Finding where your home is losing heat can help you save hundreds of dollars a year in energy costs. While each home is individual, most of the heat loss can be traced back to one of five major areas. By looking at each of these areas of your home, you can determine the best way to minimize heat loss and help keep your family warm and your energy bills down at the same time.
Attics can account for 15 to 45 percent of a home's energy loss. The exact amount depends upon where you live, when your home was built and how cold your attic gets. Older homes typically lack sufficient attic insulation. According to Energy Star, attics should have between 12 to 15 inches of insulation with an R-value between R-30 to R-60, depending on where you live. The R-value is a measure of the insulation's ability to keep heat from moving through it. Weatherstripping attic hatches and doors will help prevent heat loss.
Homes with forced-air heating and cooling systems lose about 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through its duct system due to leaks and poorly sealed connections. According to the Tennessee Valley Authority, if you lose 20 percent of the airflow due to leaks, the efficiency of your heating and cooling system can drop by 50 percent. Ducts can be difficult to repair because they are concealed behind walls, floors and ceilings. You can repair and insulate ducts exposed in attics, basements or crawlspaces. If you are in the process of replacing a forced-air system, have the ductwork inspected by the contractor.
Electrical sockets, such as light switches and outlets, are often a major cause of heat loss in homes. Not only do they allow warm air out, but they also let cool air in. Replace any broken cover plates and cover any unused outlets with an insulator. Install foam insulating gaskets behind the covers, and place child safety plugs over electrical plugs to help reduce heat loss.
Leaks in walls can cause a home to lose up to one-third of its energy, according to William Kemp, author of "Smart Power" and "The Renewable Energy Handbook." Gaps around baseboards, sockets, doors and windows can add up to a major size hole. Small cracks can be sealed with caulk while large holes can be filled with foam for just a few dollars. If you have a fireplace, you should also check the damper. If the damper doesn't close properly, heat can escape when the fireplace is not in use.
Doors and Windows
Doors and windows are another major loss of heat in homes, either through leaks around the edges or through single-paned glass. Installing storm windows and doors can reduce your heat costs by up to 15 percent. Other options include weatherstripping around doors and covering windows with heat-shrinkable plastic in the winter.
- EnergyRight: Powerful Money Saving Ideas from TVA and Your Local Power Company
- Canadian House & Home: Improve Your Home's Energy Efficiency
- Planet Green.com: The Great (Heat) Escape; Josh Peterson; June 2008
- HeatUSA; How to Find and Seal Heat Leaks; Rosela Sartaguda; January 2011
- Coldwater: Energy & Water Conservation
- NorthWest Arkansas Community College: How to Conserve Energy at Home
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