Home Energy conservation Ask Eartha: Keeping Homes Comfortable and Energy Efficient This Winter

Ask Eartha: Keeping Homes Comfortable and Energy Efficient This Winter


Identifying and fixing air leaks in the home is an affordable way to stay warm during the winter.
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Dear Eartha, I am still shocked at this time of year when my energy bills are skyrocketing. I don’t want to face another season of high bills and drafts at home. Is there anything I can do to keep my house warm and my bills low?

It’s that time of year: When the first layer of snow appears on the peaks of the Tenmile Range, it not only heralds a change of seasons, but also fosters an increase in energy efficiency calls. Fortunately for locals, satisfying the need for a warm, low-cost home is our specialty. For those who want to know how to best prepare their homes for winter, I’m excited to share what I’ve learned over the years living and working on homes across the county.

An efficient and cozy mountain house

It is a universal truth that we want to feel comfortable in our homes. For those who aren’t – whether it’s too cold or too drafty – it can be difficult to know where to start, and you might not realize there is anything you can do. thing to remedy the situation. More often than not, the friends and neighbors I chat with think that improving the efficiency of their homes means costly upgrades to mechanical systems or replacing windows. Do not be afraid ! Energy conservation and comfort are activities that should never start with these expensive solutions. Instead, energy professionals like to focus on simple, affordable projects that we call the Fruit at Hand.

The one most often listed at the top of the priority list for weatherizing homes in Summit County is patching air leaks. Finding leaks – places where warm indoor air escapes to the outdoors – is a common problem. All of these small spaces and cracks add up and a house can leak more than half of its air every hour under normal living conditions in the middle of winter. It is not uncommon for these leaks to account for almost half of a homeowner’s total energy costs.

Why plug air leaks?

Since the airtightness of our homes accounts for almost half of our annual energy costs, this unique factor in a home’s performance accounts for the biggest slice of the energy consumption pie. Even newly built homes must now meet airtightness standards. Air leaks can be found anywhere in a home, and during an air leak test, an infrared imaging camera can be used to visually identify where outside air is seeping in or where it is. indoor air escapes.

With an infrared thermal camera, we can even take pictures of these leaks to report their locations to a homeowner or contractor. Once identified, these leaks can often be sealed with weatherstripping, caulking, foam or other sealants. Most often, the biggest air leaks do not come from our doors and windows, but rather from our attic access panels, window trims, doors, baseboards, outlets and switches, bathroom fans and lighting fixtures. Any penetration into the thermal perimeter of the house can cause air leakage and often does.

Beyond the obvious inefficiency of wasting your heated air to the outdoors, air leaks negatively contribute to our homes in other ways. Where we have air movement, we also have moisture movement. Air leaks can bring moisture into our homes in areas where we don’t want moisture to build up. For this reason, air leakage is considered a problem of long-term durability of buildings. Second, the insulation is only optimal when there is no air movement. If you want this expensive insulation upgrade to really work well, you’d better tighten up the house first to minimize air movement through your layers of insulation.

What about the air quality?

A long-standing popular argument for a leaky home is that leaks keep our indoor air fresh and continually recycled. While it is true that our homes need fresh air to maintain healthy indoor air quality, we should bring in that outdoor air on our terms, where and when we want it.

Sticking to the old building adage, “build tightly, ventilate well,” we should first build our house as tightly as possible to keep the heated air we paid for. We can then ventilate the house using specific systems to keep things cool. The best current ventilation technology collects heat from the outgoing air and releases it into the fresh air entering the home. These heat recovery systems keep energy efficiency in mind as they ensure that even the narrowest houses are very healthy for us.

To learn more about air leaks and their impact on your home, contact the High Country Conservation Center to receive a comprehensive energy audit that includes comprehensive leak testing and infrared imaging.

Cody jensen