay more than 50º cooler.

Heating and cooling:

As much as half of your home’s energy usage comes from heating and cooling. Simple, cost-effective steps such as changing your air filter regularly, tuning up your HVAC equipment yearly and installing a programmable thermostat can save hundreds of dollars every year on energy, maintenance and repair costs. Heating and cooling equipment that is more than 10 years old or not keeping your house comfortable should be evaluated by a professional HVAC contractor. If you decide to replace your system make sure you hire a qualified contractor. Improper installation can reduce system efficiency by up to 30 percent.

Insulation:

This is the best defense against heat loss and heat gain through your building envelope. Wall, ceiling and subfloor insulation comes in many forms, making installation easy and cost-effective in all types of buildings. The most common types of insulation are fiberglass batts, blow-in fiberglass, cellulose, rigid board, and spray foam. In addition to the typical insulation, radiant barriers can be added to attics to reduce summer heat gain. The radiant barrier material is made of a heavyweight foil and works by reflecting the infrared energy away from the structure. Increasing insulation levels and reducing air leakage, will not only reduce the amount of energy your current HVAC system uses, but when the time comes to replace your equipment a smaller; more efficient; and less costly system will be needed.

Sealing heating and cooling ducts:

Improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent by sealing the ducts. Concentrate on ducts located in the attic, crawlspace and other unconditioned areas. Use duct sealant (mastic) to seal the connections. Then wrap them in insulation to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Sealing and insulating:

When the envelope of your home — its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors — is sealed and insulted, it is often the most cost effective way to improve energy efficiency and comfort. ENERGY STAR estimates that a knowledgeable homeowner or skilled contractor can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% on their total annual energy bill) by sealing and insulating. If do-it-yourself home improvement projects aren’t for you consider hiring a contractor who uses special diagnostic tools to pinpoint and seal hidden air leaks in your home.

Water conservation measures:

Saving water can save the household budget. Low flow fixtures, hot water delivery options, drip irrigation systems and smart irrigation controllers are just a few ways to reduce water usage and help the environment.

Window Replacement:

The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient or SHGC of a window or door is the percentage of radiant heat that penetrates the glass. The lower a window’s SHGC, the less solar heat it transmits. Solar heat gain can provide free heat in the winter but can lead to overheating in the summer. By taking into account the climate, orientation, and shading conditions the solar heat gain can be balanced with windows having an appropriate SHGC.

Weather-stripping:

Sealing with weather stripping around doors and windows reduces drafts and increases the efficiency of the building. On a typical 36 inch exterior door a quarter inch gap can leak as much air as a nine square inch hole in the wall. Weather stripping comes in a variety of forms to fit every application, including door thresholds, wall outlets, tubular gaskets, adhesive-backed foam or tape, and V-strips, to name just a few.

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