High energy bills are a concern of homeowners everywhere, but living through frigid Maine winters in a two-story house built in 1890 can pose a real challenge.
To combat winter heating bills as high as $1,400 a month, Greg and Jennifer Quimby entered the Scariest Utility Bill in America contest sponsored by JELD-WEN Windows and Doors. As the winners, their house was outfitted with new energy efficient windows and doors.
Infrared Energy Audit
Whether you live in Maine or Florida, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your energy bills. A good place to start is with an energy audit to find out where your home is lacking. John Cannamela of Infrared Survey performed an energy audit using a special thermographic camera.
The camera detects the amount of infrared heat radiation and converts it to a color spectrum with blue representing colder objects and red warmer. By examining the differences in the amount of infrared radiation that is given off, the camera can detect areas that have air leaks or lack insulation. As expected, one of the main culprits found in the energy audit of the Quimby’s home was the old windows.
When the replacement windows from JELD-WEN arrived, the existing storm windows, window stops, and window frames were removed, leaving only the casing and outer window stops.
A bead of caulking was applied around the stop, and the new energy efficient vinyl windows were put in place. Once the new window was level and plumb, screws were driven into the jamb to secure it. After the gap between the old casing and new window had been insulated, the original interior stops were put back and caulked.
For high energy efficiency, the new windows have dual-pane glass. The space between the glass is filled with argon gas to reduce the movement of heat between the panes. The glass also has a Low-E coating which deflects UV radiation and protects furniture and fabrics from fading. The new windows were made to match the existing two over two frames, which complemented the historic nature of the house.
Not only are the Quimby’s new windows and doors more energy efficient, the vinyl window frames will require much less maintenance than wooden frames.
In addition to new windows and doors, the homeowners took some additional measures to reduce their energy bills, including insulating between the ceiling joists in the basement. Since fiberglass insulation can cause irritation, be sure to wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants along with eye protection, a mask, and work gloves. Rubbing baby powder on any exposed skin helps reduce irritation.
Start by cutting the insulation to length using a square and sharp utility knife. In older homes, where the spacing of the floor joists is irregular, the insulation may have to be cut to width as well. Use a straight edge to compress the insulation and act as a guide for the utility knife. Trim each piece so it’s a snug fit between the joists.
The paper facing on fiberglass insulation contains a thin layer of asphalt adhesive that bonds the insulation to the facing and acts as a vapor barrier to prevent moisture from passing through it. Since insulation should always be installed with the vapor barrier facing the heated living area of the house, when insulating under floors, the paper facing should face up against the flooring.
Hold the insulation in place by wedging insulation support wires between the joists. Wires can be cut to length if needed using wire cutters.
Other Energy Saving Ideas
To save even more energy, the hot water pipes were insulated with tubular foam pipe insulation to prevent heat loss.
The covers were removed from the electrical outlets on exterior walls and foam insulating seals fit around the plugs. The infrared camera showed that this significantly reduced the heat loss around electrical outlets.
Replacing worn door thresholds is another important step that can cut down on air leaks in a home. After cutting the new threshold to size, screw it in place and press the rubber gasket in the grooves.
More information on insulation and saving energy can be found at:
- Getting Adequate Attic Insulation (article)
- Insulation R-Value (article)
- Payback on Energy Saving Efforts (article)
- Eight Great Ways to Save on Heating Costs (article)
- Winterizing Your Home (article)
Other Tips From This Episode
A folding attic staircase allows a significant amount of heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. To make it more energy efficient, construct a box from foam sheets and secure it to the floor with metallic duct tape as detailed in the article How to Insulate Attic Drop Down Access Stairs.
Tankless hot water heaters, like those from Paloma, heat water instantly on demand. Since they don’t waste energy storing hot water in a tank, they’re 98% efficient and can save up to 20% in energy costs. A remote control allows you to monitor and change the temperature settings from anywhere in the house. Paloma tankless water heaters are available at The Home Depot.
Reducing Air Conditioning Costs
What are some simple inexpensive ways to cut down on air conditioning costs? -Terry from Maine
Installing a tinted film on the inside of your windows can reduce the amount of heat coming in your house by over 60% and prevent harmful UV rays from damaging fabrics and furnishings. Adding awnings to windows that receive a lot of sun in the summer can reduce a room’s temperature by up to 15 degrees and save 25% on air conditioning for that room. Another way to keep your house cool is by strategically planting a shade tree that blocks the summer sun.
Power tools used on Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford® are provided by Ryobi.