Weatherization

What is weatherization?

Weatherization is the process of protecting your home and family from the elements. Weatherization takes place both inside and outside the home, and can also include projects in your yard. The goal of any weatherization project is to reduce convective heat transfer: the unwanted transfer of heat from one part of the home to another.

Heat loss in an average home

If you’ve ever caught a chill from being in a drafty room in the winter, you’ve experienced an unwanted convective heat transfer. The heat in the room is “escaping” and the air temperature is decreasing. In this case, you could put on a sweater. But a better decision is to address the room’s heat transfer with a weatherization project.

What does weatherization do?

An effective weatherization project will prevent convective heat transfer. The result should be a room with a stable and predictable air temperature. You and your family will notice the improvement right away, when your rooms are more comfortable in heating season and all year ’round.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy,

The benefits of weatherization begin with reducing the energy bills of recipients for a long period of time. Some measures, such as insulating walls or roofs, for example, can provide savings for the lifetime of a house—30 years or more. Other measures, such as making heating or cooling equipment more efficient, will provide savings for 10–15 years. On average, the value of the weatherization improvements is 2.2 times greater than the cost. (“What is Weatherization?“)

That’s a healthy savings for anyone!

Do it yourself weatherization projects

There are several weatherization projects that anyone can complete with a few basic tools and the right materials.

Weatherization rebate and assistance programs

  • Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program provides grants to states, territories, and some Indian tribes to improve the energy efficiency of the homes of low-income families. These governments, in turn, contract with local governments and nonprofit agencies to provide weatherization services to those in need using the latest technologies for home energy upgrades.
  • WAPTAC: Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center is a detailed reference site for Weatherization Assistance Program professionals and homeowners who want to find the technical information about their programs.
  • The National Association of State Energy Officials State and Territory Energy Offices map has state contact information for homeowners interested in finding weatherization resources and programs in their communities.
  • Utility companies and co-ops often have rebates or low-interest loans available for homeowners who want to use home performance contractors for a weatherization project. Check the inserts in your billing statement, or the utility’s website, for information about available weatherization and home energy efficiency rebates and programs.

Additional weatherization resources

  • The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is a nonprofit organization that advocates for energy efficiency “to achieve greater economic prosperity, energy security, and environmental protection” for all Americans. Their residential energy resource portal includes information on home energy efficiency, weatherization, and the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings.
  • The Environmental Defense Fund develops policy and business models to improve energy efficiency, grow the economy, and help consumers save money on their home energy costs. Their energy efficiency resources page features studies of the benefits of weatherization, and includes a discussion of on-bill repayment programs for home improvement loans. These programs are becoming more common for homeowners who want to undertake weatherization projects but might not qualify for federal or state assistance.

Is your home ready for fall weather?

We know that you can’t predict the weather, but the change of seasons is just around the corner. With fall comes cooler temperatures, rain and wind, and extreme weather like hurricanes, tornadoes, and snow and ice storms. Fortunately, you can prepare your home and family for anything the season brings by taking a few simple steps this weekend. Here are our newest fall home weatherization tips:

A house in fall.

Fall weatherization of your home’s exterior

Got a drafty room? Over time, houses “settle” and gaps or cracks can appear between windows and doors, where materials and walls meet, or along your foundation where pipes or conduits enter the home. Check these areas of your home to prevent heat loss. If your exterior doors are weather stripped, check that the seal is tight and your strip and threshold are clean.

Moisture is your home’s enemy, especially in the winter when pipes can freeze and crack. Double check your water pipes and be sure to have your lawn sprinkler system flushed and turned off before the first frost.

If your home has rain gutters, now is the time to make sure they are clean and free of debris. You can also install a rain gutter guard in an afternoon, which will help keep leaves and debris out of your gutters.

Fall weatherization of your home’s interior

Check for air leakage around your window and door frames. If you can feel a draft, use transparent weather sealing tape to seal the gaps between the frame and wall.

Cozy fall fireplace

If you’re looking forward to curling up in front of a fire when the weather turns cool, be sure to hire a licensed chimney sweep to inspect and clean your chimney, flue, and fireplace.

Examine your HVAC system. It might be time to clean your filters, or replace them. . If your system is older, hire a certified HVAC professional to check it out and tune it up. Your professional technician can also help you identify inefficient or worn out parts of your system so you can get peak heating performance throughout the fall and winter.

Take care of your home’s weatherization needs before the fall weather hits, and you’ll keep your home comfortable for your family all season long.

Behavioral energy efficiency: how you live affects how your home performs

Remember when Mom used to tell you to shut off the light when you left a room? Or when Dad told you to put on a sweater if you’re cold? It turns out they were ahead of their time! More and more home energy professionals recommend behavioral energy efficiency as an effective way to lower your home energy costs. Just like Mom and Dad. But what exactly are behavioral adjustments, and which ones are the most effective?

Pisgah Home, Highland Park Historic District

A “nudge” toward behavioral energy efficiency

In the past few years, we’ve heard a lot about behavioral “nudges.” These nudges are small changes in the way we work and live that have the power to help us make better decisions and improve our results. One of the most common examples is about saving money for retirement. It was presented in the book Nudge, by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. The argument is that

many Americans are not saving enough for retirement… ‘in 2005 the personal savings rate for Americans was negative for the first time since 1932 and 1933 – the Great Depression years.’

To improve the savings rate, Thaler and Sunstein argue, we need to make a small change to the way retirement savings plans like 401(k)s and 403(b)s work. Their solution? Make retirement savings plans opt-out instead of opt-in. “Nudge” folks to save money by making the savings effortless and easy to manage, and we should all begin to save more for retirement. No more worrying about balancing our portfolios, asset allocations, rates of return, or any of the details that can overwhelm us and stop us from taking action.

Behavioral energy efficiency nudges work in the same way.

If you want to save money on your home energy expenses, the first thing you need to know is where, exactly, is your money going? The average American family spends more than $2,500 each year on home energy. But that doesn’t all go to the light bulbs burning in empty rooms, or the teenager standing in front of an open refrigerator.

Know yourself, know your home energy costs

A house sitting on a stack of money
Go green and save some green!

Home heating and cooling, along with domestic hot water (DHW), account for the lion’s share of your home energy bills. That means that controlling home energy costs begins with understanding those costs. Our Heating Energy Assessment Tool uses home performance data from your utility bill to show you your exact heating, cooling, and DHW costs down to the penny. Now that you know these costs, you can nudge yourself and your family in the right direction.

Maybe a programmable thermostat is right for you, or you’d like to try replacing your 3 most frequently used incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs. Your utility company or state government might have weatherization incentives available, so that you can take advantage of professional air sealing and weather stripping work. A RESNET or BPI certified home performance contractor can work with you to complete a whole house energy audit and plan home improvement projects to maximize your savings and your comfort.

Because how you live affects how you use energy, it can be easy to start saving money today. There are tools, professionals, and incentive and rebate programs available to help you. And at the very least, we can remember Mom, and turn off the lights in an empty room.

What is a programmable thermostat?

One of the most effective ways to control your home heating and cooling costs is to use a programmable thermostat to monitor your HVAC system and maintain a comfortable temperature in your rooms. According to Consumer Reports’ Top Thermostat Reviews,

Programmable thermostats can trim about $180 a year from your energy bill by automatically reducing your heating or cooling when you need it least. Some thermostats tested by Consumer Reports were easy to set and use but others were so complicated that you might end up spending more on energy, not less.

Every family lives differently in their homes, so the programmable thermostat your neighbor just installed may not be the best choice for you. Finding the correct equipment for your home and family is part of what’s called “right sizing” an HVAC system. This means just what it sounds like: designing, installing, testing, and maintaining the appropriate equipment to maximize your family’s comfort and health, and minimize your home heating and cooling energy bills.

What is a programmable thermostat?

A programmable thermostat is a sensor connected to your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) system. It can turn your HVAC system on and off, in order to maintain a comfortable temperature. There are many different types of programmable thermostats, but they all work according to the same principles.

A basic programmable thermostat from Honeywell

What are the benefits of a programmable thermostat?

Set it and forget it! If you have a regular thermostat in your home you might find yourself adjusting it several times a day, as you leave for work and come home, or when you go to sleep and wake up. The most basic programmable thermostats will do this for you. All you have to do is input a time of day and temperature. Your new thermostat will take care of the work.

More advanced programmable thermostats are sometimes called “learning thermostat” title=”learning thermostats” target=”_blank”>learning thermostats.” Learning thermostats are basic programmable thermostats with additional sensors and software. The sensors are activated when you or your family move in and out of rooms. Software connected to the sensors then activates your HVAC system to raise or lower the room temperature to the comfortable level you programmed into the thermostat. Over time, these thermostats learn when you are home and when you are away, and program themselves to manage your HVAC system for you. Some of them are even connected to the Internet, so you can use your laptop or phone to control your home’s temperature while you’re away.

Is a programmable or learning thermostat the right choice for you? Get your home’s full heating energy assessment today: it’s fast and accurate and will give you actionable information to take the next step.

Want more ideas on how to save money on your home energy costs? Just sign up for our Home Energy Performance Newsletter. It’s full of the information and ideas you need to make your home less expensive to operate and more comfortable – and healthier – to live in.

HEAT: a revolutionary new home energy assessment tool

Understanding home heating energy performance just got a whole lot easier. The new Heating Energy Assessment Tool (HEAT) from AREVS is a RESNET Approved, easy to use web-based application that tells home energy professionals, homeowners, and renters whether or not a home is in need of energy retrofits or upgrades. Using patented algorithms that are normalized for house size and geographical location, and information from its utility bill, HEAT provides a heating energy audit for a home in under 5 minutes. A simple A+ through F grade range gives instant understanding of home heating performance. .

Try it today for free.

Advantages for Professionals:
• A “first line” assessment tool to determine if a home needs further envelope assessment.
• Can be used for performance-based quality assurance verification for homes that have undergone weatherization upgrades.
• Eliminates need for on-site inspections.
• Offers opportunity for en masse initial ratings.
• Pre-qualified leads sent directly to your sales team.
• Use HEAT as a complement to asset-based rating programs.

Advantages for Homeowners:
• Economical and easy to use.
• Information from a single energy bill results in a custom HEAT Assessment in less than 5 minutes.
• Determine energy consumption and costs for heating, air conditioning and hot water.
• Provides an accurate assessment of whether a home is in need of energy retrofits or upgrades.
• Provides an accurate assessment of whether a home is in need of a further envelope assessment from a certified RESNET professional.
• Verify energy savings achieved through weatherization and energy upgrades.
• Know a home’s PITI+E payment: Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance, and Energy – the true cost of home ownership.

RESNET is offering both home energy professionals and homeowners a one-time free Heating Energy Assessment to demonstrate how HEAT works. Afterwards, you can purchase a detailed HEAT Rating Report from AREVS with your home’s exact A+ through F alpha grade, unique Energy Rating Number, and heating and cooling fuel consumption and cost data.

Keep cool this summer: easy tips for everyone

We’re ready to put a long winter behind us, but we also want to harness some of that cold air for the dog days of summer. For many people, air conditioning is the beginning and end of the story. But air conditioning is just one of the ways that you and your family can keep cool this summer.

Happy Family, by Guirec Maugat.

The real key for keeping cool is to keep air moving throughout your home. Here’s how to keep cool this summer: easy tips for everyone to try.

  • If you can, open the windows to let air into your home. Not only will this help you become acclimated to warmer temperatures, but the air circulating through your rooms will help keep them cool.
  • Use a floor fan or table fan to pull air into your home. Strategically placed fans away from windows will move air deeper into a room, helping air circulation.
  • Install a ceiling fan in your bedroom to help you sleep more comfortably, and another in your living room to keep your family cool during the dog days of summer.
  • Tune up your air conditioner. The average air conditioner uses as much as 500 watts of electricity during the cooling season. In many parts of the country, August and September are hotter than July! Older or inefficient models will use more, costing you more this summer.

Air conditioner tips and tricks

Even if a new air conditioner isn’t in your budget, there are steps you can take to improve your current model’s performance.

Air Conditioner by HomeSpot HQ

One painless step is to raise your thermostat’s temperature during the day. Why pay to cool the air if no one is at home? Just a two degree increase can save big money each year.

You can do this manually, or install a programmable thermostat. There are many models available, from a basic digital timer to advanced “learning” thermostats that adapt to the way you live in your home.

If you’re not sure where to begin, a certified home performance professional can help you rate your home’s energy efficiency and find the best deals for your wallet and your home. They can help you determine the right size and model air conditioner for you and your home, take advantage of rebates and incentive programs, and make sure your home is performing at its peak.

Air sealing with caulk

Air sealing is one of the most important – and effective – steps you can take to make your home more energy efficient. One easy do it yourself project is air sealing with caulk.

800px-Caulking,_USAF

Caulk is a flexible sealant applied over joints and gaps in your home: between your shower and the floor, for example, or between the window frame and the window. When you seal these spaces you keep air from leaking outside your home, and your HVAC system doesn’t have to work as hard to keep your rooms at a comfortable temperature.

Is air sealing with caulk the right choice for you? Get your home’s full energy assessment today: it’s fast and accurate and will give you actionable information to take the next step. Click here to use your assessment data and save even more time.

Want more ideas on how to save money on your home energy costs? Just sign up for our Home Energy Performance Newsletter. It’s full of the information and ideas you need to make your home less expensive to operate and more comfortable – and healthier – to live in.

How will the Green Button Initiative work for you?

What is the Green Button Initiative?

Launched in January 2012, the Green Button Initiative provides utility customers with their home energy usage data, directly from the utility’s website. Just click the green button icon and go.

With this information at their fingertips, consumers would be enabled to make more informed decisions about their energy use and, when coupled with opportunities to take action, empowered to actively manage their energy use. – U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra

Green Button Dowonload My Data
Look for this button on your utility’s website!

How will the Green Button Initiative work for you?

Having your home energy usage data is good. What you can do with it is even better. Data from your utility company about your own energy usage can help you reduce high energy costs. You can see exactly what you’re spending on heating, cooling, and hot water. Understanding your home energy costs is the first step toward using home energy efficiency to reduce those costs. It may be as simple as changing the way you use your home, or you may decide to hire a professional to complete a whole house energy audit.

According to the Department of Energy, which is advising utilities and businesses on data standards and program implementation, only 35 companies currently support the Green Button Initiative. More have pledged to do so, and many others will join the program in the future. If you want to know more about the technical aspects of the Green Button Initiative, check out the independent web site Green Button Data, or the US government’s data.gov Green Button web site.

Home Automation

Imagine using your smartphone to control your thermostat from your office, or while you’re coming home from vacation. What about adjusting your interior or exterior lighting based on real time weather reports instead of preset timers?

Sound too good to be true? It isn’t. Home automation systems are widely available now, thanks to new technology that gives you more control over your home – and how you live in it – than ever before.

A recent study by the home improvement store Lowe’s found that

U.S. homeowners would prefer a smartphone-enabled, do-it-yourself platform for home automation over a closed, subscription-based system. (

This DIY approach is a great solution for homeowners who want the most flexibility and control over their homes. Many people are already familiar with home automation in the form of basic programmable thermostats and zoned heating and cooling systems. These are two of the easiest upgrade projects, and they can begin repaying your investment immediately. Adding a learning thermostat can save up to 20% of your home’s energy consumption.

Home automation interface

Advanced home automation systems include desktop software, mobile apps, and home appliances that respond to your controls through a simple interface. Centralized control of lighting, HVAC systems, and kitchen appliances may help you optimize your home’s energy efficiency and increase your family’s comfort with the touch of a button.

You can install some home automation components, like thermostats and lighting timers, yourself. All you need are the manufacturer’s instructions and a few common tools.

Advanced home automation systems may require professional installation and setup. This will link your home’s hardware to the manufacturer’s software or third-party apps, and you will have total control over every part of your home.

Is a home automation system the right choice for you?

Want more ideas on how to save money on your home energy costs? JustIt’s full of the information and ideas you need to make your home less expensive to operate and more comfortable – and healthier – to live in.

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Energy efficient refrigerators

Refrigerators and freezers can be some of the biggest energy hogs in your home. They draw electricity around the clock, not just when the kids leave the door open – as much as 18% of your energy costs each year. And we often forget to clean the mechanical parts, making the compressor and radiator work harder with each passing year. Energy efficient refrigerators don’t need to be brand new. We have tips on how to get the best performance out of what you already have.

Vintage fridge. Avocado green. Bell bottoms not included.
Vintage fridge. Avocado green. Bell bottoms not included.

Got one that looks like this? It may still be running, but it’s costing you much more than it should. According to Efficiency Vermont’s home appliance energy usage infographic, a 20 year old, 22 cubic foot refrigerator draws 1,475 kWh per year, costing you $236.

Have a slightly newer fridge? A 10 year old, 22 cubic foot model will draw about half the electricity, 857 kWh, and save you $100 per year on your bill. Brand new models offer even more savings: 537 kWh per year and an annual cost to operate of just $86!

But even if you’re not in the market for a new energy efficient refrigerator you can take a few steps to improve your kitchen energy efficiency.

Keep it clean.
Dust and grease can build up on the back of the refrigerator, making it more difficult for air to vent from the mechanicals and circulate around the unit. Wipe the exterior surfaces down when you clean your other appliances, and use a can of compressed air to remove dust if needed.

Keep it cool.
Your refrigerator’s job is to keep things cool, but we often place them next to the oven, or in direct sunlight. Any heat source will make the fridge work harder. Giving a little extra time to planning your kitchen can make your fridge’s life – and your own – easier.

A new fridge positioned away from direct sunlight and the oven and range.

Keep it closed.
We all know not to leave the refrigerator or freezer doors open, but even closed doors can let cold air out and warm air in. There’s a simple test to check how tightly your refrigerator doors are sealing: open the door and put a piece of paper inside. Now close the door. If you can pull the paper out easily, the door is not tightly sealed.

Fill ‘er up?
Keep it full, but not too full. Refrigerators are designed to use the food and drink inside them to help maintain an even temperature. An empty freezer or fridge will work harder to keep itself cool. But air need to circulate through the inside, so don’t fill it up all the way.

You don’t have to invest in new energy efficient refrigerators to save money on your home energy bills. A few simple changes to the way you use your appliances can make a big difference.

If you are in the market for a new fridge or freezer, be sure to consider an Energy Star rated model. Energy Star rated refrigerators and freezers are certified to use less electricity and save you money every month, and every year, you own them.