Everyone wants a good-looking home that will appreciate in value. But any home improvement, whether it’s a roomy addition, a spacious deck or a modern kitchen, won’t be as appealing if the home is not energy efficient. For example, if air is escaping from windows, doors or cracks in walls; the insulation is poor, or the boiler or furnace is wasting fuel.
“The first line of defense in home improvement is weatherization,” says Eric Mathison, vice president of Jarro Energy Services, a division of Jarro Building Industries, Inc., one of the leading Long Island design/building firms. Mathison is certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI) to perform comprehensive home energy audits. “More and more homeowners are looking for green, energy-efficient homes.”
Weatherization, or weatherproofing, protects your home from the elements—wind, rain and snow—by modifying the home’s envelope, or outer layer that separates living space from the outdoor elements, such as floors, walls and roof.
The purpose of weatherization is reducing your energy consumption and maximizing energy efficiency, which in turn, saves you money. According to the ENERGY STAR® website, weatherization projects such as sealing and insulating your home’s envelope are often the most cost effective ways to improve energy efficiency and comfort, saving homeowners up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs or up to 10 percent on their total annual energy bills.
Weatherization is also an effective way to green Earth. In the United States, buildings use one-third of all energy consumed and two-thirds of all electricity. Due to the high energy usage, they are a major source of the pollution that could lead to global warming.
“Some of the most common trouble spots where leaks to the home’s envelope occur are areas where pipes and wires enter the building; gaps around chimneys and recessed lights; unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets and any point where different siding materials intersect,” says Mathison. “Homeowners can hire a qualified contractor like Jarro Energy Services to check for leaks and ensure the sealing is done properly while still allowing necessary airflow throughout the home. Jarro is also qualified by the EPA to safely work in homes where lead-based paints may have been used years ago—something many homeowners might not consider.”
Typical weatherization procedures include:
• Sealing gaps, cracks and holes with caulk, foam sealant, weather-stripping, window film, door sweeps and/or electrical receptacle gaskets
• Sealing areas around recessed lighting fixtures (“high-hats”)
• Sealing air ducts with fiber-reinforced mastic tape (not duct tape)
• Protecting water pipes from freezing with heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables
• Protecting your home from surface water and ground water by installing footing drains, foundation membranes, gutters and downspout extensions
• Making sure roofing, siding and skylights are in good condition
• Installing proper insulation in walls, floors and ceilings, around ducts and pipes, and near the foundation
• Installing energy-efficient doors and windows
Many homeowners go beyond these techniques in their conservation quest to include upgrading heating, cooling and hot water making equipment, adding energy-saving accessories like programmable thermostats, and installing ENERGY STAR®-rated home appliances like washers, dryers and refrigerators.
New York State provides weatherization assistance to qualified homeowners through WAP, the State Weatherization Assistance Program. Moreover, tax credits, low-interest loans and financial incentives are available for qualifying energy-efficient home improvements. A federal tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost, or up to $1,500 expires at the end of this year.
“Homeowners don’t want their precious dollars literally flying out the cracks, through the windows or up the chimney, especially with today’s volatile energy prices” Mathison adds. “We always advise our clients to ‘be wise … weatherize.’”
The following resources can provide more information on greening your home: