5 common energy efficiency misconceptions (Dan Hochman)

Hi, my name is Dan Hochman, and I manage our efforts in New York. Prior to joining Sealed, I had the pleasure (and pain) of being the only non-engineer in an energy engineering Master’s program at Carnegie Mellon. I grew up in Manhattan but now rock suburbia on a daily basis (usually with 90s Hip Hop playing in the car).

image

Most people tell me I’m a 65-year old living in a 25-year old body. My favorite customers discuss interest rate trends as I tell them about the efficiency of their boiler. Jewish grandmothers also love me – I’ve got a bit of Mensch on a Bench thing going on.

Working with Sealed, I have learned a ton about how homes use energy, and common misconceptions that many people have.

A home is everyone’s pride and joy and their single biggest investment. Everyone expects their home to be comfortable and secure, with the lowest possible operating and maintenance costs. Our parents never warned us when we were growing up that the American dream might come with a side order of $4-6,000 in annual utility bills.

Most people know that they could save money and be more comfortable with energy efficiency solutions, but either think their current home is already as efficient as it can be, or believe the wrong things are causing comfort issues and high energy bills.

Below are some of the most common things I hear in the home.

  1. Energy efficiency means lowering my thermostat

Many people thing that energy efficiency requires a behavior change. One customer stopped me as I was walking through a presentation and told me:

“I’ll probably have to change my behavior or lower my thermostat to lower my energy bills, right?”

Freezing to death will obviously lower your energy bills, but that’s not energy efficiency and that’s not our goal. Efficiency improvements like insulation, air sealing, and HVAC upgrades enable you to be more comfortable while using less energy.

image

  1. Old windows are the real problem

Without fail, more than half of customers bring up discomfort with their windows as the main energy efficiency culprit of the home. They always say

“And my windows are so drafty; I can feel them from my couch!”

It is rarely the case that windows are the priority for replacement when trying to reduce energy waste in the home. Most of the time, they simply need to be air sealed to reduce or eliminate drafts.

In most houses, windows make up 10-20% of the surface area exposed to the elements and they are some of the most expensive items per square foot to replace. You can insulate and air seal a massive attic for the same cost as it takes to replace a few square feet of windows.

image

  1. Attic fans save me money on energy bills

One customer stopped me mid-sentence as I was explaining the benefits of house fan removal. He told me:

“My whole-house (attic fan) is a Godsend during the summer. I’m not sure it’s a great idea to remove it.”

At one point in time, attic fans were useful for quickly cooling down homes in the sweltering summer. This was before homes were built with proper insulation and air conditioning. A house fan is essentially a gaping hole in your home.

And while it may save you some electricity in the summertime, it wasting a ton of energy in the winter because heat and air escape right through that fan vent. It almost always pays more to remove the house fan and properly insulate your attic. Your house will keep cool in the summer with light use of window or central AC units.

Many homeowners who I talk to attempt to cover their house fan vents with a plastic sheath or cloth during the colder months. This may mitigate some comfort issues around the vent, but it will not stop you from hemorrhaging money on your heating bills.

image

  1. 6 inches of insulation is plenty

I often hear from homeowners:

“My fiberglass insulation is 6 inches high, so I don’t need more insulation, right? How much more could you possibly fit?”

Winter is hard! If you live in a cold area, six inches of insulation means you are still letting plenty of warm air escape, which means you are cold and wasting money. Plus, all insulation isn’t created equal. It matter whether the insulation is even and if there are gaps. Even minor gaps in the insulation can significantly increase the amount of heat escaping.

The insulation in your attic should evenly blanket the attic flat and rise as much as 15” above the attic flat. Most of the time, the best thing you can do is add cellulose insulation above your existing fiberglass insulation. Cellulose is blown in and fills in crevices and gaps that the fiberglass insulation leaves behind.

In addition, homes often lack proper air sealing in the top-plates (gap between your wall and the wood frame of the house), open soffits (holes in the attic usually used to run plumbing), and high hats (ceiling light fixtures).

image

  1. New wall insulation is incompatible with replacing siding in the future

Sometimes a customer will caution me that wall insulation isn’t an option. They tell me:

“We can’t install wall insulation because we are planning on replacing siding”

In most cases, siding is installed on top of a separate layer of sheathing. Because the insulation sits between the sheetrock and the sheathing, it should have no bearing on when and whether you replace your siding.

Want to give your house a new look with different siding? Go ahead and do it! Don’t let that interfere with insulating your walls.

image

If you want to learn more about how your home uses energy, and how you can lower your energy bills (guaranteed), visit sealed.com or give us a call at 1-844-4SEALED

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *