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75+ Ways To Lower Cooling Costs Without Upgrading Your HVAC System

And Many Ways Also Lower Heating Costs

Air Leaks-Continued — Part 3 of 5

Click Here To Start At This Article’s Beginning: Lower Cooling Costs 75 Ways – Part 1 of 5

photo of new home

Image Source: ShutterStock

This Is Part 3 Of Our 5-Part Article — Is Continued From Part-2 About Air Leaks.  Many of these energy-saving upgrades are little to modest cost and provide year-round savings. These upgrades result in; lower cooling/heating bills, a more comfortable home, plus your HVAC System less & lasts longer.  These upgrades are ranked by upgrade’s cost versus savings.

Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full-service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in Plano, TX; Murphy, TX; and Wylie, TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin County, TX with no additional travel charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing. 

We’ll arrange an appointment at your convenience.

Lower Cooling Costs By Sealing Air Leaks At Windows

opened window

Image Source: ShutterStock

Air leaks in windows are often hidden by (worn) weatherstripping.

Click Here To See An Air Leak At The Bottom Of A Window: Window with visible air leak.

Worn Window Weatherstripping

Window weatherstripping typically has a “fin-seal” (a very thin plastic) centered between a row of “pile” (looks like carpet pile) on each side of the fin.   A worn fin seal can be hard to see because of the pile.   When the fin-seal wears out — air leaks along the sides of windows that move.  Non-moving windows are permanently sealed and need no attention.

Copy The Link Below Into Your Browser For A Close-Up Photo Of A Fin-Seal Between 2 Rows Of Pile:

https://www.swisco.com/Gray-3-16/pd/Wool-Pile/58-021?gclid=CjwKCAjw47eFBhA9EiwAy8kzNCbqyW_2tLU3npe3aLc7RIwnu9pAE5AC9NvItwovw-n6QW31wf1MeRoCpr4QAvD_BwE

Window weatherstripping can typically be replaced.   In most cases, the weatherstrip simply slides within grooves — and is removed by pulling on one end.  The new piece is inserted by aligning it to slide within the groves.  The video below shows another method for replacing weather stripping.

Image Source: Youtube Embedded Video

To View Video — Click On The White Arrow In Center Of Image

If You Have Windows That Are Never Opened —  use clear weatherseal tape around all 4 sides of the moving window to lower cooling costs.   DFW homes with their original metal windows almost certainly have weatherstripping that’s worn and leaking air along all 4 sides of the moving sash.   Many older DFW homes have windows with only a lower window sash that moves — their upper window doesn’t move and is sealed.

Shown below is 2-inch x 25-foot roll —  also available in 1″.  This tape is specifically made for sealing air leaks and can be used both indoors or outdoors.

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

Shown: Clear Weatherseal Tape For Interior & Exterior Use

Click On Image To; View Product, See Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

 

Lower Cooling Costs By Keeping Windows Locked  

One of the easiest ways to lower cooling costs (and heating costs) is to keep windows locked.  This creates a tighter seal by squeezing the upper & lower windows more tightly together.

unlocked window with gap between sashes

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown: Unlocked Window Showing A Gap Between The Upper & Lower Window Sashes.

 

Lower Cooling Costs By Keeping The Fireplace Damper Closed When Not In Use

-AND-

Air Leaks At Fireplaces

wood burning fireplace

Image Source: ShutterStock

Always Close The Damper Once The Fireplace Has Cooled.  

  • Warped or damaged fireplace damper.  Due to the extreme heat — fireplace dampers can; warp, become damaged, or wear out.
  • This creates an air gap leaking heat out of the home 24/7 during winter.
  • It also provides a place for heat to enter the home during summer (heat travels toward cold).
  • Lower cooling costs by ensuring the damper is closed when the fireplace isn’t being used.

Click Here To See A Badly Warped Fireplace Damper:  Badly Warped Fireplace Damper

  • If you use your wood-burning fireplace — damper repair or replacement pays for itself.
  • If You Don’t Use Your Fireplace (or rarely) — the product below provides a removable damper cover.  It’s an easy way to seal off the chimney and lower cooling costs (heat travels toward cold).  It also prevents heat loss up the chimney during winter.  It’s called a: “Fireplace Balloon” or “Chimney Balloon”.

TIP:  Gaps around the fireplace damper are easier to see during daylight when the sun is directly overhead.

Shown: Fireplace / Chimney Balloon

Click On Image To; View Product, See Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

The damper cover shown is for a wood-burning fireplace.  These balloons simply blow up, then they are pushed into place — and held in place by their attached rod.

Note:  If you forget, and start a fire — the balloon melts.   This safety feature ensures the balloon can’t create a carbon-monoxide danger.

A Gas Fireplace Is 1 Of 2 Types

Shown: B-Vent Gas Fireplace

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

Direct-Vent Gas Fireplace

A Direct-Vent Fireplace Is Much More Energy-Efficient Than B-Vent Because It:

  • Has a Non-Removable Glass Front. 

Note: Because the fireplace is sealed — the glass must be in place for the fireplace to operate safely.   

TIP: You can add a Wire-Mesh Screen to help protect people and pets from the hot front.

  • Has a sealed combustion chamber.
  • Draws outdoor air in for the fire.
  • Vents exhaust outdoors through a wall

Note: Some direct-vent models are designed for a flue going through the roof.  These are mostly replacements for an existing gas fireplace.

A Direct-Vent Fireplace:

  • Doesn’t leak heat up the flue.
  • Doesn’t draw indoor air for the fire.
  • It’s vented directly out the wall behind it.
  • Direct Vent avoids the cost to add a vent through the roof.

Adding A Gas Fireplace? 

Choose Direct-Vent For Lower; Cooling Costs, Heating Costs, Installation Costs, &  Fireplace Operating Costs

direct vent fireplace venting

Image Source: Shutterstock

Shown: A Direct-Vent Fireplace Exhaust-Vent Coming Through The Wall Directly Behind The Fireplace (which is why it’s called: “Direct-Vent”).

B-Vent Gas Fireplace

B-Vent Fireplaces Aren’t As Energy-Efficient As Direct-Vent Because:

  • The combustion chamber is not sealed. 
  • Some B-Vent models have a glass front.   It can be removed for cleaning — then it must be reinstalled before using the fireplace.
  • Some B-Vent models are open with no glass front.  There’s a wire-mesh screen that pulls over the front.
  • B-Vent draws air indoor air from the room for the fire (through vent holes in the glass front). 
  • B-Vent vents exhaust outdoors through the roof. 
  • B-Vent a round, metal vent pipe that can be up to 12″.  Flue size is determined by the fireplace’s BTU rating.   

NOTE: Texas Building Code Does Not Allow A Damper For A B-Vent Gas Fireplace.

If a damper is present — it must have a clip that keeps the damper open. **

WHY?: This avoids a carbon monoxide danger should the fireplace be used with the damper closed. 

** Source: Texas/TPREIA Home Inspectors //  https://forum.nachi.org › gas-igniters-in-fireplaces

Because a B-Vent Fireplace’s Damper MUST Be Left Open:

  • During Winter: The fireplace allows cool outdoor air in when any exhaust vent is running (bath, kitchen, or clothes dryer).
  • During Winter: The fireplace allows heat to escape from the home 24/7.
  • During Summer: The fireplace allows hot outside to enter the home (heat travels toward cool).

Air Leaks Behind PreFab Gas Fireplaces That Were Added Later

Shown: PreFab Gas Fireplace

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

  • PreFab fireplaces installed in an existing home can be gas or wood-burning — and must be vented through the roof.
  • IF the gas fireplace vents into an existing brick chimney —  the area behind the fireplace must be sealed properly to eliminate air leaks.

Copy This Below Into Your Browser To See An Unsealed Prefab Fireplace That Was Added Later (scroll down): 

Top 10 Air Leaks in Existing Homes — Part 1

If The Home Was Originally Built With A Prefab Fireplace — Its Chimney Is Likely Properly Sealed

  • If the prefab fireplace was installed when the home was built — its venting is metal.    The vent pipe’s size is based on the fireplace’s BTU rating.
  • Where the metal exhaust vent exits the home — it’s sealed for water leakage.  This also eliminates air leaks.
  • With Wood-Burning & B-Vent gas fireplaces — the venting is always vertical.
  • With a Direct-Vent gas fireplace — the venting is typically horizontal — through the wall directly behind the fireplace.

Note: More expensive homes may have a “masonry” fireplace — with a firebox (combustion chamber) that’s built with bricks — versus a pre-fab fireplace insert.

Lower Cooling Costs By Weatherstripping Pull-Down Attic Stairs (if inside living space)

pull down attic stairs

Image Source: Shutterstock

Shown: Pull-Down Attic Stairs Inside The Home

Most DFW homes have HVAC Ductwork and/or the Furnace in the attic.  The furnace is accessed using pull-down attic stairs.   In newer homes, these stairs are likely weather-stripped.  In older homes, they are not — and leak air around all 4 sides.

Note: Pull-down stairs in the garage don’t need to be weather-stripped.

The Most Effective Way To Seal Air Leaks + Insulate Pull Down Attic Stairs

Is With A Product Designed For That Purpose

You may be able add weather-stripping along all four sides — but first, check to see if weather-stripping prevents the hatch from closing correctly (holding it slightly open).    An easier and more effective solution for most Attic-Stairs is the closure product shown below.

Image Source: Amazon.com Embedded Link

Click On Image To; View Product, Read Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

The Product Shown States: “R-Value of 14. 5 + Reflects 97% of radiant-heat.

Note: The sun shining on the roof creates radiant-heat in the attic.   You feel the sun’s radiant-heat when you’re in the sun.  If you move to a shaded area — you immediately feel cooler because the sun’s radiant-heat is blocked.   Many DFW homes have a radiant-heat barrier installed in the attic.

Air Leaks On The Home’s Exterior

brick home

Image Source: ShutterStock

Check All Areas On The Home’s Exterior Where Different Building Materials Meet.   If the materials don’t touch, and aren’t caulked — air leaks in through the gap.  When exterior doors or windows are replaced — some contractors may not seal or insulate the gap around the new windows.  Another common practice is to push fiberglass insulation in the gap.  While this provides insulating — it doesn’t seal air leaks.

Click This Link To See A Huge Gap Where An Exterior Door’s Trim Meets The Bricks: Gap Along Exterior Door

There’s evidence the gap was once caulked.  The caulk was removed and never resealed at the time the photo was taken.

 

The YouTube video below shows the correct way to seal and insulate the gap between the opening and a window.

Note: Caulk Seals Air Leaks — It Doesn’t Insulate.  The product shown is Low-Expansion Spray Foam — it seals & insulates.

Image Source: YouTube Embedded Video

Air Leaks At Outlets & Light Switches

photo of electrical outlet

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown: Air Gap Around An Electrical Outlet

Air leaks into the home through the gaps around electrical outlets, and/or the box they’re installed in — beneath the cover.

NOTE: Most interior walls leak as much air as exterior walls.

  • Add electrical outlet & light switch gaskets on both outside & inside walls.

These foam gaskets are installed under the cover and fit tightly around the electrical outlet or light switch. 

Shown:  Gaskets For Electrical Outlets & Light Switches

Click On Image To; View Product, See Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

  • You can further reduce electrical outlet air leaks by installing child-guard caps in unused outlets.

Shown:  Child Guard For Electrical Outlets

Click On Image To; View Product, See Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

Air Leaks Created By Settled Foundation

Closing air leaks caused by a settled foundation will likely create problems when the foundation is repaired.   Most gaps close when the foundation is returned to its proper position.  It’s best to insert foam weatherstripping (without an adhesive side)  — so it can be easily removed before foundation repair day.   A putty knife makes inserting the weatherstripping easier.

Weather-Stripping designed for a window a/c works well for settled foundation leaks — because it doesn’t have an adhesive side.

Do An Internet Search For:  Duck Brand Window A/C Insulating Strip Seal 284423

This is an inexpensive product.  There are other products available too.

 

But Doesn’t Air Leakage Provide Fresh Air?

In order to ensure indoor air quality — all homes need a minimum of 35% of the indoor air exchanged with outdoor air each hour.   But most older DFW homes leak far more.  Also, air that has passed through insulated walls (like around electrical outlets) or the ceiling (at light fixture boxes) — is passing through insulation that’s filled with dust & possibly other contaminants.

Air Changes Per Hour (ACH) is a rating system to determine how quickly the home exchanges indoor air with outside through air leaks.  The 2016 Texas Building Code allows no more than 3 ACH (300% of the indoor air exchanged with outdoor air each hour) for a newly-built home.   A compared — a 1970’s built home may have has as much 17 ACH! *

* Source: http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/revisiting-energy-saving-handbook-1979

To Find Air Leaks — You Can Get An Energy-Audit Performed

blower door test

SHOWN:  A Doorway Temporarily Equipped For A Blower Door Test 

Image Source: ShutterStock

* An Energy-Audit includes a “blower door test”.  This temporary door-enclosure causes the house to become “negatively pressurized”.  This causes air to come into the home at every air leak.  A blower door test is an easiest and most accurate way to locate air leaks.

Click On The White Arrow In Center Of This Image To Watch A YouTube Video Showing A Blower-Door Test

Ductwork Inspection & Leakage Testing 

ductwork for hvac system

Image Source: Shutterstock

Lower cooling costs (and heating) by up to 40% with the single upgrade of ductwork sealing.

An HVAC Contractor Can Test Ductwork For Leakage

Image Source: YouTube Embedded Video

Click On White Arrow At Center Of Image To View Video

  • There are many services that seal ductwork.
  • Most perform a ductwork-leakage test for a nominal fee, or for free.
  • Many services seal air leaks with a product that’s sent inside the ductwork.
  • The product then flows outward through air leaks — until the leak becomes sealed.

Click This Link To See A Demonstration Of One Brand Of Ductwork-Sealing Services: Ductwork Sealing Service

Note: Al’s does not endorse any specific Ductwork Sealing Service — only because we don’t have first-hand knowledge of all services available.

Ductwork can have air leaks due to; poor installation, degradation of original sealing materials, degradation of ductwork, damage, and others. Though the ductwork may appear to be ok — air leaks may exist.    If even one sizable ductwork air leak exists — lowered cooling & heating costs will pay for sealing in as little as one year.

Older DFW homes may have uninsulated attic ductwork and/or was never sealed for air leaks.  In many older DFW homes, ductwork may have been sealed with duct tape.  DFW attics can reach 170 degrees during summer.   Duct tape fails very quickly in such hot temperatures (within days or weeks).

Today, Mastic is used to seal ductwork properly.  It goes on soft and Mastic stays pliable for years — keeping the seal intact.

Click Here To See Mastic Being Applied To Ductwork: Ductwork Mastic Being Applied

Examples Of Major Ductwork Leaks:

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak During An Inspection: Ductwork Leak 1 — came loose at a connection

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak: Ductwork Leak 2 — came loose at a connection

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak: Ductwork Leak 3 — came completely apart at a connection

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak: Ductwork Leak 4 – flexible ductwork degradation due to age

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak: Ductwork Leak 5 — rodent hole

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak: Ductwork Unable To Function Properly — kinked due to poor installation

 

Indoor Humidity Of 50%+ Decreases Comfort

And Typically Requires Cooler Indoor Temperatures To Feel Comfortable

Summertime DFW weather reports often provide the: “Feels Like” temperature.  It’s called the: “Heat-Humidity Index” — and indicates how hot the air feels due to the humidity level.

Humidity is measured as: “Dew Point (temperature).   It’s the temperature at which dew forms.  This is because, as air cools, it can hold less & less humidity.  At some temperature the humidity turns into water (dew).   Lower dew points (below 50%) feel drier.  Higher dew points feel more humid.

  • During DFW summer  2020 — Dew Points ranged from 71–75.  On Average85% of July days have high humidity in DFW.   **
  • During DFW winter 2020  — Dew Points ranged from 18–52.    On Average0 January days have high humidity in DFW. **

* Source: https://weatherspark.com/m/8813/7/Average-Weather-in-July-in-Dallas-Texas-United-States

 

Can indoor humidity be controlled with a portable dehumidifier?  Yes, but — dehumidifiers add a lot of heat indoors.   The temperature of the air leaving a dehumidifier is +15– 25° warmer than the air going in.  ***

  • When the air has more moisture than it can hold — the moisture turns to liquid as the air cools.  A dehumidifier causes this.
  • Refrigerant dehumidifiers cool the moist air entering them.
  • This causes the humidity to condense into water on the dehumidifier’s coils — then the water drains from the coils.

Just like air conditioners, dehumidifiers release the heat into the nearby air.   And, in order for the refrigerant to be able to release all the heat within it — the refrigerant must be heated even more.  With a/c — the heat is released outdoors.  With a dehumidifier — the heat is released back into the room. The air returning into the room will be +10 to +15 degrees warmer than the air entering the dehumidier.

  • A small dehumidifier uses 250 watts and produces 875 BTU’s of heat each hour.
  • As compared — a typical new refrigerator produces around 488 BTU’s of heat each hour **
  • Then the home’s A/C must remove the heat generated by the dehumidifier.
  • By the time your a/c removes the added heat — you won’t lower cooling bills, and may raise them.

** Source: https://www.hunker.com/12610048/the-average-btus-for-a-refrigerator

TIP: You can install a 5,000 BTU Window A/C (with fan speed at low or medium) — to act as a dehumidifier.  The best location for it is the kitchen — as it’s typically the hottest and most humid room in the house (except bathrooms).   With a window a/c — you’ll get the benefits of a portable dehumidifier + cooling — and all heat generated stays outdoors.

A Variable-Speed HVAC System Can Slow The furnace’s fan speed — to increase humidity removal.   

Coupled it with a Nest Thermostat, and Nest will monitor the indoor humidity — and automatically tell the HVAC to slow the fan speed.  With a single-speed HVAC — Nest can set the temperature cooler to remove more humidity.  Note: Humidity-Removal settings are optional and only occur if the Nest is told to.

SOURCE:  http://www.allergyconsumerreview.com/dehumidifiers-answer.html#sthash.PWUC8HKH.61ql4IO2.dpufure the a/c is running at its peak capacity & ability.  Most can also clean the outside unit during a Tune-Up.

*** Source:https://www.santa-fe-products.com/understanding-heat-generated-dehumidifier/

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This Section was about Air Leaks — continued From Part-2.   This was Part 3 Of Our 5-Part Article For 75+ Ways to Lower Cooling Costs without Upgrading Your HVAC System.  Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally, we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full-service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in Allen, TX; Frisco, TX; and McKinney,TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin County, TX with no additional travel charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience.