November 29, 2023

Energy Advisor: Get home ready for warmer weather

3 min read
Energy Advisor: Get home ready for warmer weather

The pleasant weather of spring is ideal for preparing your home to be more energy efficient during the hot summer months ahead.

Just an afternoon or two is all it’ll probably take to make your home more comfortable and waste less energy during the hottest part of the year.

Most materials you may need are widely available and affordable. Plus, if you spot something that needs to be replaced or repaired by a professional, you can schedule the work when the weather is still mild.

Whether your home is practically brand new or as old as the hills, pay special attention to the caulk around doors and window frames. Cracking, peeling or gapped caulk is ineffective caulk — all it’s doing is wasting energy. The best thing to do is start fresh. Caulk is cheap, easy to install and lasts for years. The hardware store will make it easy for you to know what kind to buy. Scrape out the old stuff, clean the surface and run a bead of the fresh stuff.

While you’re at the exterior doors look closely at the weatherstripping and threshold. Just like the caulk, if they’re damaged or showing any gaps, it needs to go. Weatherstripping is effective, but it’s not robust. It doesn’t take much for it to become loose or be torn up by pets. If nothing else, time will wear it out.

Carefully remove the dust build up on the refrigerator and freezer coils at least twice a year. The fridge uses about 10 percent of your home’s electric bill, but it’ll use even more if the coils are clogged.

Exhaust fans and their filters — if they have them — should be annually inspected at a minimum. Those fans are critical for good indoor air quality, but built up dust and debris can reduce their efficiency. If they do have filters, as many kitchen exhaust fans do, inspect them and replace them as necessary.

While you’re up there, look for any gaps between the fixture and the sheetrock. If you find a gap fill it with caulk. You may need to use heat resistant caulking. Leaky fixtures constantly allow unconditioned air to enter your home, when you have multiple they create a significant drag on your home’s energy efficiency.

Speaking of fixtures, replace any old bulbs with LEDs. LEDs use about a fifth of the energy of incandescent or halogen bulbs and last many years longer. Compact fluorescent bulbs are good, but LEDs are even better.

HVAC system performance can degrade so gradually owners often don’t even realize something is wrong. You can keep yours going by inspecting the filters on your furnace. If you have a ductless heat pump, the indoor head unit has screens that may become choked with dust. Rinse them out for maximum performance.

If you have air conditioning, it’s going to be working hard this summer. Make sure it’s working at its optimum by scheduling a technician to inspect it. They may have more flexibility in their schedules early in the season and you won’t have to endure the extreme seasonal temperatures if your system has to be offline or any period of time.

Finally, if you have covers on your foundation vents, remove them and throw them in the garbage. Those covers don’t help keep your home warm, the insulation beneath your floor does. Crawl spaces need ventilation all year long. Covers only trap moisture where it’s not supposed to be.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to [email protected] or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98688.