Perhaps the best way to identify the sources of energy wasters in a home is a professional home energy audit, including a blower door test and thermo graphic inspection. Here, Erik Lindberg, a specialist in home energy with Enervation Inc., comments on one of the main areas included in the audit: the furnace and heating system. And DIY Home Energy Savings, gives advice for some home energy tests that homeowners can do themselves.
It is important to get your furnace inspected every two years professionally – or at least every few years. Some people even opt for an annual inspection and tuning. Furnace maintenance includes removing dust from the air tubes, and cleaning the burners and ensuring that they are operating safely and efficiently. Make sure the furnace filter fits into a slot cover. Home furnaces are equipped with replaceable air filters designed to remove dust and other impurities from particles in the air as it circulates through the heating and cooling system. Filter openings that do not have an indoor allow air to infiltrate the furnace system, and this partially defeats the purpose of the closed trunk-line system. A filter can also be a security issue.
Air filters are designed to allow air to flow through in one direction. When installing a new filter, make sure it is installed with the air direction indicator pointing in the right direction – with the arrow pointing toward the furnace. The ductwork in heating and cooling systems should be maintained as well. Some owners choose to have ducts cleaned professionally. According to Erik, duct cleaning is a measure that will probably do little to improve energy efficiency, although there may be other benefits. Making sure that the joints are sealed ducts is useful. High quality expensive paper tape is suitable for sealing ducts. In warm weather, ducts that run through attics should be sealed very well.
To carry out a Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit requires a large window fan and incense. First, make a list of the areas of your home that have the potential of drafts. Then close all exterior doors, windows and flues of the chimney. Turn off all combustion appliances such as gas burning furnaces and water heaters. (Remember to turn them back on when you are finished with the audit.) Turn on all exhaust fans (generally located in the kitchen and bathrooms). If you do not have exhaust fans, use a large window fan to blow air out of the house. The movement of fans increases infiltration through cracks and leaks in the building structure – making them easier to detect. As DIY professionals, you can use incense sticks lit to locate the source of the leaks. Air currents will cause the column of smoke to waver or flow in the direction of air leakage.
- As an alternative to the use of incense smoke, you can use your damp hand. Air currents can be detected because they feel cold damp skin.
- Check air movement around switches and sockets – often overlooked as sources of air penetration.
- Check shutters to make sure they fit properly and do not break.
- Inspect all windows and doors to make sure they sit tight in their frames. See if you can feel air flow while they are closed. Movement indicates possible gaps that may be the source of air leaks. Look for visible daylight through cracks around door frames and windows.
- Once you have located the problem areas, you will have to take steps to correct or you will continue lose money each month on utilities.