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A Consumers Guide to Home Energy Upgrades

Did you know that heating and cooling accounts for more than half of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes? The US Department of Energy provides “Energy Saver” tips and advice on ways consumers can reduce your heating and cooling costs and it all starts with the right contractor!

STEP 1: START WITH THE RIGHT CONTRACTOR

Not all contractors are the same. Some concentrate on kitchens, some on bathrooms. Some concentrate on home energy upgrades — focusing on ways to make your home comfortable, energy efficient and healthy. Look for companies that employ workers who carry the national Home Energy Professional Certifications. A home performance contractor will have a certified auditor either on staff or under contract to evaluate your home.

STEP 2: GET A THOROUGH HOME ENERGY AUDIT

A home performance evaluation, or energy audit, requires specialized equipment and trained individuals — called energy auditors — to operate that equipment. Energy auditors who carry a Home Energy Professional Certification have met the required professional and educational prerequisites and are certified to the highest standard in the industry, proving they are qualified to conduct a home performance evaluation.

The most important piece of equipment an energy auditor operates is called a blower door, which is used to determine where air is leaking out of your home. If you followed the auditor around while the blower door is running, you might be surprised at what you’d find. Air leaking through face plates on switches and outlets, and escaping around doors, windows, pipes, and under sinks … and all of these places add up. Put them all together and you could have a space the size of a bathroom window — maybe even bigger — that’s constantly open. The blower door test is a good way to learn why your house isn’t comfortable.

In addition to the blower door, certified energy auditors use tools — such as gas leak detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, kill-a-watt meters and lead-safe testing kits — to give your home a thorough evaluation.

Be sure to ask if your auditor is certified and what equipment will be used for the evaluation. If your auditor is just going to walk through your house and estimate what work needs to be done, you don’t have an experienced home performance contractor. Ask if you can shadow the auditor during the evaluation — most will welcome the chance to teach you about your home.

STEP 3: ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

While all homes are different and need to be evaluated based on their own unique characteristics, most dwellings can benefit from similar types of improvements. Before your energy audit begins, be sure to ask your home energy upgrade contractor about the following things. Some of the upgrades you could do yourself, like replacing a refrigerator or installing a programmable thermostat, provided you know those are significant sources of energy loss.

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A Brief History of Air Conditioning

1758 All liquid evaporation has a cooling effect. Benjamin “I invented everything” Franklin and Cambridge University professor John Hadley discover that evaporation of alcohol and other volatile liquids, which evaporate faster than water, can cool down an object enough to freeze water.

1820 Inventor Michael Faraday makes the same discovery in England when he compresses and liquifies ammonia.

1830s At the Florida hospital where he works, Dr. John Gorrie builds an ice-making machine that uses compression to make buckets of ice and then blows air over them. He patents the idea in 1851, imagining his invention cooling buildings all over the world. But without any financial backing, his dream melts away.

1881 After an assassin shoots President James Garfield on July 2, naval engineers build a boxy makeshift cooling unit to keep him cool and comfortable. The device is filled with water-soaked cloth and a fan blows hot air overhead and keeps cool air closer to the ground. The good news: This device can lower room temperature by up to 20 F. The bad news: It uses a half-million pounds of ice in two months… and President Garfield still dies.

1902 Willis Carrier invents the Apparatus for Treating Air for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, N.Y. The machine blows air over cold coils to control room temperature and humidity, keeping paper from wrinkling and ink aligned. Finding that other factories want to get in on the cooling action, Carrier establishes the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America.

Click here to read more about the history of Air Conditioning.