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Insulation

Can I add new insulation on top of old insulation? Yes, you can add the new insulation on top of old insulation, unless it is wet. If it is wet or appears that the insulation has previously been wet, you should look for the cause and repair the problem to prevent a reoccurrence. Remove any wet insulation; wet insulation can lead to mold, mildew, or even the rotting of your ceiling or roof rafters. Either batt or rolled insulation or blown loose-fill insulation (fiberglass or cellulose) can be installed on top of old insulation. You should not tack down rolled insulation, insulation needs to be fluffy to block heat flow or you will reduce the R-value of the insulation by squashing it flat to tack it down. What are my options/what types of insulation are there? Spray foam: there are two kinds of spray foam insulation; Open-cell spray foam is the lighter, less dense option. It is the cheaper of the two but has less insulating power (lowerR-value). Closed-cell spray foam is denser and more expensive, can provide a bit more rigid support to certain structures and can act as a water vapor barrier, because it is less permeable. Cellulose: loose-fill insulation that comes in two types: dry and wet. It ismade of recycled paper, consisting primarily of newspaper but also including some cardboard and other appropriate papers. It is the best environmentally conscious option because it is sourced in the recycling arena, though it is treated before use as insulation. The “wet” option is slightly damp when it is sprayed into the cavity. Fiberglass blanket: Widely available and...

HVAC

What is the SEER Rating? SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, the higher the SEER ratings mean greater efficiency. The more cooling/heating a system puts out for each unit of energy it consumes, the higher rating it will receive.  The higher the efficiency rating of your system, the less energy it will consume – that means lower utility bills and less of an impact on the environment. SEER is the most common way to evaluate an air conditioner’s efficiency. An air conditioner’s SEER rating is the ratio of the cooling output of an HVAC unit over a typical cooling season (measured in btu’s), divided by the energy consumed in Watt-Hours. It is the average over a cooling season, and is calculated using a constant indoor temperature and varying outdoor temperatures ranging from the 60’s to over 10-degrees. SEER also uses average US household energy expenditures in its calculation. A unit’s SEER value is displayed on its Energy Guide Tag as a number ranging from around 8 to 30, although right now there are few air conditioning units more efficient than about 23-SEER. So for instance, an air conditioner with a value of 23-SEER will be far more efficient than a unit with a rating of 14-SEER. Why should I have regular (preventative) maintenance? What can I do on my own for maintaining my HVAC system? Regular HVAC preventative maintenance is the best way to ensure trouble-free operation and peak performance. Pre-season maintenance is also important. It can help to avoid a system failure in severe hot or cold weather when you need it most, and it can also keep...

Audits

What are Energy Audits? / What is checked in an Energy Audit? During an in-home energy audit, a trained expert assesses how much energy your home uses and then suggests measures to improve the energy efficiency and safety of your home. Generally, the auditor will analyze your utility bills, use diagnostic equipment to check your home for efficiency, safety, and performance, discuss your specific concerns, and offer practical solutions to help you save energy and money. An auditor usually examines systems in homes such as the furnace/boiler, HVAC system, insulation, air leaks, water heater, refrigerator/freezer/range, etc. Other tests could include a blower door test (A blower door test determines a home’s overall airtightness) or infrared (IR) scans (thermography or infrared scanning to detect thermal defects and air leakage in building envelopes) – but these are not standard and normally need to be asked for and will be an additional cost. What is the difference between an Energy Rating and an Energy Audit? Essentially, the difference between an energy rating and energy audits is that an energy rating measures a home’s energy performance as compared to other similar homes, while energy audits show homeowners where and how their homes are losing energy. An energy rating will result in the home receiving a HERS Index (Home Energy Rating System) Score, which has been likened to a MPG (miles-per-gallon) sticker for homes. It gives homeowners, and prospective buyers, a good idea of what that home costs to run and how energy efficient it is. Energy audits identify a home’s energy problems and provide the homeowner with cost-effective solutions to those problems. Are there different kinds...

FAQ

More questions about improving efficiency in your home or can’t find the information you’re looking for? Check in the HomeEnergyNC FAQ! For more info, check out the Terms & Definitions section under the Green Building tab!...

Weatherization

Weatherizing your home starts with a variety of simple, DIY steps that both renters and homeowners can take on to lower their home’s energy usage, improve safety, improve comfort and save money.  And best yet, these steps will help in both the winter and summer!  Once you’ve taken on the simple, DIY steps you can move on to working with a contractor on more advanced weatherization activities including adding insulation, blower door-guided air sealing, crawlspace encapsulation and more. For the Winter: Start with these five simple but impactful steps to weatherize your home in the winter: Obtain a winter tune-up for your home’s heating system.  This system is responsible for 40 – 45% of your home’s energy usage so making sure that it’s working properly will save you the most energy and money while also improving your home’s comfort and addressing possible safety concerns.  A typical tune-up will cost $100 or more and can pay for itself in two to three months if small or large improvements are made during the tune-up. Remember: Use caution when working with an indoor portable heating unit.  Some of these heaters, particularly unvented gas heaters, can be dangerous if not used properly. Seal gaps, cracks and holes throughout your home.  Air leakage is a major cause of energy loss in a home, but is remarkably easy to fix.  Install or replace weatherstripping around doors and windows to ensure a tight seal.  Fill cracks in walls, around windows or doors, and anywhere else with caulking or expanding foam.  If there are sizeable holes in your walls, around piping, fireplaces or other parts of your home,...