Although weather patterns have been highly unpredictable and rapidly changing lately, it’s clear that winter is now upon us, and there are a few things that you can do to make sure that your home or business is prepared for whatever the season has in store for us. These tips will not only help to better protect your property from the elements, but they will make your home or business even more energy efficient and cost effective to operate, and many of these same tips will also prove valuable in the summertime as well.
Let’s start with the biggest one—insulation. The efficiency of your furnace, HVAC or air conditioning system is only as good as the quality and quantity of the insulation in your attic and walls. You should inspect your attic to determine if your insulation is in good condition, as well as to determine if you have enough of it to justify the energy bill you’re paying each month. There are many different types of insulation, and each type has a different R-value per inch, which is the unit used to measure the insulating material’s ability to resist the transference of radiant heat. Let’s say, for instance, that you have fiberglass batts of insulation in your attic (the itchy pink stuff with the paper backing). This type of insulation has an R-value of 3.2 per inch of insulation. Cellulose blown-in insulation, on the other hand, which is made up of treated, recycled newspaper and other fibrous materials, has an R-value of at least 3.5 per inch, though certain brands can hold even higher values.
Whatever type you’re dealing with, you can determine your attic’s true R-value by measuring the height of the insulation and multiplying that number by its R-factor per inch. A general rule of thumb though, especially here in Louisiana, is that if you can see your ceiling joists sticking out between the insulation, then you don’t have enough insulation! Most homes are typically built with anywhere from R- 19 to R-30 at the most unless more is requested, but did you know that the ideal R-Value range for any building along the Gulf Coast, as recommended by the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Energy, is actually from R-30 to R-60? Look it up. Having the right amount of insulation can save you up to 30% on your heating and cooling costs, and the safe bet for reaching your optimum savings in our region would be about R-49, midway in the range recommended by the D.O.E.
Almost every building needs more insulation than it currently has, and after knowing your potential monthly savings, you can then calculate when your investment will pay for itself. Next, we’ll shift from savings to safety—the furnace. Everyone knows that familiar and pungent aroma the first time the heater is turned on each year. It’s important to remember that if the smell doesn’t go away after the first time, you need to turn it off and call a professional to inspect the system. Your heater’s coils and filters should be thoroughly inspected and/or cleaned, along with your air ducts, before you switch over from cooling to heating each year. This is vitally important, because turning on heaters for the first time is not just a smelly and somewhat sentimental ceremony to celebrate the season, it’s also one of the leading causes of house fires each year. Your filters should be replaced routinely, as fire hazards usually begin as small buildups of dirt, dust and debris that increase over time until nature takes its course. Electrostatic filters are a much smarter and safer alternative to the traditional fiberglass filter, and they can even be washed and reused.
As for the air ducts, homes can lose up to 60% of ￼ their energy efficiency from ducts that are not properly insulated or connected. Your ducts and your HVAC system should be cleaned and inspected AT LEAST once a year so that air leaks can be detected and corrected before causing too much damage to your building or your wallet, and more importantly, so that dirt and debris is removed from your air supply, allowing your system to operate properly and without causing any respiratory problems for you and your family, your customers and your staff. Stay tuned for more winterization tips coming soon...