8 Ways to Reduce Energy Expenses this Summer

Reduce Energy Expenses

A major factor that all homeowners must deal with – particularly in Arizona, is the rising cost of energy consumption. While Valley residents might have to deal with triple-digit temperatures, they don’t necessarily have to deal with triple-digit energy bills, or sacrifice their comfort. Here are a number of ways to reduce energy expenses in your Arizona home this summer. Bonus: You will be protecting the planet at the same time you’re saving money.

Set the thermostat between 78 to 80 degrees when you are home and up to 85 degrees when you are away. For every degree you set your thermostat above 80 degrees, you can save approximately 2 to 3% on cooling costs, according to SRP.

Install a programmable thermostat and watch your energy savings add up*. Set it to reflect 78 to 80 degrees when you are home and above 80 when you are away for annual savings of 10 to 30% on the cooling portion of your energy bills.

Turn your thermostat to “auto”. This makes sure that the fan only runs when the air conditioner is running rather than running 24-hour a day, 7-days a week, as is typically the case when the thermostat is set to “on”.

Routinely change your air conditioner’s air filter. Many people install their air filter and forget about it. But when filters become clogged with dirt and dust, your air conditioner has to work harder, thus raising your energy bills. You should change your filter once every 30 days during the summer months.

Turning lights off when you leave a room is a good way to save energy and, thus, lower your energy bill. Your actual savings depends on the type of lightbulbs you use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Switch to an “off-peak” energy-rate plan. These plans reward customers with reduced pricing for using energy during periods of time considered off-peak. Many electricity companies throughout Arizona offer assorted plans.

Seal air leaks. Caulking air leaks can save you up to 20% on your monthly cooling bill. You can also use spray foam. Focus on the windows and doors first followed by electrical outlets, switch plates, vents, electrical or gas service entrances, and attic hatches.

Invest in attic insulation for lower energy bills. You can save an estimated 10 to 30% off your monthly energy bill by properly insulating your attic. The higher the product’s R-Value (thermal resistance), the greater the savings.

*When used properly.

Home Cooling 101

Home Cooling 101: A comprehensive infographic from the U.S. Department of Energy not only explains the basics about air conditioning and other cooling systems, but also provides recommendations to consider, such as ventilation and how to effectively lower your cooling costs thus lowering your monthly expenditures.

This Home Cooling 101  infographic is a great resource to ensure that you and your loved ones remain comfortable even as the temperatures outside hover above 110-degrees. And remember: One of the most cost effective methods for cooling your home is to ensure its proper insulation as this will prevent warm air from intruding.

Home Cooling 101

 

The Skinny on Spray Foam

spray foam

What is spray foam? Spray foam, is commonly composed of either isocyanurate (open-cell) or polyurethane (closed-cell), and is made by combining two ingredients onsite using specialized equipment. Both open-cell and closed-cell foam are applied as a liquid that contains a polymer and a foaming agent. Once the liquids and foaming agent are combined, the mixture is then sprayed through a heated hose into the areas in need of insulation. One of the nice features about this product is the fact that it expands to fill hard to reach areas, and then rapidly hardens.

Why choose spray foam? It has the potential to stop air leakages better than many of the other insulation products currently available. Because it is sprayed into place, where it then expands, it can fill up cavities and block any small holes that may otherwise compromise your building’s envelope. It is available as open-cell and closed-cell foam (discussed below). When professionally installed, vertically or horizontally, it can contribute to energy-efficiency, noise reduction, moisture intrusion reduction, and more!

  • Open-cell has a density of about 0.5 lb. per cubic foot, and an R-value of 3.5 to 4.0 per inch. Open-cell provides an effective air seal which reduces energy loss and improves indoor air quality when used correctly. Most homes require double the amount of open-cell foam.
  • Closed-cell has a density of about 20 lb. per cubic foot, and an R-value of 6.0 to 6.5 per inch. Closed-cell is typically more expensive than open-cell do to its ability to add structural strength to a wall, ceiling, or roof assembly. It also reduces energy loss and improves indoor air quality.

Are there any green alternatives to traditional spray foam insulation? Yes! Soybean-based spray foam, is made without any added chemicals, yet has the same insulation properties as traditional foam insulation. A portion of the petroleum base that makes up the product is replaced by soy. This product uses water as its main blowing agent. Soybean does not emit greenhouse gasses; long or short term. While more expensive than traditional foam, soybean is the appropriate choice for those wanting an environmentally-friendly option. Other benefits of soybean include:

  • Blocks drafts.
  • Stays firmly in place.
  • Excellent thermal properties.
  • Effectively reduces outside noise.
  • Does not attract insects or rodents.
  • Does not emit greenhouse gasses.
  • Meets government requirements for renewable resources.
  • Lowers the costs associated with heating and cooling your home.

Garage Door Insulation

garage door insulation

One of the most cost-effective home improvements is also one of the most overlooked. If you’re like most homeowners, your garage door, and quite possibly, your garage is uninsulated. An uninsulated garage door not only increases your heating and cooling costs (“hello” high energy bills), but it can also be a welcoming sight for critters, and moisture. Both of which can be quite destructive. Insulating your garage door can provide unanticipated benefits thus making the project incredibly worthwhile.

Benefits include:

  • Climate control
  • Reduced noise pollution
  • Increased energy-efficiency
  • Creates a stronger garage door
  • Brightens what might otherwise be considered a dreary space.

At Banker Insulation, we’re committed to helping you through the process of insulating your garage door, by providing you with the following tips. These tips will ensure that you’re able to enjoy the many benefits an insulated garage door provides. Let’s get started, shall we?

#1. Types of Insulation Materials

Batt Insulation: Commonly made of fiberglass, batt insulation is more flexible than the other two options listed below, with insulation values between R-3 and R-4 per inch of thickness. Batt insulation is one of the more affordable options.

Foam Board Insulation: Typically made from polystyrene, foam board insulation is more rigid than batt insulation, but provides a much higher insulating value for relatively little thickness. R-values range from 3.3 to 6.5.

Reflective Insulation: Available in either rigid panels or rolls, reflective insulation reflects radiant heat, making it a viable choice for Arizona homeowners. R-values range from 3.5 to 6. Reflective insulation is one of the more expensive options.

What is an R-value? An R-value is the resistance of heat flow through a given thickness of material. The higher the R-value, the greater the resistance and in turn, your energy savings. An R-value, however, is just one of four key factors you should consider. Wind, humidity, and temperature are all factors that should also be taken into consideration when selecting an insulation material.

#2. Matching Insulation to Your Garage Door

  • Steel garage doors can accommodate most any type of insulation.
  • Wood frame and panel garage doors can accommodate either type of rigid insulation: foam board or reflective insulation. Consider applying two layers.
  • Flat garage doors (those without panels) can accommodate foam board or reflective insulation.

You can purchase any type of insulation at your local home improvement store, for do-it-yourself installation, or contact an experienced insulation contractor for professional installation. If you choose to go the do-it-yourself route then you’ll need a tape measure, straight edge blade, and utility knife.

#3. Apply Weather Stripping

Before installing your chosen insulation, you should first apply weather stripping to the bottom edge of the garage door. With the door in the raised position, simply apply the adhesive side of the weather stripping to the bottom rubber gasket, to seal off the space between the bottom of the door and the floor of the garage.

#4: Measure

We cannot reinforce the importance of measuring your garage door’s panels before shopping for insulation and again during the installation process. Whether you choose boards or rolls, cut the insulation to fit. You can attach insulation to the garage door using liquid nails or fasteners. Fasteners are available in kits.

The 411 On Fiberglass Insulation

fiberglass insulation

Having fiberglass insulation professionally installed is one of most environmentally friendly, not to mention…valuable, things a homeowner can do. This project offers many benefits, such as, the reduction of heating and cooling costs by approximately 30 percent with proper insulation. And, with the reduction of heating/cooling costs, comes monetary savings for you.

According to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value report for 2016, the fiberglass attic insulation project (new for this year) produced the top return on cost of any of the 30 projects in this year’s report. If you insulated your attic with fiberglass insulation, which costs an average of $1,268, you can expect to receive 116.9 percent or $1,482 of that back at resale.

Fiberglass Insulation

The most common type of insulation, fiberglass is composed of glass, which is used in a wide variety of applications. As an insulator, fiberglass slows the spread of heat, cold, and sound in homes. By trapping pockets of air, it keep rooms warm in the winter and cool in the summer, thereby reducing a home’s energy consumption by up to 40%.

Fiberglass can be installed in various parts of a home’s envelope. It can be pink, yellow, white or green, depending on the manufacturer. Commonly found in blanket form, called batts, it is available in bags containing standard pre-cut lengths and widths. It is also available in loose fill, which is professionally blown into attics, walls and floor cavities.

Fiberglass insulation is available in a wide variety of thickness. Thicker materials offer a higher resistance to heat flow. This resistance is known as an R-value. Common R-values associated with fiberglass are R11 to R19 for flooring, and R30 to R38 for ceilings and attics. The higher the R-value, the more energy efficient the material will be.

Federal Tax Credits

Planning on staying in your home? A federal energy tax credit can help you recoup a percentage of your insulation investment if you complete the improvements by the end of 2016. A tax credit is actually a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes equal to 10 percent of the cost of insulation (up to $500). Tax credits do not include installation costs. Click here for more information.

Holiday Fireplace Safety Precautions

holiday fireplace safety precautions

It’s a classic holiday image: family and friends gathered ’round the fireplace on a cold, wintry night, enjoying eggnog and warm baked cookies together. Whether it’s to warm up after a night of caroling, sitting around with family and friends, or cozying up with the kiddos to read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas; it’s important to follow several fireplace safety precautions to ensure the safety of your loved ones this holiday season.

Precaution #1: Safety Checks

Soot can harden on chimney walls as flammable creosote, which is why it’s so very important for all fireplaces to be thoroughly inspected, and just as thoroughly cleaned by professional before each burning season. An annual chimney cleaning is an important first step in ensuring a safe season of heating, and should be completed at the beginning of the new fall or winter season. Checking the batteries of all fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home is also advised.

Precaution #2: Tree Placement

When decorating for the holidays, make sure that all decorations including the tree itself, is placed a safe distance from the blazing fire. It takes less than 30 seconds for a tree to engulf into flames – especially a dry one. To minimize risk, place trees and other live greenery at least three feet away from heating sources, such as the fireplace. While artificial trees don’t pose as great a risk, they too should be kept three feet away from heating sources; make sure yours is flame-retardant.

Precaution #3: No Dangling Decorations

When decorating your fireplace mantel for the holiday, keep combustible material (e.g. holiday greenery, ribbons, stockings, etc) safely on or above the mantel, not draping over the edge. One stray ember or spark can far too easily ignite any exposed decorations. You can hang decorations from the mantel on one condition: There’s no fire in the fireplace. Before starting a fire, move your stockings and decorations away from the mantel, as its always better to be safe than sorry.

Precaution #4: Watch the Gifts Too

It is recommended that you keep all holiday gifts a safe distance – a minimum of three feet – from a burning fire. Because most wrapping paper contains additives, it can go up in flames almost instantaneously! In addition to keeping the gifts a safe distance away, you should also refrain from discarding trash in your fireplace, including wrapping paper and boxes. Keep an operable fire extinguisher nearby in the event of accidental fireplace mishaps. Never dispose of your tree or other live greenery by burning it in your fireplace.

The winter holidays, spent with family and friends, should take center stage! Keep your festivities both merry and safe this Holiday by following these simple but important Holiday fireplace safety precautions. From all of us at Banker Insulation, we want to wish you a very happy and safe holiday season!

Preventing Heat Loss in Your Home

heat loss prevention

Heat loss is a surprising issue for many homes – even in Arizona.

For improving efficiency, increasing monetary savings, and helping the environment my personal favorite home improvement efforts are spent on preventing heat loss. Sure, some heat loss prevention methods may require a bit of an investment, but they will be worth their weight in gold when the utility bill comes. Here are some ways to ensure your home stays toasty warm this winter.

Air Seal Your Home

If you feel cold air coming in, there is bound to be heated air, and subsequently your hard earned money escaping from somewhere else. Air leaks, however, can often be tricky to locate. This is why we highly recommend having an insulation contracting firm that uses a “blower test” test your home. The blower creates a negative pressure causing air to come in through all the leaky points. Once properly identified, the leaks can then be sealed.

Insulate Your Attic

Heat – the thermal exchange between two objects – rises causing your heated air to escape through the roof. Older homes are especially vulnerable. Think of attic (or crawlspace) insulation as an extra layer of protection. Adding attic insulation is the single most cost-effective method for reducing your heating bills and ensuring your comfort. For the best results, look for insulation with a high R-value.

Upgrade Your Windows

Windows provide your home with light, warmth, and ventilation but they can also negatively impact a home’s energy efficiency. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, twenty percent of a home’s heat loss can be accounted for by poorly insulated or single-pane windows. Double-paned windows showcase two panes of glass. The space between the two panes acts as insulation.

Weather Strip Your Windows and Doors

If double-paned windows aren’t in your budget, there is still something you can do to reduce the negative impacts of single-paned windows, as well as other drafty openings (i.e. doors and entrances). Simply placing cost-effective weather stripping and caulk around your windows and doorframes can significantly cut down on wasted energy. Always follow manufacture recommendations to ensure an air-tight fit.

Understanding Heat Transfer

heat transfer

One of the biggest contributors to expensive home energy bills is the heat transfer that occurs as a direct result of insufficient or improper insulation. Heat transfer is the movement of heat from the indoors to outdoors during the winter, and from outdoors to indoors during the summer. Controlling the transfer of heat in and out of your home is an essential first step in reducing your home’s energy use.

Types of Heat Transfer

Heat is transferred to and from an object – in this case: your home – via one of three methods: conduction, radiation, and convection. Understanding how conduction, radiation, and convection work will help you insulate smarter and stop dreading those monthly energy bills. Let’s examine each of these in more detail.

Conduction is the transfer of heat through liquids or gases. On hot days, heat is conducted into your home through the roof, walls, and windows. This results in an increase of energy use. Insulation, energy-efficient windows, and heat-reflecting roofs slow the heat conduction and help maintain a comfortable temperature.

Radiation is the transfer of heat through space in the form of visible and non-visible light. Sunlight is an obvious source of heat for homes. This results in more wear and tear, as well as energy use, on your HVAC system as it attempts to overcome the heat gained. Energy-efficient windows, UV films and screens, and blinds can help block this radiation.

Convection is the third method for heat transfer. Convection affects your home by air infiltration. Convection occurs through all surfaces of the home – walls, floor, roof, windows, and doors. Weatherstripping, caulk, outlet gaskets, and spray foam are key products for ensuring a tight envelope.

Energy Audits

One of the best ways to combat heat transfer is to schedule a comprehensive energy audit, which often includes both a visual inspection and thermal imaging scan. Together these detect cold spots, air leaks and intrusion, energy hogging appliances, and, of course, insufficient amounts of insulation. Consider having an energy audit done if your home is drafty in the winter, and stuffy in the summer, or your energy bills seem excessive.

Ensuring Sufficient Insulation

Ensuring sufficient insulation is important because it resists the flow of heat. Insulation in attic, wall, and floor cavities force the heat to conduct from one insulation fiber to another which slows the passage of heat. Insulation adds to your comfort, increases sound control, creates a healthier home environment, reduces your energy bills, and has a positive impact on the environment.

Recessed Lighting 101

recessed lighting

Recessed lights provide both ambient and task lighting. From bathrooms and kitchens to entry ways and living rooms, recessed lighting looks attractive in just about any area of your home, as long as it’s installed correctly. Also known as pot lighting and canned lighting, these lights are commonly mounted in the ceiling, but can also be mounted in the wall rather than surface mounted.

Available in a wide variety of housing and trim designs, recessed lighting provides functionality, without being aesthetically distracting. One of the best things about recessed lighting is that is that it creates the illusion of more space. Recessed lights give off a soft subtle glow, which blurs the boundaries of the room, making the space appear larger than it actually is.

Since recessed lights are embedded into the ceiling, there are no safety risks associated with dangling cords. Recessed lights that are embedded on the walls, often seen in staircases, provide ample light during the night when visibility is poor. Designed to work in much the same way as a nightlight, staircase lighting comes in handy, as it prevents stair-related accidents from occurring.

To Lay Out Recessed Lighting

  1. Map your ceiling joists and plan to install lights between them.
  2. Need extra light somewhere in your room? This is your starting point. Center the first light over your focal point and space the others around it. For even lighting, plan to have the first can installed in the center, and work from there.
  3. To determine how far apart your lights should be, divide the ceiling height by 2, and space your lights accordingly. For example: a 9 foot ceiling should have recessed lights installed every 4.5 feet apart from one another.
  4. Unless you’re installing lighting in the walls, attempt to avoid placing the ceiling mounted lights to close to the wall to avoid harsh shadows, which will only work to make the room appear smaller.

Choosing a Housing and Trim

  • Make sure it has the correct voltage.
  • Make sure it is IC-rated if in direct contact with insulation.
  • Make sure it is designed for a new construction space if installed before the ceiling or for a remodel if done after construction.
  • Make sure it has the structural features you need: low profile, airtight, sloped, etc.
  • Make sure the trim you choose is aesthetically pleasing. Recessed lighting trim comes in a wide variety of popular styles including adjustable, baffle, glass, pinhole, reflector, square, wall wash, and more.

The Importance of Air Sealing

 

air sealing

{Source: Energy,gov}

Leaks can be a significant source of wasted energy and money. Found in almost every home are the cracks, gaps, and holes that allow the air you just paid to heat or cool to escape far too easily. A relatively easy, do-it-yourself way to increase your home’s energy efficiency is air sealing.

Air sealing is also quite cost effective – as long as you know what areas to attack with the caulk gun or insulating foam. A home energy assessment can accurately pinpoint these areas, assess your home’s energy consumption,  and recommend ways to improve its energy efficiency.

While a professional home energy assessment will provide you with the most accurate results, you can conduct your own assessment by carefully walking through your home, with a handy flashlight at your side. This will allow you to spot many of the area’s in requirement of air sealing.

Leaks can be sealed with caulk, spray foam, and weather stripping depending on the problem area. When done correctly, air sealing has the potential to reduce your energy bills, increase your home’s indoor air quality, and decrease your chances for dealing with mold and rot.

Where You’re Losing the Most Air

  • Ceiling, walls & floors = 31%
  • Ducts = 15%
  • Fireplace = 14%
  • Plumbing penetrations = 13%
  • Doors = 11%
  • Windows = 10%
  • Fans and vents = 4%
  • Electrical outlets = 2%

If you didn’t know the importance of targeting these areas first, you do now! Especially since each and every one of these air leaks can cause a number of problems such as mold, drafts, and heat loss. Information source: U.S. Department of Energy.

Do-It-Yourself Air Sealing

Fireplaces: Fireplaces are notorious for drafting a lot of heated or conditioned air out of homes. Make sure you have a tight-fitting damper that opens and closes properly. Pinterest has some great ideas for DIY insulated fireplace screens.

Windows & Doors: Caulking and weather-stripping goes a long way towards combating leaky windows and doors. Using low-expansion foam, insulate around the frames of your doors and windows, and caulk where the drywall and trim intersect.

Outlets & Switches: Turn power off at the circuit breaker before proceeding. Remove face plates. Place stick-on foam outlet sealers around the outlet/switch. For best results, carefully apply spray foam around the junction box’s exterior.

Pipes & Ductwork: Use low-expansion foam or caulk to seal any wall penetrations due to pipe or duct-work. Seal all duct joints and seams using the same materials. You can also tape them. Wrap hot and cold water pipes with insulation.