Whether it’s the heat of summer or the chill of winter, outdoor temperatures need to stay outside for you to maintain your home comfort. The furnace and air conditioner bring the unconditioned air of your home to comfortable levels, but that’s only half the battle: preventing your indoor air from equalizing its temperature with the outdoor air is as important as heating or cooling it in the first place. The home envelope is the barrier between these two temperature zones, and sealing and insulating the home envelope is an important step to saving money and staying comfortable year-round.
What Is the Home Envelope?
Heat can infiltrate (or escape) your home in a number of ways. It can be carried on air drafts moving through gaps in locations like window sills, exhausted with ventilated air, or it can seep through the walls of your home. The home envelope consists of all the infrastructure used to prevent heat movement.
For example, wall insulation prevents heat from transferring through the walls. In the same way that an insulated cooler will keep its contents hot or cold while a glass on a counter will come to room temperature, insulation prevents the shedding or gaining of heat in your house.
How Can You Improve the Home Envelope?
Sealing and insulating the home envelope can consist of both homeowner-applied improvements and contractor-installed improvements. Here’s how to approach improving your home envelope:
- Know where you’re losing energy. Homes are constructed differently and therefore lose energy differently. Even homes with the same basic design can have different energy loss profiles, both from different use, damage and wear patterns, as well as from landscape details such as shade on windows and walls. To improve your home’s thermal envelope efficiently, you need to know where you’re losing energy. The easy way to do this is to have a professional home energy audit. Using a variety of techniques, an HVAC contractor can locate areas of insufficient insulation, air leaks and other factors in your home energy loss. They can also tell you if you’re losing air to ductwork leaks. A licensed HVAC service technician should be able to give you specific advice on how your home can be improved.
- Seal any air leaks. Whether air is seeping out through cracks in window sills or unfinished floors in attics and basements, sealing leaks helps keep heated or cooled air in your home. You’ve heard the old cliché about “not paying to air condition the entire block.” Sealing air leaks means that your system isn’t trying to.
- Examine the ventilation. Sealing and insulating the home envelope is a big step toward a comfortable living environment, but you also need to be aware that your indoor air quality will suffer if your home is too tightly sealed. Ventilation should be a priority for all energy-efficient homes. But rather than just exhausting stale air (and its heat energy), invest in an energy recovery ventilator (ERV). An ERV transfers heat between incoming and outgoing air, so that the fresh air you bring in is brought to your home’s desired temperature.
- Insulate walls, attics and basements. Follow regional guidelines for the amount of insulation you need in your home. Attic insulation is significant. In the summer, attic insulation prevents solar heat gain as the hot sun hits your roof, and in the winter, when warm air from the furnace rises through your home, attic insulation prevents the heat from escaping as quickly.
- Take a look at windows and doors. Insulated windows and doors are available and can be a help in sealing and insulating the home envelope. If doors aren’t sized correctly for their frames, you may want to add door sweeps or replace the doors so that they seal against the frame and don’t let air out. And consider window treatments such as curtains, awnings or blinds to control solar heat gain through windows, especially during the summer.
To learn more about sealing and insulating the home envelope of your house for maximum comfort and energy savings, contact us today at United Air Conditioning. Our experts are always ready to help you get the most out of your home HVAC system.
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