Tag Archives: energy audit

5 Energy Efficiency Myths You Need to Know

Graphic of outside of a home preparing for energy audit.

Do you really know the truth about what does and does not save energy? These days, many people strive to conserve energy and to save money when it comes to the upkeep of their home. Committing to saving energy is a great start, but make sure to educate yourself on the do’s and don’ts of energy efficiency. From heating and cooling to home appliances, let’s cover five common myths about saving energy.

Myth #1: Do ceiling fans really save energy? (False-ish)

Well, yes and no. Ceiling fans circulate air, but they don’t really provide a cooling element to a space quite like an air conditioner does. Additionally, it is suggested that homeowners raise their thermostat by 4 degrees when using simultaneously with an air conditioner. This will provide you with the same amount of coolness while allowing you to run the a/c unit for a shorter duration. Fans really excel at cooling people down, not chilling a room, so do turn them off when you leave the room.

Myth #2: Closing air vents saves money, right? (False)

Closing off vents in rooms that aren’t frequently used actually puts significant pressure on the fan. This can cause a number of other issues in the long-run. Ultimately, when closing off vents, extra back pressure is applied to the fan and in-turn, the unit. This could put an unnecessary amount of stress on the unit and cause it to fail much sooner than it’s manufacturer life expectancy.

 

Myth #3: New windows equals mega energy savings! (False)

Replacing old windows doesn’t come close to the amount you would spend on new ones. Not even a little. Yes, newer double pane windows are more energy efficiency, but not for the cost of news windors or to the degree you would think. The amount of energy saved is small. The majority of warm and cool air leaving your house isn’t leaving through your windows. Replacing your windows is a good idea when selling your home though, as it increases the resale value. If we’re solely talking about energy efficiency though, prioritize other energy saving practices until then.

 

Myth #4: Bump the thermostat way up to heat the home faster. (False)

A furnace is meant to heat in increments at its max power. Significantly upping the temp on the thermostat will only make the heater work harder and burn more energy in the process.
As the furnace runs longer and works harder, it has the potential to cause issues down the road. Turning the thermostat to a higher temp will not warm the home faster.

 

Myth #5: Turning appliances off saves power. (False)

Nope. There is such a thing as phantom power or standby power. Can you count on two hands how many appliances you leave plugged in an outlet at home? 10, 20, 30? Each item that is plugged in slowly draws electricity even when they are powered off. Choose your appliances carefully, unplug others or invest in products that can reduce standby power usage to truly reduce your energy consumption.

Intec provides low cost energy audits for those serious about increasing their homes energy efficiency. Contact Intec for a through whole-house energy assessment/audit that includes:

  • Assessment of building envelope (windows, doors, insulation levels, and the level of air leakage in between building materials)
  • Combustion equipment including boilers
  • Measurement of air movement within the home
  • Furnaces
  • Water heaters

Is Your Home Under-insulated? Find Out with an Energy Audit.

Winter’s coming. It’s already heating season. So how do you save money on heating costs? You’ve got to own your heat. Simple as that. You’ve paid for all that warm air already, so it doesn’t make much sense to waste it now. According to North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA), they estimate that roughly 90% of existing U.S. homes are under-insulated. Are you sure you aren’t one of them?

Air Sealing and Proper Insulation

A simple enough premise – it’s the application that gets complicated. We (and most building science experts) strongly recommend air sealing and insulation as high priority measures to make your home use less energy, make you more comfortable, and make the planet happy.

Air sealing can sometimes be done by a competent do-it-yourself-er, but insulation is trickier. It generally has to be done by a contractor, and for the most part can only be installed by getting inside walls that are now closed up. And unlike air sealing flaws, which you can often see just by scanning your basement walls, the quality of insulation in your house is, for the most part, difficult to assess. (Thankfully, the attic, which is the most critical spot for insulation, is the easiest to access).

What Are the Different Types of Insulation?

  • Cellulose insulation: Cellulose is the most cost effective solution in improving energy efficiency in existing homes. Cellulose is 82% to 85% recycled paper manufactured into an eco-friendly insulation product. A primary feature of cellulose is its ability to stop air infiltration by densely free-flowing into cavities and tight spots, filling cracks and covering seams.
  • Spray foam insulation: Icynene is a self-expanding foam insulation that provides superior performance in energy efficiency, air quality and sound control. It is a liquid that expands in seconds up to 100 times its original volume, sealing all gaps and crevices. This particular insulation provides a superior alternative to other insulation types and ensures a strong air barrier. In addition, Icynene provides exceptional sound control and when applied to inside walls, reduces the noise from plumbing stacks, laundry rooms and entertainment centers.
  • Fiberglass insulation: Fiberglass is the most commonly found home insulation. Fiberglass is made up of very fine pieces of glass fibers. It is found in two forms: blanket and loose fill.
  • Mineral wood insulation: Mineral Wood comes in two different options: rock wool and slag wool. Both are man made materials and contain about 75% recycled matter.
  • Natural fiber insulation: Natural fiber insulation includes cotton, sheeps wool, straw and hemp.

This list includes the most widely used insulation types today, but certainly doesn’t include every single insulation type ever used. There are a number of types of insulation that are no longer considered safe and are not utilized by reputable installers. You can view a more inclusive list here.

How Do You Know If Your Insulation Was Installed Correctly?

This is an important point, because even if all insulation is created equal (a separate discussion), that doesn’t necessarily mean that all insulation is equally well installed – which, in this case, may be just as important. Insulation only works when it’s installed to specifications, and when it’s in good shape. So even if there is insulation in your walls, even if you’ve seen it or paid for it or been told by your real estate agent that it’s there, it may be sleeping on the job.

The best way to assess the quality of otherwise “invisible” insulation is a home energy audit from a qualified home energy auditor with an infrared scanner, which will reveal where there are problems with your insulation.

Another reason why a home energy audit is really a problem-solving exercise. After you have it done, you’ll know where the issues are. Without it, your home might just remain an unsolved mystery… The Case of the Cold House and the Disappearing Dollars.

Installation Services Offered By Intec

  • Attic insulation
  • Basement insulation
  • Wall insulation
  • Crawlspace insulation
  • Blown in cellulose insulation
  • Spray foam insulation
  • Air sealing

We’d be happy to talk with you about the best insulation product for your home or business, and to accomodate the needs of your project. Contact us today for a free phone consultation!

 

Will Upgrading My Refrigerator Save Money?

One of the biggest energy guzzlers in your home (besides, most likely, your thermal envelope, which lets expensive conditioned air escape through air leaks and poorly insulated walls) is the refrigerator. Upgrading it, believe it or not, can save you a bundle of money in the long run, as long as you don’t simply put your old fridge down in the basement and plug it back in. Now, before you balk at the high upfront cost of replacing your fridge, let us explain why we (admittedly, energy-efficiency/penny-pinching geeks) think it’s a good idea.

Two Reasons Why You Should Replace Your Old Refrigerator

1) You pay twice for an inefficient refrigerator.

If you have an older fridge, it’s getting cool on the inside by running a motor that makes the room itself warmer, just like a heater would. If you have air conditioning, it has to work that much harder (also using electricity) to remove the heat from your house — so there’s a double-whammy penalty for having an inefficient fridge.

2) New Energy Star models are much, much more efficient than older refrigerators.

A friend of ours at Energy Circle (Tom) did a little research on a fridge he bought in 1998 (not too long ago), and discovered that replacing it with an Energy Star model (of the same design, size, etc.) that he could buy today would use less than 1/2 the electricity. If he got a more efficient design (i.e. freezer on top instead of side-by-side), it would use 1/4 as much. If he got the most efficient model of the most efficient design, it would use about 1/6th as much electricity. And none of this accounts for the important point that all of that inefficiency is released in the form of heat, which makes his house hotter! Yikes!

Research Validating Replacement of Old Refrigerators

We think the old refrigerator problem is actually bigger than most people think. The Energy Information Administration estimated that in 2001, more energy was used for refrigeration than for space heating, water heating, or lighting. We also have a great deal of faith in the Energy Star program itself: despite some recent criticism, the Energy Star label has been hugely successful in driving energy efficiency in appliances and electronics since the program’s creation in 1992; and, as we saw recently when the label was peeled from a number of LG and Kenmore refrigerators, the program continues to evolve and improve.

Calculate Your Energy Savings 

Energy Star has a great tool for calculating the savings of upgrading your refrigerator on their website. A quick test of the tool shows, for example, that replacing a side-by-side model from 1992 with a new Energy Star model would save about $125 per year (along with the savings garnered from having to run the AC less frequently).

On a final note, it’s important to keep in mind that simply buying a new refrigerator, and sticking the old one down in the basement to keep a six-pack cold, doesn’t fix anything. To help drive the point, in addition to rebates and other incentives for purchasing Energy Star appliances, a lot of states are now issuing rebates for recycling your old fridge (essentially a cash-for-appliances program aimed at getting those old fridges out of the basement).

So the mantra is simple: refrigerate, recycle, rebate.

Interested In an Inspection of Your Home?

INTEC performs a complete inspection of your home using state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment before any weatherization work is done. This allows us to accurately examine the insulation and other energy-saving needs of your house. We will use infrared thermography cameras to examine the insulation and air infiltration, and we will check the air exchange rates between the inside and outside environments. Our goal is to provide the most cost effective and energy efficient solution to lower your energy costs and improve your indoor air quality. Contact us today to book your energy audit and inspection!

 

.