Audits:

Or the Low

Hanging

Fruits of

Sustainability

Water Audits

Duct Cleaning

Blower Door Test

Sealing and Insulating Leaky AC

Ducts

Phantom Loads

AC Filter Replacement

Attic Fans

Solar Attic Fans

Ceiling Fans

Water Heaters

Water Softeners

Radon & Asbestos Test

Gutters/Downspouts

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AUDITS

Everyone agrees that “going green” is a good idea. But what is the best approach? The goal of saving the planet can actually lead to inaction because it seems overwhelmingly large and complex. While it’s tempting to do nothing and let others worry about going green, it’s important that individuals act at the local level to promote global sustainability. To put it another way, “you have to

start somewhere.”

You don’t have to take drastic action to get started. By taking small but practical steps to improve your home environment, you will get into the right frame of mind; realize that there are plenty of sustainability steps available at home; and develop a mental bridge between home sustainability, resource conservation, and saving the world.

We titled this book “ROOTs” for a reason. A green lifestyle needs to start with basics. By progressing from the simple to the complex or the free to the costly, you can have a major impact on lifestyle as well as utility bills. For example, start with green household cleaners and then add a storm water collection system (rain barrel). Next, move on to increasing insulation and even replacing outdated appliances. As this process continues, it will become natural for you to constantly seek out new ways to decrease usage, reduce bills, and save resources.

This section provides a home audit of likely areas where energy and water are being wasted. Often, simple repairs are all that is required to immediately lower utility bills. For example, look for telltale signs of leaking pipes or dripping faucets, heating and air conditioning ducts that need cleaning, filters that need replacing, window frames that need caulking or weather-stripping, etc. Doing a home audit first will help you identify the “low hanging fruits” of sustainability.

In going through this section, you’ll probably think of other areas that can be included in the home audit. The following topics are only the beginning steps towards a sustainable lifestyle.

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Attic

Fans

What is it?

The purpose of an attic fan is to cool a non-air- conditionedatticbydrawingcooleroutsideairinthrough attic vents—either soffit or gable—and pushing hot air out. Since attic temperatures can reach up to 150°F in the summer, cooling the attic will reduce the amount of energy needed to cool the entire home because of the overall reduction of heat being transferred.

Why do it?

Pros:

Attic fans cool the temperature in an attic, reducing the amount of heat that is transferred into the home’s living space and thus reducing its overall energy usage.

Cons:

Research has shown that conventional attic fans consume more energy than they save. Solar powered attic fans are recommended because they produce their own energy.

If an attic has blocked soffit vents and is not well-sealed from the rest of the house, attic fans will suck cool conditioned air from the living space and into the attic. This will use more energy and make the air conditioner work harder, leading to more maintenance and repairs.

Also, an attic that is not well sealed may cause the attic fan to suck moist, moldy air up from a crawl space into the house, or backdraft a water heater and disperse carbon monoxide in the house.

Maintenance:

You should check attic fans at least once a season to make sure they are operating properly, not leaking water, not damaged by

hail, and don’t contain bird nests or rodent infiltration.

If you notice that the attic fan doesn’t turn on when outside temperatures are high, the thermostat is probably broken. Also check for signs of water damage on wood or insulation in the attic. If there is damage near the attic fan, it probably means the attic fan cap is loose.

Timeline:

Someone with basic carpentry and electrical skills can install an attic fan within a few hours.

Steps:

1.Install a vent or an automatic shutter to fit the size and diameter of the fan.

2.Once the shutter in installed, mount the attic fan.

3.Wire the fan in compliance with local codes and manufacturer’s guidelines.

Cost Estimator:

An electrician will charge about $550 to install a direct-drive attic fan that cools a typical 1,500-square-foot house. A homeowner with electrical and carpentry skills can buy and install one for about $100–$150.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Before running out to buy an attic fan, check the existing ventilation in the attic. While the type and number of vents will vary depending on the specific roof design, house location, and amount of direct sun, a venting system should have a minimum of1 square foot of roof vent area for every 300 square feet of attic area.

✓✓When it comes to vents, more is better, and every vent mounted high on a roof needs a counterpart on the lower roof, usually under the eaves in the soffit. With this arrangement, hot air rising through the upper vents will pull cooler air into the attic through the soffit vents. Without soffit vents, it’s like trying to cool a home by opening the windows on only one side of the house. Check existing soffit vents to make sure they’re not clogged with debris.

✓✓Attic fans are best placed facing due south.

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Solar Attic

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Fans

 

What is it?

While solar energy represents a good alternative to fossil fuels, the technology required to harness it is still far from perfection. A perfect example of this is the solar attic fan, which is large fan installed in the roof of a home, above the attic, and powered by a photovoltaic (PV) panel. If you’ve ever had to do work in your attic, you know how hot and stuffy it can get up there. PV ventilators are designed to circulate air through the attic to keep it cool. In researching these fans, you’ll find that homeowners debate among themselves and with experts as to how effective solar-powered ventilators actually are. The truth is, there’s no single energy solution that will meet the needs of all homes. You’ll have to take into account your home’s unique characteristics, as well as your personal budget and the climate of your region, and make a decision based on those facts.

Why do it?

Pros:

Qualifies for 30% federal tax credit on purchase and installation

If properly installed, reduces energy cost of home

Quieter than electric-powered fan

Makes attic temperature more tolerable

DIY installation

Cons:

If attic isn’t sealed properly, fan can draw cool indoor air up into attic, wasting A/C

Cost of installation sometimes greater than energy savings

Maintenance:

Check the fan regularly to make sure it’s working efficiently. Fans come with a 5 year to lifetime warranty, depending on brand.

Timeline:

May take some time to decide if a solar attic fan is right for your home, but fan installation takes less than an hour. You may see energy savings immediately, but you may not receive investment money back in savings for several years.

Steps:

1.Consult a building engineer to determine whether your home would benefit from a PV ventilator. Other options include installing a radiant barrier or a whole-house fan; sealing and insulating ductwork; or creating an unvented conditioned attic.

2.If necessary, seal any openings between the attic and the living space in order to prevent air-conditioned air from being sucked up into the attic.

3.Make sure your attic is properly ventilated with ridge, soffit, and/or gable vents. When the fan removes 360 cubic feet of hot air per minute (cfm), these vents need to replace it with at least

1square foot of fresh outside air.

4.Now you need to figure out what size of fan to purchase. First, calculate the volume of your attic in cubic feet. Multiply this by

10air changes per hour to get the total flow required per hour. Then divide your total flow per hour by 60 to get cubic feet per minute (cfm).

5.Find a fan that will provide the cfm you calculated in Step 3. Fans come in different wattages and with different features and warranties. You can compare fans here: http://www.solar-attic- fan-info.com/solar-attic-fan-brands.php.

6.After ordering your fan, follow the instruction manual closely. You can also consult online guides such as http://www. houseneeds.com/upload/pdf/hnfs-solar-attic-fan-install.pdf.

Cost Estimator:

Typically $300-$700 per fan. Cost will increase if you need to make home improvements before adding fan.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Fill out IRS Form #5695 to receive the 30% tax credit. Check http://www.dsireusa.org/ to see if your state offers an additional tax incentive.

✓✓When cutting a hole in the roof for the fan, do NOT cut any roof rafters.

✓✓Place the fan so that it’s facing south, receiving the best sun exposure. Incline the solar panel to the same angle in degrees as your latitude coordinates (in North America, this is usually 35-40° from horizontal. If you’ll be using the fan mainly in summer, you can subtract about 10-15° from this angle.

✓✓In the event of a hurricane or high-wind conditions, screw down the solar panel to a horizontal position.

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Ceiling

Fans

What is it?

Ceiling fans are fans mounted from the ceiling in a home. While a ceiling fan does not necessarily lower the temperature, it does make the room feel cooler by providing a circulatory breeze. Effective circulation can make the room feel up to 8° cooler, allowing the thermostat to be raised, and reducing air conditioning bills by up to 40%.

Why do it?

Pros:

Better thermal comfort

Allows higher thermostat temperatures, reducing air conditioning usage which saves energy and prolong the life of the air conditioner.

Cons:

Ceiling fans only move air, they don’t cool it, so they should be turned off when the room is unoccupied for the energy saving benefits will not be realized.

Maintenance:

Ceiling fans typically do not require any maintenance besides regular cleaning of the blades and the tightening any loose screws.

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Timeline:

Someone with basic electrical skills can install a ceiling fan in less than half a day by replacing an existing ceiling light fixture.

Steps:

1.Make sure you have a drill/driver, drywall saw, circuit tester, wire strippers, screwdrivers, and hammer, as well as wire nuts and nails.

2.Mike Morris of DIY Network provides a great tutorial (with videos) for how to replace an existing ceiling light fixture with a ceiling fan: http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/how-to- replace-a-light-fixture-with-a-ceiling-fan/index.html

3.Remember to adjust the thermostat when using the ceiling fan for additional energy and monetary savings.

Cost Estimator:

Basic ceiling fans range from $20–$50. Fans with design- er shades, polycarbonate blades, and special finishes for woods and metal can cost a few hundred dollars.

Quick Tips:

Look for these qualities in fans:

✓✓Blade pitch. The wider the blade (5 inches is sufficient) and the higher the angle—called “pitch”—the more air is circulated. Higher-end fans have a blade pitch of 12 to 14 degrees.

✓✓Blade finish. Make sure the factory has treated the blades with a moisture sealant to prevent wooden blades from warping and peeling, and metal blades from scratching and tarnishing.

✓✓Motor quality. Quality fans come with motors that have sealed and lubricated ball bearings, which require little maintenance. More expensive models feature heavy-duty windings, precision engineering bearings, and die-cast housings, which vibrate less and are more attractive.

✓✓ENERGY STAR-rated fans. These are 50% more efficient than conventional ones.

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Sealing and Insulating Leaky AC Ducts

What is it?

Just as it can leak into windows, doors, and walls, air can also leak into an HVAC system’s ductwork. This leakage can result in significant energy losses as the HVAC system tries to maintain the temperature set on the home’s thermostat. According to the EPA, 20% of air moving through the duct system in a typical house is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts.

Why do it?

Pros:

Can improve the efficiency of a heating and cooling system by as much as 20%

Helps with common comfort problems, such as rooms that are too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter

Improves indoor air quality by reducing the risk of pollutants entering ducts and circulating through the home

Reduces risk of backdrafting, in which combustion gases (e.g. carbon monoxide) released by gas furnaces are drawn back into the living space, rather than expelled to the outdoors

Cons:

None.

Maintenance:

Replace tape over furnace filter slot every 3 months. Also check other sealing around the home at this time.

Timeline:

A professional duct leakage test takes approximately 30 minutes to conduct and a few additional hours to seal up.

Steps:

1.Determine if the ductwork is leaky, and if so, by how much. These are some signs of leakage:

Summer and winter utility bills are high

Rooms are difficult to heat and cool

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Rooms are stuffy and don’t feel comfortable

Ducts are located in an attic, unfinished basement, crawl space or garage

There are tangled or kinked flexible ducts in the system

2.To get a more accurate and thorough determination on the leakiness of the air ducts, hire a professional Residential Energy Service Network (RESNET)-certified energy auditor or professional HVAC technician to perform a test on the duct system. There are numerous tests that can be performed such as blower door, pressure pan, and duct blaster. ENERGY STAR recommends looking for a contractor who will:

Inspect the entire duct system, including attic and crawl spaces

Evaluate the system’s supply and return air balance

Repair damaged and disconnected ducts and straighten out flexible ducts that are tangled or crushed

Seal all leaks and connections with mastic, metal tape, or an aerosol-based sealant.

Seal all registers and grills tightly to the ducts

Insulate ducts in unconditioned areas like attics, crawlspaces, and garages with duct insulation that carries an R-value of 6 or higher

Include a new filter as part of any duct system improvement, and evaluate air flow after repairs are completed

Ensure there is no backdrafting of gas or oil-burning appliances, and conduct a combustion safety test after ducts are sealed

3.For DIY repair, focus first on sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, or unheated basement. Use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and

1.connections of ducts. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, wrap the ducts in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter. Next, seal ducts that are accessed in the heated or cooled part of the house. After replacing the furnace filter, the filter slot can be taped over to reduce leaks around the filter.

Cost Estimator:

The cost for materials for a DIY project runs $50–$75. The cost to have an energy auditor or HVAC contrac- tor perform a leakage test averages $200. It would cost an extra $600–$800 to seal any leaks found in the test. We suggest getting quotes from multiple contractors.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Start sealing air leaks by using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulating all the accessible ducts. Duct tape should not be used, because it is not long-lasting.

✓✓

✓✓Also, make sure the connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls and ceiling. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.

✓✓

✓✓Duct seams need to be mechanically fastened (using sheet-metal screws for galvanized ducts and compression straps for flex duct) before being sealed.

✓✓For sealing most duct leaks, mastic works better than any tape.

✓✓Mastic is messy, so wear old clothes during application. ✓✓Install mastic as thick as a nickel.

✓✓Cracks or seams wider than 1/8 inch need to be repaired with fiberglass mesh as well as mastic.

✓✓It’s common to find disconnected duct components— takeoffs coming loose from ducts or ducts disconnected from register boots—in attics or basements. Such disconnected ducts can cause tremendous amounts of energy waste.

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✓✓Leaks connected to the outdoors are more important to repair than leaks inside the home’s thermal envelope. ✓✓Holes that see high pressures, in other words, holes near the air handler, are more important to repair than distant holes that see relatively low pressures.

✓✓Most furnaces have many bad leaks close to the blower fan, including leaks in the furnace jacket seams, between the furnace and the plenums, and between the duct takeoffs and the plenums.

✓✓Supply-system leaks cause more energy waste than return-system leaks

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Phantom

Loads

What is it?

According to the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL), phantom loads, also known as “standby power” or “vampire power” is electricity used by appliances and equipment while they are switched off or not performing their primary function. Power is consumed by power supplies, the circuits and sensors needed to receive a remote signal, soft keypads, and displays including miscellaneous LED status lights. Any product with an external power supply or continuous display (including LED), or that charges batteries runs continuously, consuming standby power.

Why do it?

Pros:

Reducing phantom loads saves energy. LBNL research suggests that 5–10 percent of residential energy usage comes from phantom loads.

Cons:

None.

Maintenance:

Reducing phantom loads requires following the tips below on a continual basis.

Timeline:

The process of identifying phantom loads can be completed in less than an hour.

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Steps:

1.Unplug devices that aren’t frequently in use; however, make sure to avoid appliances with frayed wires and plugs, due to the risk of electrocution.

2.Use a switchable power strip for clusters of computer or video products.

3.When shopping, search for low standby products, such as those rated by ENERGY STAR.

4.Measure the amount of phantom loads in your home by purchasing a meter, such as the Kill-A-Watt brand. The LBNL has data tables showing a range of standby power requirements for common household items. You can also use your home’s electricity meter.

Most rechargeable products gradually lose their charge over time. Charge products before they are needed.

Cost Estimator:

Most of the methods for reducing phantom loads cost noth- ing, although a good power strip might cost $10–$20, and a meter to measure phantom loads can cost $30–$100.

Quick Tips:

You also have the option to prevent plug load waste with innovative products such as modlets. According to the manufacturer ThinkEco, a modlet is a smart outlet that monitors power usage and disconnects from the power to save energy when the plugged-in gadget isn’t in use.

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Water

Audits

What is it?

A home water audit is an inspection of a home’s water usage and its plumbing systems for leakages. Professional audits provide the homeowner with recommendations to improve the home’s water-use efficiency. All water connections should be inspected—including faucets, toilets, showerheads, spigots, water heater and sprinkler systems.

Why do it?

Pros:

Household water audits can often result in savings of 20 to 30 gallons of water per day.

Irrigation water audits typically reduce water use by 25 to 40 percent.

Cons:

None.

Maintenance:

It’s advisable to perform a water audit every few years.

Timeline:

A water audit takes a few hours.

Steps:

If your appliances or fixtures are relatively new, you may be able to obtain the flow rate from manufacturer’s specifications. For other fixtures, follow the steps below to estimate water use:

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1.Turn faucet that you use to the normal flow rate and hold a container under the tap for 10 seconds and measure the quantity of water in the container.

2.Multiply the measured quantity of water by 6 to calculate the gallons per minutes (gpm) to estimate water use per minute.

3.Using the table below, evaluate the efficiency of your fixtures and appliances compared to that of conventional and low-flow fixtures and appliances:

4.The toilet can be the biggest water waster in a home, leaking up to 1,440 gallons per day, or one gallon per minute. Check the flapper and fill valve for leaks:

Remove the tank lid.

Once the tank is fully refilled after a flush, add some food coloring or a dye tablet. Put the tank lid back on.

Don’t flush the toilet again until after inspecting the toilet bowl.

After about 30 minutes, look in the bowl. If there is colored water, there is a leak.

Cost Estimator:

You can inspect much of your own system without a con- tractor, and many utility companies offer free water audits.