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How to increase energy efficiency by sealing and insulating your home

How to increase energy efficiency by sealing and insulating your home

Would you like to lower your utility bills, have a more comfortable environment in your home, and lower your carbon footprint? One of the most cost-effective things you can do to make your home more energy efficient and comforatble is to seal and insulate your home. Here are a few of the main culprits. Attic and basement air sealing will go a long way to improve your comfort because your house will no longer act like an open chimney.

 

 

 

Let’s start at the bottom;

In your crawl space or basement you should find the duct work for your HVAC. Sealing and insulating your ducts increases the efficiency of your HVAC, which means lowering your utility bills as well as providing a more energy efficient and comfortable environment. Ducts with holes and rips waste an incredible amount of energy. Use foil tape or mastic to repair any holes that you find, or call a professional HVAC company to do it for you. Your ducts should also be insulated, use insulation with at least a R-6 rating. Duct sealant, also known as duct mastic, is a paste, which is more durable than foil duct tape. It is available at home improvement centers. Your HVAC may be in the attic as well. If so, see below.

While you are under the house it is a great time to check for cracks and leaks in the basements as well to avoid stacking – which is when air is drawn into the house through cracks in the basement and then is drawn all the up through the attic. Look at the top of the basement wall where the floor system meets the top of the foundation wall. If you find any; a sealant or caulk are good for cracks less than 1/4 inch. Use spray foam to fill gaps from 1/4 inch to 3 inches. It is recommended that you seal penetrations that go through the basement ceiling to the floor above. These holes are for wires, water supply pipes, water drainpipes, the plumbing vent stack, and the furnace flue.

Now’s let’s look in the attic;

Do you have any can lights (also known as recessed lights) anywhere in your home? If so, make sure that the light is insulated and sealed properly to avoid energy efficiency issues as well as safety issues, like fire hazards. It may be best to consult a professional before sealing can lights or coming into contact with electrical components. Never put insulation back over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents and keep it at least 3 inches from can lights unless they are IC-rated.

Look for large holes as sealing them is the greatest bang for your buck. Look for areas where walls meet the attic floor and areas of dirty insulation, (black/brown stains on the underside of insulation indicate air is moving through it). Next look for smaller holes and seal them as well. In cold weather you can also look for frost/ which will appear stained in the same places in warm summer months. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the openings around plumbing vent pipes. When it is dry put the insulation back over it and cover it well.

Depending on how you get access to your attic you may want to put some weather stripping around the space you enter through and insulate the back of the door.

Stay tuned for many more energy saving tips to help your home be comfortable as it uses energy and saves your money.

Feel free to let us know how this info helped you, as well as any questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to check for and fix drainage issues around your home

How to check for and fix drainage issues around your home

As you refresh your flowers and landscaping around the house in the spring it is a great time to check for any drainage issues. You can do it any time of year, but it is good idea to purposely do it at least once a year in the spring, when any winter damage can be quickly spotted, and ideally again in the fall. Here’s how to check for and fix issues and why you should.

Water puddling up near your house, particularly any touching an exterior wall or foundation of your home isn’t good. Collected water can cause damage from seeping into the basement/ crawl space area and the potential for mold, eroding foundation and exterior walls, and weakening the posts holding up decks and porches are all expensive issues that come from it. Not to mention being a breeding ground for mosquitos, and who wants those around their house? A good rule of thumb is to aim for having no water settled, puddled, or pooled up around your home, particularly touching your home.

A few things to look for are planters, downspouts, foundations, and under porches and decks. We’ll go through each and share what to look for and how to remedy any issues you may find.

  1. First let’s check any planters, raised beds, and flower beds adjacent to your home for any standing water. Planters and raised beds are specifically built to retain water for the benefit of the plants, but that benefit also acts like a dam trapping water which isn’t ideal next to the exterior of a house or foundation. Depending on the construction and grading of the land in flower beds they too, can hold water near the foundation of the house. If you see standing water the goal is to create a way for the water to roll away from the house. Moving planters and raised beds away from the house is often sufficient to make space for the water to move away. If not, call a landscaper or Google foundation drainage fixes for several options that you can DIY. For flower beds, if there is water pooling near the house the fix is often grading the bed so the water rolls away from the house meaning there is a slight slope to the bed and the ground is highest near the house and goes slightly downhill away from the house. You can also employ mulch, rocks, French drains and all sorts of other things to help get the water away from the house and keep it away.
  2. Next, let’s check downspouts which are an important extension of the roof and gutter system that is designed to safely remove water from the house. The first thing to do is to walk around the house either while it is raining or shortly after it has rained and look both up and down. You want to check up for any areas where the water is pouring out over the gutter rather than flowing down it and through a downspout. There may also be areas where the gutters connect to each other or the house that leak and need to be fixed. On the ground you are looking for two things; pooling water and areas where the water has hit the ground so forcefully that erosion is happening. If you find areas where water has hit the ground so hard that grass can’t grow that is likely an indication that something above needs to be adjusted with your gutters or downspouts. For pooling water, the same principle applies, you want to get the water away from the house. So fixes often include moving the downspouts (remember to check frequently, they may get moved weekly during mowing) or adding extensions to downspouts to get the water farther away. For the most bang for your buck, add a soaker hose to the end of your downspout if you can and use it to water the landscaping around your house to reuse the water and keep your foundation free from pooling water. Keep in mind that water from downspouts is concentrated and can come out fast so take that into consideration with your plan to remedy the situation. Also for the any damaged ground you may need to use splash guards, gravel, or some other material on the ground to prevent further erosion even after you have fixed the cause.
  3. Last, but not least, don’t forget to check under porches and decks and any areas supported by posts or cantilevered structures. Check under any structures that have supporting beams that go into the ground and/or hide the foundation so you can ensure that water isn’t pooling up under them which can also erode the structural integrity of the supporting beams that holds the structure up as well as all the previously mentioned issues with standing water near the foundation. There shouldn’t be any low laying areas and if there are they need to be away from the house. Sometimes a layer of gravel under neath is also a good fix to help the water drain more slowly and not cause any erosion as it flows away as well as helping to keep things cleaner. PRO TIP: While you are under there check for wasps, or any other animal that you don’t want taking advantage of the fairly untouched area and setting up camp there.

These few things are just a fraction of what a home inspector will check for during a home inspection. But, keeping up with routine maintenance and repairs of your home while you live in it not only makes living in it more enjoyable, but it increases the resale price and makes the entire selling process much faster and less stressful because you have taken care of any major issues ahead of time. If you find you have an issue that you can’t resolve with any of these tips call a landscaper experienced with resolving drainage issues and or a structural support specialist to help repair any damage to your home.

Feel free to let us know how this info helped you – before and after pics, any questions, and other advice you may have to help drainage issues for others, this is by no means an exhaustive list.