April 2006 Edition

Home’s Energy Efficiency

Our gas bill has been out of sight, and we didn’t have a cold winter. What can we do to lower our bill?
Georgia Power has an excellent brochure titled “Take a Closer Look at Your Home’s Energy Efficiency.” The following are tips they suggest:
Winter Energy-Saving Tips

Temp 1

• Set your thermostat to 68° Fahrenheit or lower. For every degree you set your thermostat above 68,° you add 3% to 5% more operating time to your system.
• Going away for several days? Lower the thermostat to 60°, but not to “off.” Setting the thermostat at 60° puts less strain on your heating system when you return and it’s time to reheat the house. Also, maintaining 60° prevents damage from outside freezing temperatures which can cause frozen or burst water pipes.
• Check heating system filters at least monthly and clean or change them as needed. Dirty filters can increase operating costs signifi­cantly and reduce efficiency.
• Be sure that heating registers and vents are not blocked by draperies or furniture. The vents should also be cleaned regularly with a vacuum or broom.
• On sunny days, open drapes or blinds to allow solar heat to warm the house. Keep drapes and blinds closed on cloudy days and at night. Use insulated or heavy curtains on windows facing the north side of the house.
• Make sure fireplace dampers fit tightly and keep them closed when not using the fireplace. Add a glass fireplace screen if possible.
• Cover bare floors. Carpeting adds to comfort and heat retention, especially if there is little or no floor insulation.
• Use of a humidifier allows you to reduce the thermostat setting of your furnace without feeling cold.
• Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans so that the blades push the warm air down into the room. Fans should turn clockwise in the summer and counter-clockwise in the winter.
• If you have a window air conditioning unit, remove it during winter months to prevent heat from escaping through and around the unit. If it can’t be moved, put a cover over it to prevent drafts.
• Caulk and seal cracks or crevices wherever two different building materials meet.
• Weather-strip around all doors and windows and between heated and unheated areas of your home - such as garages, basements, attics, etc.
• Insulate your water heater with at least R-6 insulation. You can save enough money on energy bills to cover the cost of materials in just a few months.
• Add insulated or storm windows and doors to reduce unwanted heat loss.
• Check the R-value of insulation in your home. For existing homes, Georgia Power recommends R-30 in the ceiling, R-13 in the walls and R-11 in the floor for maximum comfort and energy efficiency.
 Summer Energy-Saving Tips

• Set your air conditioner thermostat to 78° Fahrenheit or higher in the summer. For every degree you set your thermostat below 78°, you use from 3% to 5% more electricity.
• Use major appliances during off-peak hours, such as early morning or late evening, and on weekends.
• Check your home for adequate insulation - the most important factor in controlling the amount of energy required to maintain comfortable temperatures.
• Insulation is measured in R value which is a measure of resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation value. Experts recommend you use a minimum R-value of R-30 in ceiling areas.
• Keep outdoor air conditioning units free of leaves, grass and shrubbery for maximum efficiency.
• Change or clean your air conditioner filter once every month to maximize the unit’s efficiency. Dirty filters restrict airflow and reduce efficiency.
• During the heat of the day, close your draperies, shades or blinds to reduce the extra heat caused by direct sunlight.
• Use fans whenever possible. Install ceiling fans in the rooms you use the most. In the summer, fans should pull the air up by running them in a clockwise direction.
• Check your windows and doors for a tight fit. Apply weather stripping or caulking if needed.
• Plan meals so heat-producing appliances are used in the early morning or cooler evening hours - these appliances add heat and humidity to the house. Or, use energy-efficient portable appliances for small cooking operations.
• Run dishwashers and washing machines less often by waiting for full loads before using.
• Let the dishwasher dry the dishes without heat.
• Use cold water instead of hot water whenever possible.
• Set your water heater thermostat to a lower setting - about 120° Fahrenheit.
• Close the damper on your fireplace when not in use.
• Use energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs.
• Keep power tools and electric appliances clean and properly maintained.
• Repair or replace leaking faucets immediately.
• Purchase a higher SEER rated unit when replacing cooling equipment or a heat pump. The higher the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating), the more efficient the unit. Experts recommend a 13 SEER cooling unit.
Source: Georgia Power 

 Spring Maintenance

The most common problem I see as a home inspector inspecting the exterior of homes is the lack of maintenance. Many homeowners do not realize that openings around wood trim is an invitation for decay to set in. Siding will expand in the summer and shrink in the winter. It is very important to keep any separations or cracks sealed.
Spring is an excellent time to do an inspection on the exterior of your home. Look for wood decay in the eaves, the siding corner trim, around window & door trim and in window sills. Any decayed wood should be either filled with wood filler if only a small amount of decay is present or replaced if it is a large amount.
Any separation or opening should be sealed. Home centers offer many different types of caulk, and it is very confusing to decide the type you need. Most professionals agree the acrylic caulk or siliconized acrylic caulk is the best for caulking wood trim. Both are paintable, long lasting and easy to clean up.
Before you caulk, use a good wood primer to seal the wood and provide a good bonding surface for the caulking. Use only enough to fill the opening. Excess caulk can be removed with your finger or a wet rag. Let the caulk set for a couple of hours before painting.

If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at rodharrison@christianbuildinginspectors.com. We reserve the right to edit questions for length.

Quote Of The Month

"Of all the things you wear, the most important is your expression."


 A Tip Of The Hat To:

Susan & Tom Hamberger

Prudential Georgia Realty

2168 Scenic Highway

Snellville, Georgia 30078

**** Thank You****