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75+ Ways To Lower Cooling (& Heating) Costs

Without Upgrading Your HVAC system.

Part 2 of 4

For Part 1 — Click Here: Lower Cooling Costs 75 Ways – Part 1 of 4

photo of new home

Image Source: ShutterStock

This Is Part 2 Of Our Article Describing 75+ Ways to Lower Cooling Costs (& Heating Costs) Without Upgrading Your HVAC System.  There are many energy-saving upgrades you can do for your home that will provide year-round energy savings. These suggestions allow your A/C to run less, lower cooling bills, and make the home more comfortable.  Most of these suggestions also lower heating costs. This article is for upgrades of modest cost, and these suggestions are ranked in terms of cost versus savings.    This article does not include expensive upgrades like replacing windows.

In addition to lower cooling costs, many of these suggestions will make your home more quiet.  As you: increase attic insulation, seal air-leaks, and provide more coverage over windows, less outside noise enters your home.

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 and Denton 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.

Cold Travels Toward Warmth — Because Cold Air Is Denser Than Warm Air

Air leaks reverse based on the season:

  • You lose cooled air in summer.  Cool air leaks outdoors through air leaks near to the floor.
  • You lose heated air during winter.  Warm air rises and exits the home through air leaks near to the ceiling.

A 1970’s Built DFW Home’s Air Leaks Are As Much As An Open Window 24 / 7.

To learn more about the most energy efficient homes being built today, click below:

AlsPlumbing.com Net-Zero Homes

Air Leaks At Windows

opened window

Image Source: ShutterStock

While air leaks under or around exterior doors are typically visible — air leaks in windows are often hidden by (worn) weatherstripping — or covered by window treatments.

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

 

Replacing Weather Stripping On Existing Windows

For Windows That Are Used Frequently, a worn “fin-seal” or “pile” (resembles carpet pile) weatherstrip 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 easily replacing weather stripping.

Click On The White Arrow (in the center of the image) Below

To See Window Weather Stripping Easily Being Replaced Using A Tool Designed For Replacing Screens.

This type of weatherstrip has a plastic fin(s) centered within the pile.   The image below depicts this type of weatherstripping with the plastic fin in the center of the pile.   This weatherstripping comes in various thicknesses.  Be sure to measure the existing weatherstrip before you buy.  If it’s the wrong size, it will be too big to fit, or too small to close the gap.  You will lower cooling & and heating costs by replacing window weatherstripping (if needed).

Shown: Clear Fin Weatherstrip Tape  Windows & Patio Doors

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

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

 

For Windows That Are Never Opened — you can seal them with clear weatherseal tape.  DFW homes, with their original metal windows, have worn out weatherstripping that’s leaking air.   Lower cooling & heating cost with weather-sealing tape over the window’s gaps along the sliding lower window.

Shown below is 2′ x 25 feet roll of the clear, weather seal tape.  It’s also sold in 1″ width.  This tape is specifically made for sealing air leaks and can be used both indoors or outdoors.

Shown: Clear Weatherseal Tape For Interior & Exterior Use

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

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

 

To Create A Tighter Seal — Lock Windows When Not Open.   

One of the easiest ways to lower cooling costs and heating costs is to be sure all closed windows are locked.  This creates a tighter seal by squeezing the upper & lower window frames more tightly together.

unlocked window with gap between sashes

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown: Gap Between The Upper & Lower Window Sashes Due To Unlocked Window

 

Fireplace Air Leaks

wood burning fireplace

Image Source: ShutterStock

Always Close The Damper Once The Fire Is Completely Out.  

  • Warped or damaged fireplace damper.  With the extreme heat fireplace-dampers must endure — the damper can warp, become damaged, or wear out over time.  This creates an air gap leaking heat out of the home 24/7.

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

  • If you use the fireplace, damper replacement would pay for itself over time.
  • If You Don’t Use Your Fireplace (or rarely) — the product below provides a removable cover over the damper opening.  It’s called a Fireplace Balloon or Chimney Balloon.

Shown: Fireplace / Chimney Balloon

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

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

The product shown is large enough to cover a wide damper in a wood-burning fireplace.  If you have a gas fireplace — a smaller balloon can be used — the (round) flue-opening is as small as 3″ and as large as 9″ (check the opening size before ordering).   These balloons simply blow up and are pushed into place.  The dark rod (in the photo above) is to force and hold the balloon firmly into place.

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

Air Leaks Behind PreFab Fireplaces 

(When Added To An Existing Home)

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.  IF the fireplace vents into an existing brick chimney —  the area behind and around the fireplace needs to be sealed properly. Because the front is finished — this air leak cannot be seen.

Click Below To See A Prefab Fireplace That’s Not Sealed Properly:

Prefab Fireplace vented into a brick chimney. An open gap exists above the fireplace. )

 

There Is Nothing To Seal If The Home Was Originally Built With A Prefab Fireplace

  • The fireplace-venting is almost always metal (no brick chimney exists — or is needed).  Because the metal venting exits the home — it’s sealed so water can’t get inside the home around the vent pipe.  This ensures there won’t be any air-leaks too.
  • For a gas fireplace, the size of the metal vent pipe is 3″ to 12″.  Their vent size is determined by fireplace size.
  • Wood-burning, prefab fireplaces always vent upward — and their vent pipe is much larger.   Their vent pipe size is determined by the fireplace size.
  • Click Below To See A Prefab, Wood-Burning Fireplace Installed While Home Is Built:

Wood Burning, Prefab Fireplace During Construction

NOTE: Prefab, Wood-Burning fireplaces are open at the front– as shown in link above.

  • Click Here To See A Prefab, GAS Fireplace (venting upward) Installed While Home Is Built:

Prefab GAS Fireplace With Upward Vent

NOTE: Prefab, gas fireplaces typically have a see-through panel covering the front — as shown in link above.

  • Click Below To See A Prefab, GAS Fireplace (venting outward) Installed While Home Is Built:

Prefab GAS Fireplace Venting Outward

 

Air Leaks At Pull-Down Attic Stairs (inside living space)

Most DFW homes have the HVAC Ductwork in the attic.  Many also have the furnace inside the attic.  This requires pull-down stairs when the furnace is serviced or replaced.    Some DFW homes have the attic stairs inside the garage — they don’t need need to be weatherstripped.
Panady Attic Stairs Insulation Cover – 25″ x 54″ x 11″ – Class A Fireproof Attic Tent Insulation Cover – Attic Door Insulation Cover

Attic Stairs Inside Living Space

Few attic pull-down stairs were built with weatherstripping or insulation.   While air leak sealing will do little for cooling costs — it will have a tremendous effect on heating costs.

You can add weather stripping along all four sides — but first check to see if the weatherstripping will prevent the hatch from closing correctly (holding it slightly open).    An easier and more effective solution is to install an attic-stairs opening closure product (see below).  Most of these have a zipper around 3 sides to allow access into the attic when needed,

The Best Way To Seal Air Leaks & Insulate Your Attic Hatch — Is With A Product Designed For That Purpose

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

Image Source: Amazon Product Link

 

Air Leaks On The Exterior Of The Home

brick home

Image Source: ShutterStock

Check All Areas On The Home’s Exterior Where Different Building Materials Meet.   If the materials are not touching, and not caulked, air enters the home through the gap.  When exterior doors or windows are replaced — some contractors don’t seal the gap around the new windows.  Another common practice is to stuff fiberglass insulation in the gap.  While this provides some insulating — it does nothing to seal the air leak.

Click here to see a gap where siding meets trim around an exterior door: Gap along exterior door

This YouTube video shows the correct way to seal and insulate the gap between the opening and a window.  The correct product is low-expansion spray foam.  This one product both seals and insulates the opening.  If the gap is narrow — caulk may be used instead.

Image Source: YouTube Embedded Video

Air Leaks At Outlets & Light Switches

photo of electrical outlet

Shown: Air Gap Between Outlet And Cover Creates An Air Leak

Image Source: ShutterStock

Air leaks into the home through the gaps around outlets, or box they’re installed in — at the cover.  NOTE: Most interior walls leak as much air as exterior walls.

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

These foam gaskets are installed under the face-plate / 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 outlet’s slots.

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 At Gaps Created By Settled Foundations

Closing up air leaks caused by a settled foundation may create problems when the foundation is repaired.   The gaps will typically close once the home is lifted to its proper position.

Click to see air leaks created by settled foundations: Air Leakage gaps created by settling foundation

 

But Doesn’t Air Leakage Provide Fresh Air?

All homes need air-exchanges with outside air to maintain Interior Air Quality.  But most homes leak far more air than is needed.  Also, air that has passed through walls (such as air coming in at electrical outlets) or the ceiling (at light fixture boxes) is passing through insulation that is 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 (air changes per hour) for a newly-built home.   A late 1970’s built home has as much 17 ACH! *

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

The only safe fresh air comes directly into the home from outside.  Lots of air leaks pass through the walls, attic & ceilings.  For example, air leaking into your home from doors or walls (shared with a garage) can be a source for carbon monoxide.

The Best Way To Locate Air Leaks

To Find Air Leaks — Have An Energy-Audit Performed For Your Home.

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 makes the house “negatively pressurized” — as the fan  removes large amounts of air from inside the house.   This causes air to flow into the home at every location where the home leaks air.  A blower door test is the easiest and most accurate way to locate air leaks.

Click Here For A YouTube Video Showing A Blower-Door Test + Where The Home Leaks Air: Blower Door Test

 

Ductwork Leakage Testing 

Up to 40% of cooled & heated air can be escaping into the attic from leaking ductwork.   Imagine being able to lower cooling costs (and heating costs) by up to 40% with the one upgrade of sealing ductwork.

A contractor can test ductwork for leakage.  Click Here To See A Video That Explains: Ductwork Leakage Testing

There are many services that seal ductwork — and will perform the test for a nominal fee, or perhaps at no charge.  Many of these services can seal air leaks with a product that’s injected into the ductwork.  The product flows outward through air leaks — until it seals the leak.

 

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

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

 

Ductwork can have air leaks due to poor installation practices, or degradation of sealing materials which has occurred over time.  Also, it’s easy to bump a heat duct while working in the attic. Though it may appear fine, an air leak may have just been created.

In older homes, ductwork installation practices allow for a large number of air leaks.   Older homes may have attic ductwork that is uninsulated and was never sealed for air leaks when installed.  In many old homes ductwork was sealed with duct tape.

Attics in DFW can reach 160 degrees during summer.  Duct tape fails very quickly in hot attics (within weeks or months).  Mastic is  needed to seal ductwork properly.  If only 1 leak is found, lower cooling costs can pay for the inspection and repair costs in as little as one year.  Mastic stays pliable for years — keeping the seal in tact.

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak: Substantial Ductwork Leak

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak: Substantial Ductwork Leak

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak: Substantial Ductwork Leak

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak: Substantial Ductwork Leak

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak: Substantial Ductwork Leak

Click To See A Substantial Ductwork Air Leak: Substantial Ductwork Leak

Click To See Today’s Method Of Sealing Ductwork With Mastic: Ductwork Being Sealed With Mastic

 

Indoor Humidity Of 50% Or Higher Decreases Comfort

And Typically Requires Cooler Indoor Temperatures

Summertime DFW weather reports provide the “Feels Like” temperature. These number is the “Heat-Humidity Index” — that reflect how hot the air feels due to the humidity level.

We base the humidity comfort-level as the Dew Point Temperature.  Dew Point Humidity temperature is which dew forms overnight.    Lower dew points (below 50%) feel drier.  Higher dew points feel more humid.  During DFW summer — Dew Points range from 60’s to mid 80’s (degrees).

  • During DFW summer, July 4 is the most humid day of the year.  84% of the days will have high humidity in DFW during July.   **
  • During DFW winter, January 21 is the least humid day of the year.  0 days will have high humidity in DFW during January. **

* 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 emit a lot of heat when running.  Room dehumidifiers draw in moist air that crosses cooled coils — causing the air moisture to condense on the cold coils and drain away.  As air cools, its ability to hold moisture drops.  When air has more moisture than it can hold, the moisture turns to liquid.  A dehumidifier creates this condition.

Just like air conditioners, dehumidifiers must release the heat created.  Both air conditioners and dehumidifiers have a cold air side and a hot air side.  With a/c the heat is released outdoors.  With a dehumidifier, the heat is released back into the room.  The result is the air going back into the room will be +10 to +15 degrees warmer.

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

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

Side Note:  With a Multi-Speed Central A/C  (outdoor unit) — the HVAC system can slow the furnace’s fan speed to increase humidity removal.  Couple this type of HVAC System with a Nest Thermostat — and Nest will automatically tell the HVAC to slow down the fan speed.

TIP: With your existing HVAC — install a 5,000 BTU window a/c with the fan speed set to low.  The best location is the kitchen, as it’s a source of lots of heat and humidity.   With a window a/c, you get the benefits of a portable dehumidifier plus cooling — and all heat generated stays outdoors.

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.

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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 and Denton Counties, 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.