Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®
Do you, like many Northern California homeowners, feel powerless in the face of high energy bills? Would you like to know what you can do to control these costs and stop wasting energy?
The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program makes it easy and affordable to make a smart investment in a more energy-efficient home. This program has helped thousands of homeowners across the State lower their energy bills and live comfortably all year long.
It all starts with a home energy assessment conducted by trained and experienced Home Performance contractors. California Energy Consultant Service is proud to be one of the few SMUD qualified energy professionals. The Home Performance Assesment provides you with a top-to-bottom look at where your home is wasting energy. You will learn the root cause of any drafts, inconsistent temperatures, heating and cooling system failures, or other problems you may be experiencing.
Optimize your home’s energy efficiency
Our weather goes from extreme heat to freezing cold, and we pay the price. Does your home have any of these issues?
These are all signs that your home simply is not functioning efficiently or comfortably, and it can directly affect your family’s health and quality of life. That’s why it pays to look into Home Performance with California Energy Consultant Service.
- Hot rooms in summer
- Cold floors in winter
- Drafty rooms
- Dry indoor air in winter
- High energy bills
- Uneven heating or cooling
- Extreme temperature change
- Mold, mildew, musty odors
- Moisture on windows
- Peeling paint
Your utility bills
One of the first steps of a home performance audit is to look at the utility bills. From the bill, you could approximate how much you are spending on the water heater, the furnace, air conditioner, and all electrical usage. This helps determine potential areas of improvement. Utility bills would include both electric and gas usage. SMUD encourages costumers to provide their billing history to the contractors to help them better analyze your home. But it is not mandatory that you provide these documents. The graph below represents each month’s electrical usage for a year. From this, you can identify how much of your bill is air conditioning by determining the base load. The base load is a term used to identify the amount of energy used by everything except air conditioning.
In this example, you can identify the base load in the months of November through February. In those months you typically don’t use your air conditioning to cool your home. The average electric usage for that period is about $50/month. Subtracting the base load (the green line), i.e., $50 per month, for a 12-month period, from a total electric bill of $1,370, would give you a total of $1,170 electric usage for that year. This same process could be applied to the gas bill.
- Homes that have been upgraded by the SMUD Home Performance contractor cost significantly less to heat and cool
- Average home energy savings range from 10-30%, but can be as high as 50-60% (combined savings per utility can be obtained)
View your utility bills online
- SMUD: https://www.smud.org
- Click on this link to learn more about savings and solutions to your energy consumption: https://c03.apogee.net/clients/?hostheader=smud&utilityid=smud
Air leakage (infiltration rate)
In typical homes, air-leaks are often found in cracks, small holes, and penetrations for plumbing, wiring, lighting and duct-work. Together, these leaks can add-up to as much air loss as an partially open window. This can increase your utility bill and reduce your comfort. Sealing a home’s envelope—its exterior walls, ceiling, and floors—is an important step in controlling the indoor environment and lowering energy bills. The goal is to reduce air leakage as much as possible while providing ventilation as needed for fresh air. In other words, “build it tight and ventilate it right.”
Benefits of air sealing
- Improved comfort: To eliminate drafts that you feel during the winter and reduce heat loss, all unsealed cracks and holes must be sealed to make your home tighter which will result in increasing your comfort.
- Lower utility bills: Air leakage and improperly installed insulation can waste 20% or more of the energy used to heat or cool a your home. With effective air sealing and insulation, heating and cooling systems will not need to work as hard.
- Improved indoor air quality: A tighter home envelope reduces the humidity, dust, pollen and pests that can enter the home and helps improve indoor air quality.
- Increased durability: When warm air leaks through your home’s floors, walls, and attic, it can come in contact with cooler surfaces and cause condensation. This encourages mold growth, ruins insulation, and can compromise the structural elements of the home.
To improve the performance of your home and reduce your heat loss in the winter or heat gain in the summer, weather-stripping around movable building components, such as doors or operable windows, is highly recommended. For stationary components, caulk or foam are the appropriate material for filling cracks and gaps. Before applying weather stripping, your contractor will assess your ventilation needs.
Windows are another significant source of leaks, especially in older homes. If your home has very old and/or inefficient windows, it might be more cost-effective to replace them than try to improve their energy efficiency. Improving window performance in your home involves design, selection, and installation. The vantage of your home architectural style, it may be better to rebuild your windows instead of replacing them. Consult with your local historical preservation society for more details. SMUD offers up to $1,000 for replacing windows with qualifying new windows – Talk to your contractors for more details and/or check the smud.org website for qualified windows.
Thermal barriers create a thermal break between the inner and outer sides of your home’s envelope. Thermal barriers reduce heat loss and/or heat gain to and from the conditioned space. One of the most confusing aspects of home performance for a homeowner to understand is the role of insulation, which includes how it works both on its own and in conjunction with air sealing. You Home Performance contractor can educate you about why SMUD recommends that air sealing be completed as part of each home performance job, and why abiding by that recommendation may require the removal of improperly installed, wet, or contaminated insulation, and completing proper air sealing in the attic – specially on the attic floor. Depending on the condition of the insulation and the amount of air sealing that needs to be conducted to meet SMUD air infiltration targets, it may be necessary to remove some or all existing insulation to access the attic floor, after which the insulation could be replaced or re-installed and supplemented with new insulation to reach R-38. SMUD requires that in attics that are contaminated (e.g., wet or containing rodent detritus, etc.), existing insulation must be removed from the home and disposed of, the attic must be cleaned, and the new insulation installation must meet the HPP R-38 requirement. Before installing insulation, it is critical to properly air seal those areas that your contractor is going to insulate. There are two barriers for any building that help it retain a comfortable temperature: air barriers (like dry wall, plywood, and glass) and thermal barriers (insulation). Both should completely encapsulate your home and be continuous with each other — If you have a hot or cold house that is drafty, that is a clue they’re probably not and anyone who only installs insulation without air sealing is wasting your money.
Heating and cooling (HVAC) system
Sealing air leaks and installing right-sized, energy efficient heating, and cooling equipment can dramatically increase the comfort level in your home and can help to control the development of mold. Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home — typically comprising about 50% of your utility bill. No matter what kind of heating and cooling system you have in your house, you can save on utility bills and increase your comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your equipment. However, an energy efficient appliance alone will not significantly impact your energy bills as much as the whole house approach. Through upgrades and proper equipment maintenance together with recommended insulation, air sealing and thermostat settings, you can lower your energy use for heating and cooling and reduce environmental emissions. Within the HPP, SMUD also offers rebates for installing energy efficient air conditioners and electric heat pumps. Once your contractor performs air sealing and improves the building envelope insulation, your home’s heating and cooling needs are reduced. This means that the new Air Conditioning unit can keep the home cool with a lower cooling capacity, further reducing your electricity bills and increasing home comfort. The SMUD Home Performance Program provides additional incentives for reducing the tonnage of the air conditioning system.
Duct sizing and sealing
The efficiency of air distribution systems has been found to be 30-40% loss in many houses because of insufficient and/or poorly installed duct insulation and leaks in the duct system. Air, that you paid for, to heat and cool to comfort you and your family shouldn’t be pouring into your crawlspace, attic, walls or other uninhabited areas. Leaky ducts waste energy, increase utility bills, and decrease home comfort. Testing and sealing your duct-work can trim your energy costs, make your home more comfortable, and reduce indoor air pollution. Sealed, right sized, and insulated duct-work — in addition to a properly sealed and insulated home — also allow you to install the right sized heating system for your home and not over-sized system to compensate for inefficiencies. Ask your contractor to help you determine the system that is right for your home.
Water heating is the second largest energy expense in your home. It typically accounts for about 18% of your gas utility bill (for electric DWH %.) There are four ways to cut your water heating bills: use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate your water heater or buy a new, more efficient model.
Hot water system insulation
An insulation blanket can make some water heaters more energy efficient. If your water heater is located in unconditioned space i.e., a garage, basement or attic, or you don’t want added heat, your home performance contractor may recommend installing an R-11 or better heavy blanket. The higher the R value, the thicker the blanket and the more insulating power. An insulation blanket is not recommended for a water heater located where its lost heat could be utilized. Nor is a blanket necessary if you have a new water heater that is factory insulated with R-16 or better (the factory-installed insulation is located between the metal shell and the tank, so don’t worry if you can’t see it.) The manufacturer’s label will tell you how much insulation your water heater contains. You can purchase a water-heater insulation blanket as a kit based on the size of the heater — 30 gallons, 40 gallons, 50 gallons, and so on. The kit contains a blanket that’s finished with white vinyl on the outside and raw insulation on the inside and enough adhesive tape to finish the seams.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
The leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America is carbon monoxide (CO). It is odorless, tasteless, invisible and heavier than air – it’s a silent killer. The only safe way to know if carbon monoxide is present is to install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and in sleeping areas. Smoke detectors are also a life savers and save a thousand of life a year.
At the completion of each home performance project, your home will be much more comfortable and provide you with much better indoor air quality and will use less energy by incorporating these home energy saving measures.
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