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The Indoor Climate Series: DIY Home Efficiency Check

This spring, be sure to include your indoor climate on your list of home improvements. You would be amazed at what a difference it makes to not only have an air conditioner that produces clean, quality air, but also to keep that air inside, where it belongs!

To reduce your energy costs, you’ll want to assess how much heat escapes your home in winter, or infiltrates your home during the summer. Most homes need attention in these three areas: attic insulation, window quality, and wall insulation. Start by looking for air infiltration in your crawlspaces and attic, since these areas are often overlooked. If the air is escaping from the attic, it is coming in from somewhere! Your poorly insulated crawlspaces could be the culprit.

Next, you need to familiarize yourself with your windows. Feel your windows, the walls around them, the panes and sills. You can even feel your friends’ and neighbors’ windows, with their permission, of course! You’ll be able to feel the difference and estimate how much heat is lost through each window. You could use a high-tech tool like an infrared heat-sensing camera, but we have an even crazier recommendation – use your lips! Your lips are highly sensitive to changes in temperature. Just stand close to the window and feel the heat radiating near that area. If there is a drastic change next to the window compared to the rest of the room, you could be losing a lot of precious warm or cool air through the window.

Third, look along the exterior walls near the ceilings at the highest point, especially in closets where wind hits the home the most. As the insulation settles inside the walls, a void begins to form where there is no longer insulation. Black streaks will form along the walls and will imitate the outdoor temperatures. In the winter, these little cold spots absorb heat, and in extreme weather, you may even find condensation and ice!

Finally, did you ever take a look at your roof this past winter on a frosty morning? You might notice patches of warm areas where there is no frost on the rooftops. This is a signal that too much heat is escaping from your attic. Some homeowners’ HVAC equipment runs constantly, so their roofs never have frost and the snow melts off of their houses first.

Once you learn where heat is potentially escaping or infiltrating your home, you can make a plan to correct it. Any corrections that you make will make your air conditioning and heating more efficient. You can even hire a professional to perform an energy assessment and locate problem areas, but you can do a pretty good job of doing this yourself!

This “Ask an Expert” post is Part 1 of a three-part series on evaluating and improving your indoor climate. Keep an eye out for Part 2 in the next couple weeks; once you’ve reduced and hopefully eliminated air escaping and infiltrating your home, you can focus on our next subject: comfort!