To ensure an energy-efficient home this winter, grab a pen and notebook

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The Old Farmer’s Almanac Says Colder than Average Winter Looms so It’s Time to Winterize Your Home from Top to Bottom – via Next Step Living

Even if your home was originally constructed as an energy-efficient house, time and nature have a way of taking their toll on your home. For example, opening and closing doors and windows over months and years can cause weatherstripping to break down and lose its ability to insulate and protect your home from cold winter drafts.

To ensure an energy-efficient home this winter, grab a pen and notebook, and take a tour of your home and conduct your own home energy audit. Start with the furnace. Check to see when you most recently had your furnace cleaned. It should be cleaned every year, even if it is a gas furnace. A clean furnace is crucial for ensuring that it is operating safely and efficiently.

Next on your home energy audit is to check all the doors and windows and confirm that they open and close properly. Inspect the weatherstripping to confirm that it’s in good working order, as well. Ideally, examine the doors and windows on a cool, windy day so that you can check for drafts.

The attic is the chief culprit for winter home energy loss. Heat rises, and if the attic is improperly insulated, heat from the lower living areas of the home will find its way into the attic and eventually out of the home via the ridge and soffit roof vents.

Inspect the attic for proper insulation. Depending upon where you live, you should have at least R-30 or R-38 insulation in the attic. Make sure that when inspecting the insulation, you check for small breaks. Even the smallest of uninsulated areas in the attic can lead to a dramatic reduction in energy efficiency.

Next take a look at the shower heads in your bathrooms. Heating water is another major culprit in high energy costs. By replacing the old shower heads with low-flow shower heads, you can dramatically save energy at home.

After addressing the big-ticket items in your home energy audit, look at the electrical appliances and light fixtures. By replacing the standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs, you can reduce your home’s lighting energy consumption by as much as 70 percent.

Also, if you have the budget, consider replacing some of the old appliances — for example, the refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and washer and dryer — with Energy Star appliances.

So conduct your own home energy audit this fall, and implement some, if not all, of the suggestions I recommended. By doing so, you will be guaranteed to have an energy-efficient house this winter.

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Learn what causes condensation on your windows and what you can do to avoid it

Condensation can form on interior glass surfaces when there is too much moisture in the air. If the interior of a structure exceeds certain limits of moisture in the air, the moisture will condense and show up on comparatively cooler surfaces, such as glass.

Windows are typically the coolest areas of interior walls; even if they have storm panels, are glazed with welded insulating glass, have Low-E4® insulating glass, or use triple pane glass. When the warm, room temperature air comes in contact with the glass surface, the air is cooled and if there is enough moisture in the air, the dew point will be reached and the water in the air will condense. A good analogy is when you have an iced drink on a warm summer day, and the glass has moisture on the outside of it. The warmer air meeting the cooler surface of the glass causes condensation to form. Recommended humidity levels in winter months should not exceed 30-35%. If these humidity levels are exceeded, you may want to take measures to reduce the interior humidity level such as:

  • Checking your ventilation
  • Using a dehumidifier
  • Turning the humidifier on your furnace down (or off)
  • Making sure blinds or curtains are open during the day
  • Leaving ceiling fans on to promote air movement
  • Use an exhaust fan in bathroom areas when showering

Additional information can be found in the Guide to Understanding Condensation.

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Why Is R-Value Important?

Simply put, R-value is a measurement of how insulating a building material is, protecting one side from the heat or cold on the other side.  A higher R-value means that a material insulates better than one with a lower value.

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In order to get an idea of what these values are, here are a few examples of common building materials and their R-values:

  • 1/2″ drywall – 0.45
  • 1/2″ plywood – 0.62
  • 4″ wide brick – 0.80
  • 1″ of concrete – 0.52
  • Single pane of glass – 0.91
  • 2″ insulated metal door – 2.00
  • Dual Pane Low E glass – 2.5

R-Value of Building Insulation

Building insulation has different R-values depending on the type of material being used and the thickness.  Different materials are used in different areas of a building, and they are designed  to be used in different types of construction.

Here are a few common types of building insulation:

R-value of fiberglass insulation

Fiberglass – Made of blown glass threads that are either matted together into batts or distributed loosely, this is the most common material used in residential construction today.  The fiberglass “batts” are either stuffed into the spaces between the studs in the exterior walls of a building, or they may be laid down on the bottom of an attic space.  Other forms of insulation, such as loose fill or boards, are used in other locations, such as a basement or crawl space.  Fiberglass batts come in a wide range of R-values, most commonly from R-11 to R-38.

Foam – Spray foam insulation is made by mixing two chemicals (isocyanate and polyol resin, if you are interested) that react and cause the foam to expand to fill the space it is placed in.  It can be shot into spaces through small access holes, making installation in retrofit projects easier than standard batts.  There are two types of spray foam – open and closed cell – with closed cell being the most dense and therefore having a higher R-value.  Foam averages R-5 to R-6 per inch, compared to R-2 to R-4 per inch of fiberglass.

R-value of recycled denimRecycled denim – Blue jeans and other denim products are shredded and the cotton fibers are woven together to form batts, similar to standard fiberglass insulation.  The denim used to produce this insulation is post-consumer, so it removes products from the waste stream and repurposes them.  Denim batts provide slightly better R-values than similar thicknesses of fiberglass.

What Does This Have To Do Windows?

So, why is all this important?  A typical double-pane window achieves an R-2.0. Better windows have higher R-values and low U-factors.  Higher numbers mean more insulation.

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