Energy Efficiency Tips for After the Holiday Break

Thinking about some Do-It-Yourself (DIY) home improvement projects for your Texas home, but you’re not really sure about what to do or where to start? You’ve come to the right place! Welcome to the DIY Energy Efficiency Tips series from First Choice Power. We’ll show you how to improve the energy efficiency of your home, including hints that make the jobs easier.

Energy Efficiency Tips for After the Holiday Break

The piles of festive wrapping paper were picked up and chucked in the trash long ago. The New Years Eve champagne glasses were washed and put away last week. And now, the holiday decorations are carefully being packed up in their red and green plastic tubs for next year. It was a lovely holiday break, except for last week’s arctic blast. But now it looks like it’s going to warm up and the rest of winter will be lovely. Right?

Um…not exactly. You see, it’s well known that warm winters in the northern hemisphere are more likely to destabilize the Polar Vortex. During a normal winter, the polar jet keeps it contained over the North Pole. Warm winters are nice, but not if it’s Houston winter weather up in Chicago. What happens is the further north that warm weather moves, the less contained the Polar Vortex gets so that it eventually fragments into several arctic air blobs. In 2014, a blob settled over Baffin Island east of Greenland and brought no end of cold to the eastern US and Texas.

Though weather forecasters are still uncertain, there’s a chance that bitter cold could return to Texas by the end of January. So, while there’s going to be a period of warmer weather moving in, we might not be out of the snowy woods, yet.

If your monthly electricity bill took a pounding during the recent cold snap, then it’s a real good idea to take some time during the coming warm lull to improve your home’s energy efficiency. And because you’re probably busy getting back into your family’s work and school routine, we’ll cover the easiest of weekend winterization jobs: air sealing.

How to Reduce Air Leaks & Be Energy Efficient

1. Check your exterior doors for drafts

Look for cracked, torn, or missing weatherstripping to repair or replace. Also clean out any mud or dirt that might have caked onto the door on the same side as the hinges. That stuff will keep the door from closing properly. Check the threshold height and adjust if possible. Make sure your door closely firmly.

2. Check your windows for drafts

Energy Efficiency Tips for After the Holiday Break | The Light Lab

Also check for cracked, torn, or missing weather stripping to repair or replace. Clean up any mold or mildew you see and check that windows fully close. Cover drafty northern windows with a plastic weatherizing sheeting kit and be sure to close curtains over your windows at night. Consider getting thermal backed drapes this spring as these can save on both heating and cooling costs.

3. Storing decorations in the attic

Be careful where you put boxes and tubs. Most Texas homes have their HVAC handling equipment and duct work in the attic. Make sure that you store any boxes or decoration tubs well away from ductwork. A heavily loaded Christmas decoration tub can easily collapse and damage both metal and flex duct work — reducing your home’s heating and cooling efficiency.

4. Buy or build an attic stair cover

I stumbled across one of these online and the first thought I had was “That’s so easy to make!” After all, it’s just ridged foam panels glued together to form a box that’s then secured over the trap door with plastic sheeting or aluminum duct tape as a hinge — and after a little googling, I found just that. Why does your home need an attic stair cover? Not only does it reduce the amount of heated air leaking into your attic, but it also provides extra insulation that reduces the amount of heat conducted through the ceiling into your attic. Bottom line, it saves you money on your electricity bill!

5. Post-Holiday Energy Declutter

Energy Efficiency Tips for After the Holiday Break | The Light Lab

Get rid of the power hogs like incandescent light bulbs, halogens bulbs and older CFLs. Replace them with new — and less expense to own — LED bulbs. Still using an appliance dating from the late 1990’s? Even if it was Energy Star rated, newer Energy Star qualifying appliances likes refrigerators, dishwashers, water heaters and washing machines are far more energy efficient than those from 20 years ago because the technology has gotten even better. (Hey, are you still using a computer from 1998?) For example, check out how much you can save with EnergyStar’s Flip Your Fridge calculator. And speaking of un-dead technologies, don’t forget to stick a stake into the other energy vampires lurking in your home.

6. Seal gaps where pipes and wires enter the living space of your home

This includes underneath sinks, where coolant lines to the outside air conditioner unit exit your home, where the conduit pipe from your electric meter enters the wall, and anywhere else that wires and pipes go through walls.

7. Seal along the house’s foundation

One of the single largest areas of your home that needs to be sealed is along the sill plate and rim joist of your home. Yes, it’s a big job but it’s also one of the cheapest and the effect is immediate. Most older homes built before the mid-1990’s were built with little or no insulation or sealing along these joists. However, if your home is 40 feet long and there is just a 1/8” wide gap along 20 feet of the joist and sill plate, it’s like leaving a 30” wide window open all the time. Not only does sealing this part of your home’s framing keep out cold air but it also keeps out moisture which can make your home more prone to mold problems in winter and harder to cool in the summer.

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Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.