How to Conserve Energy – Home Improvement

When thinking about adding on, take time to reexamine your home’s energy needs and deficiencies. Heating costs continue to rise, and many homeowners are finding that solar heating is an environmentally sound, economically feasible energy saving scheme.

Energy conservation comes first

Perhaps the simplest way of making the sun work for you is to design an addition that can be heated directly by the sun’s radiation (this is referred to as “passive” solar heating.) In considering such a system, ask yourself the following questions:

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  • What location will give the addition the greatest solar exposure?
  • What are the best ways of letting in the sun?
  • How can you prevent heat from escaping?
  • How can you keep the addition from overheating?

To make the most of the sun’s radiation, design your addition to face due south the direction of greatest solar exposure) and use windows generously. The greater the window area in the south wall, the more heat the addition will receive. However, if you live in a area where summer heat is more of a problem than winter cold, you may want to orient the addition to the north or east to block out some of the sun’s rays.

After encouraging the proper build-up of solar heat in your addition, take steps to hold it there. Heat travels from warmer to cooler areas, and if outside air is cooler than inside, heat will travel out. Examine areas where heat might escape. Un-insulated walls, roofs, and floors may usurp two-thirds of your hard-won heat through conduction, radiation, and convection. Glass and windows, as well as cracks, joints, and ill-fitting door frames may cause further loss. Solve this problem by using insulation, weather stripping, caulking, and double-glazing.

Insulation decreases energy loss between heated and unheated spaces. When you add on, it’s a simple matter to insulate exterior walls, but insulation may also be needed in the ceiling or under the floor.

After insulating, seal small cracks around doors and windows with weather stripping. For a final “tightening up,” caulk small wall cracks or joints.

From the standpoint of energy conservation, perhaps the most effective windows are those that have two or three layers of glass with dead air space between layers. But even double or triple-glazed windows may need to be covered with movable insulation panels at night to prevent heat loss.

Too much heat can be as discomforting as not enough. If overheating becomes problem, use exterior shades or screen to help block or filter direct sunlight. Roof overhangs, trellises, and deciduous trees are also effective since they prevent the sun from reaching and overheating walls and windows.

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Active Energy alternatives

If your addition is a more one – such as an entire second story – you may wish to consider installing an active solar energy system to heat the entire house. Such systems involve collector panels on the roof, and pumps or fans, pipers or ducts, and tanks or rock bins in the basement. Because installing an active system is a more commitment in both cost and time, it’s advisable to consult a reputable solar architect or designer.

If adding on involves a general home remodeling, you may wish to consider another heating alternative – the electric heat pump.

Here, too, installation is a major and complex task. Cooling as well as heating, heat pumps work well in temperate to hot climates, but where winter temperature fall below 35 F, you’ll probably need a back-up system.


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