With the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and shelter-in-place orders, I’ve been spending a lot more time at home. More time indoors in the old house in Boston where I live means I’m using a lot more energy. I’m doing my best to be energy-conscious and ensure that I’m only using power that I really need. I do this because it’s both better for the environment and a way to make sure I don’t see a large spike in my utility bills.
There are easy and effective ways to accomplish this goal and, over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing tips on how to do it. But I won’t be alone in this effort. I’m also very excited to introduce the latest member of Environment America’s clean energy team – the heroic energy-saving comic heroine, Buffy the Energy Vampire Slayer. My new partner will show you how to slay energy vampires in your home by stopping energy leaks, being smart about electronics and changing major appliance use.
Up first: Addressing drafts and energy leaks. Old homes are notorious for these problems, but even if you aren’t living in an aging apartment like I do, there’s still a good chance that you could be losing a sizable percentage of the air you’ve paid to heat or cool. This comes from pesky drafts, air leaks and outdated heating and cooling systems. In a typical home, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the ducts is lost to leaks and holes. There are three main ways to reduce this type of leaking:
Make sure your home is properly sealed
Leaks and holes in windows, doors and chimneys as well as poor connections in the ducts let ‘just right’ air escape (‘just right’ air is air that has been heated or cooled to be the perfect temperature for home).
To make sure that your home is properly sealed, you must first find potential leaks. You may already have a good idea about where some of these exist – for example, my apartment has a particularly cold room because the windows are leaky. Other common culprits are your baseboards, electrical outlets, and cable TV and phone lines. You can find these energy-sucking villains by simply doing an investigation around your home or conducting a building pressurization test.
Once the leaks are located, caulking and weatherstripping are straightforward and effective ways to seal leaks. Caulking can fill cracks and openings around door and window frames. Weatherstripping can seal moving parts such as doors and windows that don’t shut tightly. Given that Boston is a city located in a colder climate, I also plastic seal my windows each year during the winter. All of these projects are easily DIY.
Use windows and doors to help regulate temperature
Windows and doors are pathways for energy to enter and exit your home. When your heating or cooling system is running, make sure doors and windows are closed. To this day, I can still hear my dad telling me that I need to close the windows because we don’t need to heat or air condition the whole neighborhood.
Passively harnessing the sun’s power can also help warm or cool your house. Boston weather has been hovering in the 40s for the last several weeks, so each morning the first thing I do is open the blinds on all of the windows in my apartment to allow the sun in. This helps warm my apartment without having to turn the heat up. If you are in a warmer climate, closing curtains or shades on the sunny side of your house can help keep your home cool.
Insulate your home
Insulation reduces heat flow in and out of a home. Unfortunately, many older homes were built with less insulation and, therefore, might be leaking excessive energy.
Basements, chimneys and attics are all places in your home that are likely to leak energy. Adding insulation to these parts of a house can reduce energy loss. Insulating your home can also be done as a DIY project.
To find out more, go to: bit.ly/Energy_Smart