Yardley Voice – Going Green Solar Column – September 2012
by Mark Bortman
It is often said that death and taxes are the only unavoidable things in life. I’d like to add paying your PECO bill to that list.
As an installer of solar energy systems, I often get calls from homeowners and business owners with the same plea, “I want to eliminate my PECO bill!” While solar energy certainly is an excellent way to reduce your electric, natural gas and oil costs, it is important to incorporate it into a plan that looks at the building overall.
When we first visit a potential customer, in addition to using the sun’s energy, we often find there are many additional, simple steps we can take that will reduce energy use. As part of this month’s Home and Garden theme, let’s take a look at a few common places in the home where energy can be saved.
Think of how you get into your attic. Most houses either have a hatch (a small hole in the ceiling, usually in the back of a closet) or a set of pull down stairs. If this access way does not close as airtight as your front door, you are throwing money away! It is the equivalent of having a window open to your attic … all year long. Just by air-sealing the hatch or stairs, you can increase your comfort and reduce your heating and cooling costs.
Any other holes you have in your ceiling – recessed lights, ceiling fans, and bathroom vent fans for example – are all other places where the air in your house could be escaping to the attic. These small holes add up! This means higher costs for air-conditioning in the summer and for heating in the winter. Fortunately, it is relatively quick and easy to seal these escape routes (note that for recessed lights, the right materials need to be used to avoid overheating).
Now let’s head to the basement. Take a look at the band joist – this is where the house sits on the foundation. New homes might have fiberglass insulation stuffed into this space while older homes have nothing at all. This is a common location for outside air to infiltrate into your home. Insulation does not stop air flow – this is why air-sealing is important.
While we’re in the basement, take a look at your water heater. Are the hot water pipes insulated? Is the thermostat set to 120 degrees?