Winterize…Summer-ize your Home

Tip of the Month – November 2013

By Darlene Gayler, Gayler Construction

Our family has been building custom homes and commercial properties throughout San Ramon Valley for 50 years.  Long before we were certified as a Green Builder we realized that building green means building smart and that it’s not just kind for the planet and our community – it’s also kind for your pocket.

No matter what the project is, our clients often ask us how they can best save energy.  They want to know what choices they can make to save heating and cooling costs without sacrificing the aesthetic and comfort in their homes.  And whether energy-saving is on the forefront of our clients mind or not, we strive to deliver projects that reduce the burden of energy costs while providing luxury and comfort for all.

Energy friendly features we incorporate into our projects are often improvements you can make to your existing home.  Here are some suggestions to help winterize or summer-ize your home, sweet home.

Heat and Cool Efficiently: Have a professional tune up your HVAC every spring and fall. It’s usually worth replacing with an energy-efficient unit if yours is more than 10 years old. Check your ducts for leaks as you may be losing up to 20% of heated/cooled air to your attic. Do not use duct tape, instead use mastic sealant or metal tape to seal off leaks. Change your filters regularly – at least 4 times per year.  One of the easiest ways to save energy in your home is to install a programmable thermostat. Keep it set at energy-saving temperatures for long periods of time instead of cranking it up to 90 degrees or down to 40 degrees, as this will not heat or cool your home any faster and will cost you more money.

Insulate and Re-Insulate: If you are removing siding from a wood frame wall without insulation, add R5 insulation in the wall before replacing siding.  To get the biggest savings, the easiest place to add insulation is the attic. Attics with 3-4 inches of insulation can use a boost of insulation to the recommended R25-R38 and for the floor R19-R25.  This is a relatively inexpensive investment, but will definitely pay off in comfort for the winter and summer.

Make home sealing a family project: Many drafts are easy to feel – seal leaky windows and doors with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping. After your sealing project, have a heating & cooling technician check to make sure your HVAC and appliances are venting properly. Consider adding doors to open fireplaces as these are actually one of the biggest culprits for heat loss and cold gains in your home.

Windows and Doors: A variety of quality window materials exist to reduce heat loss and transfer heat. Two or more window panes are recommended to keep heat out.  Look for energy star rated panes including those with a ‘low-e’ coating to deflect infrared light to keep heat in during the winter and outside in the summer.  When replacing doors make sure there is a tight fit and core materials include fiberglass, wood cladding or steel with polyurethane foam to keep Jack Frost ‘at the door’.

Purchase Energy Star Appliances: You’d be surprised at the range of appliances that are Energy Star certified.  Visit for a selection of everything from refrigerators to cordless phones that will save money on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features or comfort. Front loading washing machines and newer dryers will pay for themselves in energy savings over a short duration. And energy-efficient HVAC systems often qualify for tax credit rebates until 2016.

As easy as changing a light bulb: Lighting accounts for 22% of the electric energy used nationwide. While compact fluorescent light bulbs are 30% more efficient than incandescent, you’ll gain the most savings by screwing in some LEDs. LED light bulbs are up to 80% more efficient than conventional light bulbs and they don’t have the mercury of fluorescent ones.

Be aware of your energy consumption: Watt meters are helpful in gauging the ‘vampire’ power used by electronics in standby mode.  Vampire power is the energy used by an appliance, TV or other items around your house that draw energy when they aren’t performing their function for you.  Sustainable Danville Area donated a Kill-A-Watt meter to the Danville Library available for check out or you can purchase one a nearby hardware store for $25.  Smart Strips ($29) power strips that automatically switch devices off when not in use is another good way to manage energy when not needed.  And through Smart Meters, PG&E makes near real-time usage available on their website to help guide your monthly usage.

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