January 2018: Winter Energy Saving Tips

Ask The Inspector

Winter Energy Saving Tips


Q. What Does an Inspector Look for When It Comes to Heating Systems?

In the winter, utility costs rise in most regions of the United States. In fact, heating and cooling typically account for about one half of a homeowner’s total yearly utility costs! Since cold weather can tax any type of home heating system, having an NPI inspector look at yours can mean great savings. Your inspector will examine your home’s particular system and take into account its unique needs.

Identifying the energy source and delivery system used to heat your property is part of a general home inspection. Your inspector will check for a master system shut-off switch, which is important for both safety and convenience. They’ll also examine the condition of the equipment, maintenance history, the state of the filter, and the ventilation system. Understanding the status and upkeep of these components is important whether you’re buying a home or ordering a seasonal checkup.

Inspector’s Tip:

Filters on heating and cooling systems should be cleaned and checked once a month depending on manufacturer instructions. When you hold the filter up to a light, you should be able to see through it. If you can’t, then it’s time to replace or clean it.

Expert Advice

How can I determine energy loss from my home?

A. It’s normal for utility bills to rise in winter. But if you suspect your bills are overly high, then your first step should be to reach out to your utility company to see if they offer free or discounted energy audits to customers. If not, then you need to hire a certified home energy rater to evaluate your home’s energy efficiency.
By using equipment like blower doors, which measure the extent of leaks in the building envelope, and infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation, your certified home energy rater can determine the energy efficiency of your home. They’ll also look at your HVAC system to determine the age and the efficiency of the unit. To complete the survey, your home energy rater will inspect all major appliances, with some raters even going so far as to inspect light fixtures and bulb use. Your potential savings and future energy conservation consumption will make the investment of hiring a professional well worth it.

Be Advised

Reduce Hot Water Bills

Do you want to lower your water heating bills this winter? You’d be surprised at just how simple it can be to save. Here are our best tips for energy-efficient water heating.

  • Repair leaks in fixtures and install new low-flow fixtures on showerheads and faucets. When replacing dishwashers or clothes washers, purchase energy-efficient appliances with an Energy Star® label.
  • Lower the thermostat setting on your water heater and save between 3 to 5 percent for each 10-degree reduction in your water temperature. Just be sure to consult your water heater owner’s manual first.
  • Install a timer on your electric water heater that will shut it off at night when it isn’t in use. This simple move could save you an additional 5 to 12 percent in energy costs.
  • Insulate your water heater tank and hot water pipes. This helps hold heat in so that you’re not so inclined to crank up the temperature. Select specially made covers according to the type of system you have.

With these easy steps, you’ll be on your way to big savings all year round.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

  1. It is the wrong finish
  2. It is installed backwards
  3. It is blocking the window from opening

Correct Answer C.  The faucet was installed without making note of the fact that the window opens inward. The window can no longer open because the faucet blocks it. 

Maintenance Matters

What is the proper location for the thermostat in my house?

Location matters when it comes to your home’s thermostat, and it can have a significant impact on energy efficiency and utility costs.

Your thermostat should be located on an interior wall near the center of your home in a room that’s used frequently by your family. It should not be in direct sunlight or near fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources, and it should also be away from doors and windows that open and close often. Since the kitchen is usually the warmest room in a home due to its many appliances, thermostats should be placed well away from this room to give an accurate reading.

Thermostats are generally located about five feet above the floor so they can be read or adjusted easily, and they may be controlled by a gauge, a dial or a panel of buttons. Thermostats are examined for all these factors during a home inspection.

Most thermostats for gas-fired appliances also have a variable anticipator to help prevent overheating. The anticipator “fools” the heating unit into shutting down just before the room hits the set temperature so the heat remaining in the furnace finishes the job.

Whenever changing a thermostat or performing routine maintenance, it’s a good idea to make sure the settings for the anticipator are correct.

Did You Know?


Insulation Tips

Making sure you have the proper amount of insulation in your attic can save you money on energy bills. Check out these great insulation tips from Energy.gov:

  • Consider factors such as your climate, home design and budget when selecting insulation for your home.
  • Use higher R-value insulation, such as spray foam, on exterior walls and in cathedral ceilings to get more insulation with less thickness.
  • Install attic air barriers, like wind baffles, along the entire attic eave to help ensure proper airflow from the soffit to the attic. Ventilation helps with moisture control and reducing summer cooling bills. If you have insulation on the underside of your roof, be sure to ask a qualified contractor for recommendations.
  • Be careful how close you place insulation next to a recessed light fixture. Choose IC-rated insulation to avoid a fire hazard.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and make sure you wear the proper protective gear when installing insulation.

For more information about the type and amount of insulation recommended for your area, visit http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/tips-insulation.

Monthly Trivia Question

Q: What is the average life expectancy of a furnace? 

A: 5-10 years
B: 10-15 years
C: 15-20 years
D: 20-25 years

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.