HVAC=Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning–the system of ducts that brings hot and/or cold air to the rooms of a building. The advice here applies to systems that deliver only heat or only AC, as well as those that do both.
This is a guest post by Ryan Martin at Home Improvement Leads, who connects quality contractors to homeowners to give them the best home improvement experience possible. They specialize in solar, roofing, and HVAC lead generation for contractors.
We all want to spend less money on energy at home, but sometimes costly HVAC updates and repairs aren’t quite worth the savings they provide over time. Thankfully, there are improvements you can complete yourself for a fraction of what it would cost to have them done professionally. Home Improvement Leads offers a few suggestions for making your home more energy efficient on a budget.
Add Insulation in the Attic
Proper insulation in the attic or the area above the garage is crucial. Since these areas are not climate-controlled, you must use a thermal barrier to stop heat transfer between the attic or crawlspace and your house. If you don’t, heat will more easily enter your home in the summer and exit your home in winter, making everyone uncomfortable and forcing your HVAC to work harder.
This is a beginner level project that only costs about $0.60 per square foot. Supplies include many items that you probably already have in your garage, such as a step ladder, a sharp knife, a tape measurer, and caulk. Energy.gov offers a step-by-step guide to insulating the floor over your garage.
Seal and Insulate Ducts
If your house has a forced-air heating and cooling system, it uses ducts to distribute air through every room. But a startling percentage of the air moving through this ducts can be lost to leaks—in fact, it can be more than 20 percent. Thankfully, sealing and insulating your air ducts is an easy do-it-yourself improvement. Oftentimes ducts are located in an attic, so consider patching up your ducts around the same time that you add insulation to your attic to save time. Use mastic sealant or metal tape to seal the joints and holes.
This project will probably cost you around $20 and a few hours of work—not bad, considering what you stand to save.
Caulk and Weatherstrip Doors and Windows
Cracks and spaces around windows, doors, and fixtures are a major source of air leakage. You can try to locate all the spots simply by looking around and feeling for drafts, but if your home has major HVAC problems like high utility bills or troublesome rooms that are hard to keep warm or cool, you may want to consider getting a professional to hunt down the leaks. If you’re confident you can detect the leaks yourself, light a stick of incense near a door and window and see if the smoke moves in response. For window weatherstripping, consider adding EDPM rubber, which costs about $8 for 10 feet. For another window alternative, foam-type tape is inexpensive and simple to install.
Know When to Hire a Professional
Keep in mind that it’s not a good idea to DIY certain HVAC projects if you’re not experienced. This includes repairing a broken heating or air conditioning system, installing new ductwork, and disturbing old insulation that may harbor asbestos. Aside from putting yourself and your family in danger, you could potentially damage your equipment or void a manufacturer’s warranty. If you’re not sure whether you can DIY a project and do it well, play it safe and hire a contractor.
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