Tip 8: Improve Insulation
Take a look in your attic. Depending upon your climate, if there is less than 1 foot of insulation, it will be worthwhile to add more. Walls are a bit harder to examine. One trick to inspect wall insulation is to either find or make a small hole in the wall, and then poke a wooden skewer into the hole. By wiggling the skewer, you might be able to pull out a few fibers of insulation. This is also a quick way to determine the depth of the walls and, therefore, the thickness of the insulation.
Insulation won't work well if it's not properly installed. Avoid gaps and compressions, especially around plumbing pipes and electrical wiring, and be sure the insulation material is in contact with all sides of the cavity into which it is installed. The best time to add insulation to walls is when you're making other improvements or renovations. Make sure air leaks are sealed before adding insulation.
Tip 9: Get New Views
Replacing older, single-pane windows with new double- or triple-glazed units can save energy if they are installed to include air-leakage control around the frame. However, you can get almost as much savings by adding storm windows as you can with new double-glazed windows, at a fraction of the cost. Again, pay close attention to air-sealing when improving older windows. When it comes time to buy new windows, pay more for more efficient units. Over the long-term, the up-front cost will pay for itself in efficiency gains and reduced energy use.
On Your Way to Renewables
With renewable energy, a little advanced planning can add up to significant savings. Here are two quick tips to get you on the right track:
✓ Design right. Whether you're building a new home or remodeling an old one, proper design and planning can offer savings once you're ready to install your RE systems. Orient additions or new buildings to true south and reconsider rooflines and gables that interfere with solar access. Provide an unobstructed south-facing roof surface that allows plenty of solar collection area.
If you're planning to install a PV or SHW system, consider incorporating a chase between the roof and the basement to allow easy access and plenty of space for running cables and insulated plumbing. And don't forget to construct your roof to handle the additional weight of collectors, if necessary. Purchase a long-lasting roofing material too, and then, if you know what equipment you're planning to use, consider pre-installing rack stanchions before the new roof goes on.
✓ Double up. If you identify what you want ahead of time, you can piggyback projects with little or no extra cost. When we had some driveway work done, I had the backhoe and crew already on site dig trenches for conduit between my house and a future wind turbine site, as well as for piping between rain collection barrels. It took less than an hour of backhoe time for all that work and now I'm a step ahead on two future projects.
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