Why Is Your Home Losing Heat?
Heating your home requires both the ability to generate heat and the ability to keep that heat in your living space. When you conduct a home energy audit, an expert can look at all of the different reasons that you may be losing heat in the home. Here are some of the common reasons that you may lose heat and what to do about them.
Poor insulation is a common place where people lose heat. Older homes, in particular, may have limited or no insulation within the walls. Even homes built a few decades ago with drywall and insulation may have been built with 2×4 and not 2×6 studs. This limits the room you have for a good insulation envelope.
There are a few things that determine how well insulation will keep heat in your home. First is the R-value. This is a ratio of the difference in temperatures between the inside and the outside of a room divided by the flux of heat through a barrier. The higher the R-value, the more your room can hold heat.
If you think your insulation is not up to par, there are companies that will blow loose-fill insulation into vacant wall spaces or insufficiently insulated spaces.
The locations in your home that are insulated will also make a difference in how well your insulation works. If you’re concerned that your home isn’t insulated enough, check the insulation under the floors and ceilings. Crawl spaces may be moist, which can waterlog insulation rolls and cause them to fall off of your subflooring. Additionally, check your attics to make sure that there aren’t missing pieces of insulation around electrical units like recessed can lights.
Your home can lose a lot of heat through ductwork that isn’t fully sealed. The US Department of Energy estimates that as much as 30% of your heated air can be lost through unsealed, uninsulated ducts.
It’s a good idea to have your ductwork inspected and cleaned every few years. During the inspection, a professional may find corrosion or loose seals on your ductwork. This creates opportunities for heat to escape. When this happens, a pro may recommend re-sealing your ducts or even replacing portions of corroded or damaged ductwork, which may also improve your indoor air quality.
Like walls, ductwork that travels through unheated portions of your home needs to be insulated to keep it from losing heat to the surrounding air. We can take a look at the insulation around your ductwork and determine if it is sufficient to provide an energy-efficient space. Codes for the minimum R-value of different spaces have changed over time, and so has insulative technology. It may be worthwhile to see if you have room to upgrade your ductwork insulation and whether it would be cost-effective.
Windows are a major source of heat loss in your home. The energy efficiency of a window depends on two specific factors: the frame and the number of panes.
Window frames can be made of a number of different materials. Wooden windows are older, and while wood has good insulative properties, it is prone to rot and may have gaps in the framing that allow air to come in. Aluminum windows are less likely to have gaps, but aluminum is excellent at conducting heat. This means that it can be used as a conduit for sending the heat in your home outside. Vinyl windows are better insulators and are more likely to fit tightly into framing, but they can sag over time and create air gaps both around the outside and in the space between panes where insulative gases like argon are found. Resin window frames have the strength of wood and the insulative properties of vinyl, making them an expensive but energy-efficient option.
Window panes are another factor that can affect how efficient the actual window space can be. Windows with single panes are the least energy efficient. Double-pane windows with a gas like argon between the panes are the most common option on the market and are often considered sufficient to keep a home warm. In areas with extreme weather or homes that want to maximize efficiency, triple and even quad-pane windows can be found. However, these windows often come at a significantly higher price that may not be recaptured in your energy savings. It’s best to do a bit of research to see if the energy savings justify the cost.
If you can’t afford or don’t wish to replace your windows with a more energy-efficient version, there are still ways to maximize efficiency. First, look for air gaps around the windows. One good way to do this is to hold a candle in your hand and slowly move the flame around the frame of each window. If the frame isn’t fully sealed, you will get enough air to make the flame flicker. Air gaps like this can be caulked. Additionally, you can add storm windows or plastic inner lining to your windows in order to give them one more insulative air pocket during the winter. If you have windows in a room where you keep the curtains closed, or you don’t spend time, you can also cut a piece of foam to fit in the window frame area.
Door Jambs and Storm Doors
For a door to work effectively, you must be able to open and close it easily. Unfortunately, this means that the space under the door is a common place where warm air escapes your home. This can be dealt with by weatherstripping around all of your exterior doors. Weatherstripping is a kind of cushioning that is designed to expand to fit the gap around your door when it is closed. This helps to prevent warm air from escaping and cold wind from entering your home.
Weatherstripping can lose its ability to expand to its full shape over time. Because of this, it is a good idea to inspect the area around each door once a year. Like window frames, you can find drafts with a candle. You can also turn on lights outside and turn off the lights inside your home. If you see light through the edge of the door frame, you have space where warm air is leaking out.
If you only have air entering your door jambs during stormy weather, storm doors may provide an additional layer of protection. If your door faces the direction of the common storms in your area, you can also look into creating a closed-in, unheated porch to help deflect some of the weather from entering your front door.
Energy Audits and Blower Door Testing
If you are concerned that your home is inefficient, an energy audit is a great way to find the most likely causes of warm air escaping your home. Energy auditors look for issues like those above and less common problems that might be a feature of your specific kind of home. They will typically provide a list of suggestions to help improve your home’s energy efficiency. Many companies will list them in order of those most likely to help your home.
Some companies that provide energy audits will do blower door testing as well. This test involves putting a fan into the doorway of your home in order to measure how airtight your home is. If your home feels drafty, but you can’t find the source, this may be a good way to understand the source of air leaks in your home.
Work With the Pros to Maximize Energy Efficiency
The experts at First Choice Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning are proud to serve both commercial and residential properties in the Metuchen, NJ area. We offer plumbing services such as repairs, repiping, water heaters, sump pumps, garbage disposals, water softeners, and water filters. We provide heating and cooling repair, maintenance, and installations and can also help with indoor air quality and oil-to-gas conversions. Call us today to learn more.