Summer Projects to Reduce Energy Costs

By Brooke Drake, August 20, 2010, News

Every year about this time, I get a little burned out (literally) from the heat of the summer.  A healthy dose of 95+ degree weather, with a dash of isolated thunderstorms is a recipe for a sticky, sweaty mess.  Ugh, how I dream for that first cool front to blow through in the fall.  In the meantime, I deal with the reality of at least 2 more months of this, and adjust our wardrobe and thermostats accordingly.

As we recently moved into a circa-1960’s home, we figured now was the best time to invest in energy saving projects, and reap the benefits immediately.  Unfortunately the new living room furniture and home theater will have to wait!  Below are four projects we recently completed, with the hopes of a more comfortable home and lower utility bills.

  • HVAC MAINTENANCE.  Its hard to spend money when things are working well, but trust me, it’s worth the price.  I’d compare it to getting regular check-ups at your doctor or routine maintenance on your car.  Both have the potential to identify larger issues and prevent costly problems from occurring later on.  During our recent HVAC service, the technician discovered the duct work had come loose in the attic, which had the unit working overtime to cool down the 100+ degree attic air.  The fix showed results immediately, and it had definitely cut down on the time our a/c is running.  Sure to be a big cost saver, for a relatively cheap fix.
  • SOLAR SCREENS.  We have 4 skylights that provide a lot of natural light in our living area.  Unfortunately, the cost of natural light is a lot of natural heat!  These rooftop windows had become heat lamps during the day and had to be impacting our energy bill.  My husband did some research and found a relatively cheap and easy fix to our problem.  With the help of a few bungee cords, he was able to attach solar screen fabric to the top of each skylight, reducing the UV rays by 90%.  The light flow was shaded slightly, but was well worth the cost for a cooler room.  Also, since these are not permanent fixtures, we will be able to remove them in the winter when we want the heat.
  • INSULATION.  We knew coming into the home that the insulation was well below recommended levels.  Fortunately our friends over at Deforest Roofing and Construction were able to come out this week and spray 10 inches of fiberglass insulation into the entire attic space.  The psychological impact was immediate – I swear our house dropped 5 degrees as soon as they were done.  In reality, the insulation should help us save significant dollars during the heat of the summer.  Also, this project is eligible for Federal tax credits!
  • RADIANT BARRIER PAINT.  We are somewhat uncertain about the effectiveness of this method, but the cost was low so low we figured we would try it out.  Our contractor used a substance called Radiosity 3000, which is a substance that you add with paint that provides a Radiant Barrier to any paintable surface.  Then he mixed that with our ceiling paint, and then applied.  Given that there was no attic space in our living room with vaulted ceilings, this was a legitimate option.  Also, the ceiling needed painting anyways, so it definitely can’t hurt!

So unfortunately, we don’t have any conclusive results yet, but when we do, I’ll be sure to report back. I still am hopeful that we’ll see enough savings so I can get some new furniture for the New Year!

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