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75+ Ways To Lower Cooling Costs (without upgrading HVAC system)

Part 2 of 4

photo of new home

Image Source: ShutterStock

This Article Offers 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 will also lower heating costs.

In addition to lower cooling costs, many of these suggestions will make your home quieter.  As you: increase attic insulation, seal air-leaks, and provide more coverage over windows, less outside noise will enter your home.   This article is for upgrades of modest cost, and these suggestions are ranked in terms of cost versus savings.    In this article, we don’t address expensive upgrades, such as replacing windows.

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 and offer 24/7 Emergency Service.

Cold Travels Toward Warmth Because Cold Air Is More Dense Than Warm Air

Air leaks reverse based on the season:

  • You lose cooled air in summer, because cooler air leaks outdoors through air leaks that are closer to the floor.
  • You lose heated air during winter, as heated air rises and exits the home through air leaks closer to the ceiling.  Cold air replaces that heat at it leaks in closer to the floor.
  • One of the best ways to lower cooling costs & heating costs is to reduce the amount of air your home is leaking.

 

New homes have a fraction of the air leaks of a 1970’s built DFW home.  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

Air leaks under or around exterior doors are typically visible.  With windows, air leaks are often hidden by (leaking) weatherstripping, or are covered with window blinds or curtains.

Click Here To See An Air Leak At The Top Of An Older Sliding Glass Door: Sliding Glass Door 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 some cases, the old 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.   At first, it may seem that it can’t provide a seal (because you can’t easily see the plastic fin(s).  The image below clearly 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 costs 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 weather seal tape.  Homes with their original metal windows often have worn out weatherstripping that is leaking air, and often the air leak is not visible.   Lower cooling costs and heating costs can be achieved with minimal effort or expense by installing weather sealing tape on windows that are always closed.   Show 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 inside or outdoors.

Shown: Clear Weatherstrip Tape For Interior & Exterior Use

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

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

 

Always Lock Windows, When Not Open, To Create A Tighter Seal.   

One of the easiest ways to lower cooling costs and heating costs is turn ensure all closed windows are locked.  This creates a tighter seal by forcing the closing the upper & lower window frames tighter together.

unlocked window with gap between sashes

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

Image Source: ShutterStock

 

Air Leaks At Fireplaces

Though this effort will do little to lower cooling costs, it will have a tremendous effect on heating costs.

wood burning fireplace

Open Dampers Provide A Huge Hole For Heat To Escape During Winter.

Always Close The Damper Once The Fireplace Fire Has Gone Completely Out.  

Image Source: ShutterStock

  • An open Fireplace Damper creates a huge air leak when the fireplace is not in use.   Close the damper once the fire is completely out and the damper has cooled.
  • Warped or damaged fireplace damper.  With the extreme heat fireplace dampers endure, they can warp, become damaged, or wear out over time.  This type air air gap is extreme, as it provides an exit up the chimney for heat to escape.

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

 

  • If you use the fireplace, damper repair would likely pay for itself over time.
  • If You Don’t Use Your Fireplace (or rarely use it) this type of product designed provides a temporary seal 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 one of the more expensive versions, as it’s large enough to cover a wide damper in a wood-burning fireplace.  If you have a gas fireplace (without a glass front) a much smaller balloon will suffice, as the (round) opening will be as small as 3″ (check the opening size before ordering).   These balloons are simply blown up and pushed into place.  The dark rod below (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 does not have the ability to create a carbon-monoxide danger.

 

Air Leaks Behind Manufactured / PreFab Gas Fireplaces

Shown: PreFab Gas Fireplace

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

Manufactured / PreFab fireplaces are often installed in new and existing homes.  They all use gas and must be vented.  It’s common for the installer to leave the area behind the fireplace open, and finish only the wall that you see.

An unfilled gap between a prefab fireplace and the chimney is common in houses with a fireplace that was added later.  Close up and seal the gap if you can access it, using fire-safe materials.

 

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

  • Attic Hatch inside living space.  Most are not originally built with weatherstripping or insulation.  In some cases, the attic hatch doesn’t even close completely due to the springs, that hold it in place, have weakened due to age and use.   While air leak eliminating won’t do much to lower cooling costs, it will have a tremendous effect on heating costs.

Note: There is no need to weather strip or insulate an attic stairs located in the garage.

Seal Air Leaks + Insulate Your Attic Hatch With A Product Designed Specifically 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 often escapes or enters through the gap.  When exterior doors or windows are replaced, they may sometimes be a bit smaller than the opening.  Contractors who install these new doors or windows don’t always seal the gap that was created by installing a slightly smaller item.

Another common practice is to stuff fiberglass insulation in the gap.  While this provides some insulating ability, it does nothing to seal the air leak.    Here is a YouTube video showing the correct way to seal and insulate the gap between the opening and a new window.  The correct product is low-expanding spray foam.  This one product both seals and insulates the opening.

Image Source: YouTube Embedded Video

Air Leaks At Outlets & Light Switches

photo of electrical outlet

Shown: Air Gap Between Outlet And Face Place Creates An Air Leak

Image Source: ShutterStock

This effort will lower cooling costs more than you expect, as air conditioned air leaks outward at outlets during summer.  Air leaks into the home through the gap between the outlet and its cover. Also, interior walls often leak as much air as exterior walls.

 

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

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 that plug into the outlet holes.

Shown:  Child Guard For Electrical Outlets

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

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

Note:  This is the least effective of all the air leakage sealing efforts according to the DOE.

 

Air Leaks At Gaps Created By Settled Foundations

Closing up air leaks caused by a settled foundation will create problems when the foundation is repaired.   The gaps will close as the home is lifted to its proper position and support is installed under the foundation.

 

A Side Note: Does 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.  Additionally, 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 & other contaminants, and may have some actively growing mold in it.

Air Changes Per Hour (ACH) is a rating system to determine how quickly the home exchanges air from the outside through air leaks.  The 2016 Texas Building Code required the maximum number of ACH for a newly-built home is 3 ACH per hour in DFW.   A late 1970’s built home has as man as 17 ACH! *  Locating and sealing air leaks is the best way to lower cooling costs & heating costs.

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

The only safe air is air that comes directly into the home from outside. However, 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.

How To Locate & Seal 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 allows the house to be “negatively pressurized” by the fan as it removes large amounts of air from inside the house.   This causes air to flow into the home at every place the home is leaking air.  This is the easiest and most comprehensive way to identify all places where the home is leaking air.

Click Here For A YouTube Video Showing A Blower-Door Test + Places The Home Is Leaking Air: Blower Door Test

 

Ductwork Inspection To Determine If Leaking

Up to 40% of cooled or 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% by sealing attic ductwork.

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 homes ductwork was sealed with Duct Tape at the time of installation.  Duct tape fails very quickly in hot attics.  Mastic is what is needed to seal ductwork for a long time.  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

 

Add A Whole-House Dehumidifier (for summer)

Indoor Humidity Of 50% Or Higher Decreases Comfort And Typically Requires Cooler Indoor Temperatures

DFW weather reports often advise of “Feels Like” temperatures during summer.  These are the “Heat-Humidity Index” numbers that reflect how hot the air feels because of the humidity level.

We base the humidity comfort-level as the Dew Point.  This number determines the extent to which perspiration will evaporate from the skin. Lower dew points feel drier and higher dew points feel more humid.  It’s common for the Dew Point Humidity level (stated as the temperature at which dew forms overnight when temps cool) to be in the 60’s through the mid 80’s during summer in DFW.  Dew point tends to change more slowly, so a muggy (high humidity) day is typically followed by a muggy night

  • 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’t indoor humidity be controlled with a portable dehumidifier?  Yes, but…   Dehumidifiers emit heat when running.  Room dehumidifiers draw in moist air that crosses cooled coils, causing the moisture in the air to condense on the 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 inside it.

Just like air conditioners, dehumidifiers must release the heat gathered from the air while it’s being dehumidified.  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 each hour that it’s running.  This is the more than a typical 1,500 watt, electric heater set to medium.  Now 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.

TIP: Rather than using a portable dehumidifier, 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 + cooling, and all heat generated stays outside.

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 TX & southern 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 and offer 24/7 Emergency S