Winter may not always mean freezing weather along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, but January and February still typically bring us our chilliest temperatures. Because we could have a winter weekend in the 70s and the next in the 40s, ensuring your home is energy efficient is a must at the beginning of the new year. What better way to start off the year than saving money, after all?
Improving your home’s weather-related energy efficiency, known as weatherization, can mean anything from replacing old windows to installing solar panels. The scope of the weatherization process depends on how comfortable your home currently is, how long you plan to stay in your home, and how much money is heading straight out the window each month. At its most basic, weatherization entails sealing air leaks and improving insulation.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average energy expenditure per person in Alabama was $3,467 in 2012. Unsurprisingly, cooling and heating create the bulk of residential energy usage in our area.
Cutting down on energy costs in your home requires an energy audit, which can be done by a professional or done yourself. Professional inspections will likely offer a thermographic inspection using infrared. Determining your weatherization needs doesn’t have to be “fancy,” though.
DIY energy audits can involve using a candle to track where the air is flowing in your home or waiting for a windy day to see where you feel drafts. The U.S. Department of Energy provides homeowners the Home Energy Saver to help them get started with the DIY process.
Regardless of the route you choose, the recommendations will likely include the basics: sealing air leaks and improving insulation. You can caulk or use weather stripping on most cracks or seams along doors, windows, ceilings, air ducts, plumbing, fireplaces or electrical outlets to prevent drafts. That improvement alone could save you 10 percent to 20 percent on your energy bills, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s Energy Saver.
After sealing, you’ll need to determine if adding insulation is necessary. Insulation is rated by R-value, or how well it prevents heat flow, with higher values equaling better insulating effectiveness. Energy Saver recommends an R-rating of R30-R60 for uninsulated attics, R25-R38 for attics with three or four inches of existing insulation and R19-25 for floors based on our Zone 2 location. With eight total zones, only the tip of Florida, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are cleared for a lower-rated insulation than coastal Alabama.
For us, insulation—and air sealing, for that matter—become important during extremely warm weather and dramatic temperature shifts. The greater the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures, the more energy it takes for your home to adjust to the new conditions. Insulation helps maintain a steady temperature range in your house, which is especially useful during those days the temperature can differ 30 degrees from morning to afternoon. As with most home improvement options, there’s a variety of weatherization choices, but hopefully, just caulking and adding insulation will help you save on your energy bills and get your new year off to a more efficient start!