Here in part 2 of our Green-Energy guide we will get into the nitty-gritty of weather seals, insulation, and lightbulbs. You’ll see how stacking these three simple improvements can make a big difference in your monthly energy outlay.
🌪️ Weather Seals for Green-Energy
One green-energy tool that we can all afford is weather seals. Weatherseals make a big difference in the building envelope (that’s builder speak for “house”). Sealing up the structure is absolutely one of the smartest things you can do to lower your energy costs.
If you have an existing green-energy tool at home there are several easy tasks you can do to make your home more airtight.
1) Caulk around the electrical outlet boxes where plugs and switches are. Pull the plate cover off and seal around the box where it meets the drywall. You should take this opportunity to seal up any holes in the back and sides of the box where the wires come in. Seal up any unused holes in the box too before you put the switchplate back on. Simple, right? Well, it’s one easy step towards making green-energy one of our action-steps towards that lower-carbon-footprint.
2) Do the same thing with can lights. Remove the bulb and seal any holes in the can that you can see. Remove the trim ring and caulk the can to the drywall all around the opening. install a foam ring gasket under the trim ring so that air gaps between the ring and the drywall are air tight to make green-energy.
3) Replace old weatherstripping and adjust so that you cannot see daylight anywhere around the door.
4) Caulk around the exterior of your window frames where they meet the body of the house. Hence, use pain-table caulking if the frame and exterior walls are paint grade materials such as stucco or siding and wood trim. Use clear caulking if the surfaces are not paintable such as a natural brick or stone.
5) Seal airgaps around chimnies. You will need to inspect this and select materials based on your findings. If the gap is significant you will need to use a flashing material that is heat resistant such as aluminum to cover the space. Don’t consider the job to be completed until you use a heat resistant sealant to bond the flashing and the chimney together and eliminate the open area.
6) Make sure to seal the attic access door with weatherstripping. Though you won’t feel that you can get a good seal on the existing surfaces you can purchase an attic access door to fit the opening. Many of these attic access doors are pre-insulated that can be a green-energy tool.
7) Seal air gaps in the attic. Look around the framed walls that are attached to the ceilings. Do you see any open stud framing? If you see cavities in the frame that you suspect are allowing hot or cold air into your home you can fill those gaps. One trick is to put a handful of fiberglass insulation into a plastic grocery bag. You can jam those partially filled bags into the open frame spaces that you see in the attic.
8) If you are working on new construction or extensive remodel you may be able to seal around plumbing penetrations with an open cell foam that comes in a can. You can caulk or foam around window and doors before the drywall and trim are installed. Any penetration or gap can be filled. Make sure to calk any gaps around doors and windows in the framing that may be capable of transferring outdoor temperatures into the interior of the home and have green-energy tool.
At the end of the day sealing your home is indeed and extremely inexpensive to do. It is one of the best ways to get a return on your GREEN-energy investments quickly.
Green-energy Action item: Insulation is one of the things that most homes could stand to improve on. The good news here is that the cost to do this is relatively inexpensive compared to other pieces of the holistic building design and it’s separate components.
Common Types of Insulation
Paper-fiber blown Insulation:
Made of recycled newsprint. and shredded into tiny pieces so that it can be easily blown into various cavities.
This is an excellent and inexpensive method of insulating attics and walls. It works especially well in attics compared to conventional fiberglass batting because it fills the voids where batting might not fill. For examples voids in corners or where ceilings meet roofs are places that batting does not always easily fit and therefore those spaces are prone to varying degrees of air and temperature leaks.
Cons: Over time Cellulose will settle and create voids and/or shallow areas.
Pros: Fiberglass loose-fill blown insulation: This is an excellent choice for an attic. Fiberglass provides excellent an excellent barrier to the extreme temperatures we are trying to keep out of our homes while heating or cooling our homes. It will not absorb. moisture and deteriorate. It is an inexpensive and useful tool in reaching those green-energy goals.
Cons: Can cause skin irritation during installation.
Fiberglass batting: matted fiberglass fibers glued to a roll of paper cut to fit in various framing sizes. Also comes in several R-value thicknesses.
Pros: Inexpensive and relatively easy to install
Cons: settles over time creating lower R-values than when initially installed. As mentioned above batting does not fill voids in corners as well as other types of insulation.
Closed cell insulation:
This is an extremely dense foam that is sprayed in place. It adheres to the surface it is sprayed onto.
Pros: this material is impermeable to water. It can be sprayed in place and creates an ultra tight barrier with very few leaks (if any). It is an excellent material choice for the inside of the outer walls and the backside of the roof decking.
Cons: Cost is triple of what the other options are. The material can only be applied with professional equipment and trained applications which void the DIY option.
Rigid foam board: this is a material that comes in 4 x 8 sheets. Typically the outside of the sheeting is covered in foil. The seams can and should be taped shut to create a moisture barrier.
There are several types of foam board:
Polyisocyanurate is not good for below grade use as it is absorbent. It is called (aka polysio). It is also favored by GREEN-energy builders and enthusiasts because it is not manufactured from ozone-depleting blowing agents. It is an excellent choice for outer walls as long as they are above grade.
Expanded Polystyrene (aka EPS) is the least expensive of the three. It is the most vulnerable to vapors and is considered to be a semi-permeable material. That’s code for somewhat prone to water damage.
Extruded Polystyrene (aka XPS) is water resistant and often used in below grade applications to insulate foundations. Counter to the above-forementioned EPS foams the XPS is semi-impermeable (resists) water absorption.
Pros: Easy to install and ads a final layer to the insulations behind the foam board. This material can solve thermal bridging problems that may have avoided being remedied by the rest of the insulating system. This is especially true of materials that extrude to the outer shell of the building such as timbers designed to create structural stability (ie: beams)
Cons: Additional cost. Some of these three choices work better than others. Like most other things in life, the best materials are a little more expensive.
Final thoughts on Costs
Ed Gorman (owner of MODUS) knows that the common view of insulation cost is that it is a place where it may not make sense to spend extra money. A great example is blown in insulation vs closed cell sprayed in foam. Some say why spend triple the money to get some extra R-value. Nowadays there are many things that provide us lots of ways to save money around the house
Green-Energy Up-Front Cost vs Long-Term Investment
Ed says that’s the wrong way to look at this equation. Ed says he takes a more holistic view. He points out that the money spent on closed cell insulation coupled with a foam board exterior sitting on top of a vapor barrier creates an ultra-tight building with very little leakage.
This means that the HVAC system needed to cool the place can be much less substantial. The kilowatts needed from the solar panels a is decreased too. So by taking into consideration all of the components instead of isolating each one by its own cost the decision to spend the extra money on insulation is a no-brainer.
In other words, because the added insulations create such an efficient air-tight building there is no need to overspend on a larger a/c system now that the structure is more efficient. This example emphasizes how green-energy targets are most easily achieved when taking a holistic approach to making your property more environmentally friendly and efficient.
💡 Light Bulbs
Every homeowner wants that all costs to be under control especially when talking about the electricity bill.
Homeowners are having having hard time thinking what to do to lower their bill and end up to use solar panels and create solar homes.
However, LED light bulbs are an easy choice for almost any homeowner. Replacing incandescent bulbs with LED light bulb with good brand in best stores in Phoenix will impact your energy use and cooling costs (especially if you happen to reside in the desert).
LED bulbs use less energy. Incandescent and halogen bulbs use a lot more energy and they get super hot. Up to 400°. That’s hot. Imagine several lights in a room all turned on while it’s 90° outside and your a/c is running. Talk about fighting against yourself! What if you could have all that light without the heat? Well, you can. All you need to do is swap out those old bulbs with LED light bulbs.
Now your home will be using systems that work in harmony rather than battling against each other.
Another noteworthy savings is the lifespan of LED vs incandescent and halogen. A good LED bulb can last 10 years.
In their January 25ht post in 2018 the Wilden Living Lab reported that going with the newer and more efficient bulbs can save a homeowner $26 per month.
The energy cost of running an old-fashioned incandescent bulb is six times higher than the new age LED brethren.
Scatter that across all of the bulbs in your home and you can spend that $26 somewhere else while decreasing your personal carbon impact on planet earth.
This may be the single easiest improvement that a homeowner can make to drastically decrease energy usage in their home.
All you out there who need some green-energy in your life; this is your chance. This is as simple as unscrewing all of the lightbulbs in your house and putting in new ones. This single tiny upgrade will do quite a bit towards greening up that footprint of yours and saving you money.
How are LEDs Different from Incandescents and CFLs?
Let’s look at the attributes of all three.
The CFL or Compact Fluorescent Lamp has been an option starting in the 1990’s. These are the strange looking bulbs that have a swirled glass tube that is filled with phosphors and small amounts of the highly toxic chemical known as mercury. This fact alone should put them towards the bottom of any sane person’s list. The somewhat redeeming qualities of this bulb are that they last 8 to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs and they stay much cooler.
The incandescent (now cannot be legally sold). These are the old school light bulbs that Edison transformed the world for decades. The burn out quickly, suck up a ton of energy and get really hot. In fact, roughly 90% of the energy that passes through the filaments in an incandescent bulb is wasted as that energy is transformed into heat. The remaining 10% of the energy actually results in illuminating light.
Here’s a big differentiator. Incandescent bulbs last an average of 1,000 hours. Sounds like a good bit of illumination, right? Hold on. Things are about to get ugly for the ole incandescent bulb. CFLs last up to 5,000 hours, and LEDs last up to 50,000 hours.
Put another way LEDs last up to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs and up to 20-30 times longer than CFLs and halogens.
Are All LED Bulbs the Same?
The short answer is: Nope. The abbreviated long answer (I know, oxymoron, right?) is that all LEDs are not the same. Here’s the rub. If you look at the packaging of an LED bulb it is required to have a government label called “Lighting Facts” on it. Lightbulbs have a color and brightness spectrum.
Lumens is the measurement of brightness. When looking at those lighting facts labels you will see the lumens number in the top right corner of the label. The higher the number the brighter the bulb. This number is far more telling than the old watts number. Watts tells us how much energy the bulb uses to create its brightness. Lumens tell us how bright a bulb is.
You might think that watts would be a fair way to measure a bulb’s brightness since it tells us how much power is consumed to create the level of brightness a bulb emits. The reason that this number is not so reliable for measuring brightness is that not all bulbs are made exactly the same. Different manufacturers construct their light bulbs uniquely. So one manufacturer’s 60-watt bulb may very well be obviously less bright than some competitors. This is why the lumens number is so important.
Light Spectrum Color
This is a big deal. It used to be that LEDs were mostly blue in color. So the transition of going from incandescent to LED was hard on some of us. We grew up with that soft warm light from an incandescent, and now they’re telling us how great these LED bulbs are. Many of us (me being one of them) hated the weird blue light. Too darned clinical looking. Not very homey.
So, here’s what’s happened now that LED technology has evolved. It’s gotten better. A lot better. Now we can choose from a wide spectrum of color. the warm tone at one end and the blue at the other.
The warm end of the spectrum is around 2,700 Kelvin and the blue (cool) side of is around 6,500 Kelvin. This number, along with the lumens number, is posted on the lighting facts sheet produced by the manufacturer.
More Resources for Lightbulb information
- LED Lightbulbs Made Easy an Energy Star PDF Guide
- Shopping for Lightbulbs (an FTC Consumer info post)
- Compare Efficiency of Lightbulbs by US DO
📰 Green Energy Guide Series Posts
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