Finding Problem Energy Spots in Your Home
With Colorado’s statewide stay-at-home order, the coronavirus is keeping a lot of us in our homes. Every expert says that self-care is crucial in this uncertain time, and that goes for your home as well. One thing you can do with the extra time in your house is to start identifying areas of poor insulation, air quality issues, and more.
We are happy to offer this do-it-yourself guide to reduce energy inefficiency and improve the health of your home. You can also access our page on home energy audits to read about the steps our team takes to evaluate energy efficiency.
If you have issues retaining heat or keeping cool in the summer, you might already know some of the problem spots in your home. You may notice:
- One or more rooms are always too cold or too hot
- Variations in the heating or cooling of certain rooms
- High electric bills, or unexplained spikes from month to month
These are some of the major effects of energy inefficiency, but they don’t account for the cause. To get a complete picture, we need to look at specific points within your home.
Hardwood, tile, concrete, laminate, and other uncarpeted floors may be cold in the winter. But if they are markedly colder more often than not, that may signal a problem with the airflow in your home.
You may already be aware of this problem simply from walking barefoot from room to room. To understand the problem systematically, stand barefoot in each room of your house, moving to different points to assess the temperature. Also, pay attention to what is immediately below where you’re standing; if you’re getting cold feet, the story below (such as the basement or the garage) could be the actual problem.
Baseboard radiators deliver heat to your home. If they run inefficiently, you may notice cold spots and uneven heating of select rooms.
In fall and winter, you feel the difference if your baseboard heater isn’t working properly. Without regular cleaning, the radiator can also blow dust and other particles in the air, which can cause sinus and respiratory issues and aggravate allergies.
Cleaning your baseboard radiators is a good task to add to your home care routine. As you do so, feel the air coming out of the vents to check whether or not the temperature is right.
It might seem strange that something so small can impact your energy use and the comfort of your home. However, drafts can form if electrical sockets are not properly insulated, creating uncomfortable cold spots.
Check each room of your home for outlets, then hold your hand up to each. As you feel for a draft, be sure to note if any plates don’t fit around the outlets properly or if cracks have formed in the wall around the outlet cover.
Making your way up the walls and to the ceiling, repeat this process for any light switches and light fixtures. Just like electrical outlets, these fixtures can also let cold air into your home.
Many homeowners in Colorado love a cozy fire to ward off the chill in autumn and winter. However, when the fire dies down, it is easy to forget to close the damper. With an open damper, air is flooding into your home through the chimney.
If the room with the fireplace is particularly cold, make sure the damper is closed. Still feeling cold air? It may be time to replace the damper, or you might want to check the external walls for cracks and other openings that could be letting in outside air.
Home insulation is key to retaining heat. With inadequate insulation, certain walls may feel cold to the touch.
You can check the insulation in one or more rooms of your home by removing electrical outlet covers (be sure to turn the power off to each room first) and visually inspecting the space behind the walls. The amount and quality of insulation may vary, so it is important to perform checks on all floors and in different rooms.
This test will only tell you about the insulation immediately around the wall cavity containing the outlet. During home energy audits, technicians perform thermal imaging of your walls to check the entire space for insulation, as well as how it’s performing.
In addition to outlets and vents, you also want to check the space around:
- Faucets, showerheads, and other plumbing fixtures
- TV and Internet cables
- Dryer vents
- Gas and electric meters
Without a tight seal, any of these fixtures could admit cold air into the house.
Without proper installation and insulation, windows are one of the leading causes of air leaks. In addition to feeling drafts in certain rooms, you may be able to perform a visual inspection of exterior and/or interior of the windows for issues that can cause leakage, such as:
- Gaps in the caulk around the windows
- Missing or damaged weather stripping
- Degraded sealant between the window frame and the house
The design of the window may also make it easier for air to infiltrate your home. For instance, single pane windows may seem more affordable at first glance, but the lack of insulation will translate into higher energy bills.
If you have caulk or weather stripping, you may be able to reinforce your windows on your own to prevent air leaks. For a long-term solution that saves money on your energy bills, window replacement may be a more desirable option.
Window-mounted air conditions can also cause air leaks if they are not properly installed or the seal is compromised. Be sure to inspect the area around the unit for any drafts.
Much like windows, doors can become problem energy spots because of issues with installation, insulation, or weather stripping. Gaps forming along the sill or jambs of the door can let in drafts.
Visual inspection and simply standing in front of the doors in your home can help you find where the drafts originate. You may be able to fix the leak by caulking and sealing the door or installing a door sweep on the bottom. However, insulating one or even a few doors can only do so much if you have other places where air is infiltrating your home.
Depending on the layout of your home, there are a few key points to consider as you inspect the ceiling:
- If you have heating vents mounted in the ceiling of one or more rooms, check the air flow and make sure the grate is securely in place.
- Don’t forget to examine the space around ceiling-mounted light fixtures (see the section on electrical outlets above) and ceiling fans.
- If you have an attic, check the hatch for gaps; warm air will rise through any openings into the attic, heating one of the least-used rooms in any home.
Many homes have insufficient attic insulation, which can lead to significant energy loss. So, even if it is a “forgotten space,” it is crucial to make sure your attic is properly insulated for a more comfortable home and a lower energy bill.
REenergizeCO Is Your Partner in Energy Solutions
During this time, REenergizeCO remains committed to helping our community stay safe, stay healthy, and save money. If you are sequestered or quarantined for the time being, we recognize that a professional home energy audit may not be possible right now. Instead, our goal is to provide homeowners with information they can use right away to improve their homes and lower their energy bills.
Contact us if you have questions about making your home more comfortable and energy-efficient. REenergizeCO is proud to serve Denver, Fort Collins, and the entire Front Range.