Air Sealing Detect Energy

Air Sealing  Detect Energy

Those summer evenings when they upstairs just keeps getting hotter, here’s some tips to cool off.

by Don Ames

A house with a hot upstairs

Sleeping on the front porch after a hot summer day was a straight out necessity. The upstairs of the 1940’s farm house had turned into a sauna and sleeping in the upstairs bedrooms was not possible. Even after the sun went down, the upstairs seemed to get hotter. Lets look at some ways to cool a house without air conditioning?

Now that I spend time trying to figure out how a home can be more energy efficient, I think back to those hot summer days and wonder two things:

1. Where was the air conditioner?

I have seen several articles floating around that talk about air conditioning as being an unnecessary appliance. That people have gotten soft, and if people would just handle the heat like a caveman, they wouldn’t need those energy wasting air conditioners.

Growing up in that Northwest farm house, air conditioning was not expected. Sleeping on the front porch a few times a year was. The air conditioner was only for city folks that were not lucky enough to live on a farm.

Where was the air conditioner? It was still in the J.C. Penny catalog .

Oh, to be young again

2. Why did the upstairs get so hot in the evening?

When you’re sleeping on the front porch and your 10 years old, you don’t really care why the upstairs is so hot. It’s not something you try to figure out before you find yourself sleeping on the porch again. You like sleeping on the porch.

If the upstairs is too hot for sleeping and you would rather not risk sleeping on the porch, or anywhere else outside, then considering why the upstairs and the whole house is so hot in the evening becomes an important issue to solve.

Air conditioners are fairly energy efficient appliances, but they’re not free to operate. With the constant grinding of the A/C and the power bill increasing by the hour, a person has a tendency to think about why the upstairs is so hot and ways to cool a house.

Years Later:

The old farm house was being moved to a new location and I had a chance to look in the attic while part of the roof was removed. Instead of the attic being the dark, spooky cave of my childhood, it was an inviting place to explore with plenty of natural light.

Gable Attic Vent

I was surprised to see that the attic had nothing in it. No old magazines, no old socks or toys, no old carcasses of rats or cats. Of course, there was no insulation either and I could look down the chimney chase from the attic clear to the basement. This is a good place to start to answer the question of ways to cool a house.

The roof had no attic ventilation at the roof peak or the eves. The only ventilation was provided by two gable vents, one at each end of the attic. The roof shingles were always a dark color.

I understand very well now why the upstairs of this old house was so darn hot after a hot summer day. The attic collected the heat all day and then shared it with the downstairs all evening.

How to keep the attic from overheating and ruining a good night sleep.

Heres 10 ways to cool a house before you add air conditioning. These will help your attempt to keep the home livable in the evenings try these retrofits and improvements.

Solar Attic Fan

1. Solar powered attic fan

A solar powered attic fan works very well and is a one time investment in the amount of $450 to $800. When installed on your roof, the self-contained solar unit exhausts hot air from the attic whenever the sun hits the solar array with enough bright direct sunlight to operate the fan.

Best operation occurs when attic ventilation is added along the eve’s and the roof peak ventilation is limited.

Well, it works on flat commercial buildings, might work on homes too. Anything that will cool the roof surface will help keep heat from radiating into the attic space. Unfortunately, this may increase your water bill substantially. Sprinkler and hose, $20. Water bill around $300.

3. Really big trees

Shade the roof and you have a cooler attic and a cooler home. If you have a two story home and you’re just getting around to planting shade trees, this solution may take a while to materialize. One redwood tree 12 inches tall, $4.95. Expect shade in 40 years.

Especially before adding insulation don’t add insulation to the attic floor without air sealing the air holes and penetrations first. Best process, good drop light, knee pads, and a can of Great Stuff spray foam insulation. Material cost, $30.

5. Adding Additional roof ventilation

Ways to cool a house starts with attic ventilation. Most older homes simply do not have enough attic ventilation. Ventilation should allow air flow from the eve’s to the peak. Take out solid bird blocking and add screened vents at the eve’s. Add manufactured metal or plastic roof vents near the peak. During the installation of new roofing is the best time to add attic ventilation. Eve Soffit vents, $8.50. Roof peak vents about $12

6. Adding insulation

After air sealing, install insulation. Insulation will help slow the transfer of heat from the attic to the living space below. The more insulation the merrier. Building codes keep adding insulation, in some of the colder parts of the country, insulating to R-49 is code. That’s about 16 inches of insulation.

Don’t worry, this could be a do-it-yourself project. The big building supply stores have the material and the equipment you need to do the job.

Add insulation in the colder climates to keep warm, add insulation in the warmer climates to keep cool. Add 12 inches of blown fiberglass insulation for about $1.25 to $1.75 a square foot of attic floor space.

Seal the Knee Wall Floor Connection

7. Sealing the knee wall floor connection.

Many older, two story homes have knee wall attic space. This is the space along the walls of an upstairs room that has reduced headroom along the sides of the room. You know, your standing upstairs and you must be careful to stand in the middle of the room to keep from bumping your head.

The problem is the knee wall attic is often open to the space between the floor of the upstairs room and the ceiling of the downstairs room. This means the hot air in the knee wall attic can travel right under the upstairs floor and help heat the whole house.

Stuff some insulation in a plastic bag and stuff a bag between every floor joist opening in the knee wall attic. This will keep the hot air from traveling between the floor and ceiling. Sealing these floor joist openings is important during the cooling season and the heating season. Plastic bags $.50, insulation, $1.00 a bag.

8. Sealing chimney chase

In older balloon framed homes, the chimney chase is often open and allows heat and cold transfer between all floors, clear from the attic to the basement. For effective cooling and heating, these chase corridors should be sealed off. Spray foam insulation, $7.00 a can.

Box Fan, Draw Air Out.

9. Place Fans in Upstairs Windows

Place one or more big box fans in upstairs windows. Install them so they are blowing out the window. Close all other windows and exterior doors but leave the interior doors open all the way to the basement. Draw the cooler basement air up through the house and out the upstairs windows.

Basements are always cooler and can help cool the rest of the home. Hopefully, you don’t have a smelly tank of stove oil in the basement! A good box fan about $30.

10. Install solar panels

Usually when you install solar panels on a roof, the panels are placed on a racking system that holds the panels off the roof about 3 inches. The panels keep the suns rays from hitting the roof surface and slow heat transfer to the attic space.

One of the advantages of solar panels on a hot day is the shading they provide the roof. Maybe not as good for shade as a big redwood, but it’s still shade.

Most power companies will help you install solar panels. They know that when the weather gets hot and all those air conditioners start up, they need all the help they can get with ways to cool a house.

Wish I still had that old farmhouse with the big front porch and the big yard. I would have a few tricks ready for those hot summer evenings when the upstairs got so darn hot. After air sealing and insulating the attic, I would install a solar attic fan, mount some solar panels on the roof, place a couple box fans in the upstairs windows and roll out my sleeping bag on the front porch.

These are ways to cool a house, but you can still get a good night sleep on the front porch. Of course, these days it would take a better air mattress than it used to.

Thank you for stopping by, hope you will stop by again real soon, but I wont leave a light on for you

106 Tips For Saving Energy and Lower Power Bills

The list of energy saving tips just keeps growing, do have a couple that will lower a power bill?

by Don Ames

Here is my Monster Energy Spy Checklist to help everybody save energy at home. Before we get started, please let me take a few moments to define a few words that I feel are important, keep everyone on the same page. Before were done, 106 tips for saving energy.

Energy or Power: Including natural gas, propane, oil, electricity, wood, sunshine and anything else we

use to make things go.

Energy Spy: A person that looks for places and methods to save energy that will produce a lower

power bill, less carbon, and a smile.

Sacrifice: Giving up money or the feeling of entitlement for the purpose of making successful power

saving decisions. Something we should do more of before we have too.

I have divided the Energy Spy Checklist into three sections.

No-Sacrifice Tips for saving energy and money.

No-Sacrifice means you will not have to spend money to get power saving benefits.

Little-Sacrifice tips for saving energy and lower power bills.

The tips in this section will require you to make some minimal sacrifice before you can realize the savings they offer.

Planned Sacrifice: Might need to invest some dollars to save energy.

You may need to plan ahead and save up some funds before you realize these measures to save energy.

Tips For Saving Energy without Sacrifice: ( very little effort and very little money )

1. Turn off all lights when not in use. Replace burned out light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. A compact fluorescent bulb is made for every fixture in your home.

2. Clean or replace your furnace filter once a month and clean your air conditioner or heat pump coil once a year. Having trouble with finding and cleaning the coil, call your heating contractor and ask him or her where it is located and how to clean it. PS, spray it with simple green.

3. Set your hot water temperature to 120 degrees. If you need help, ask a plumber.

4. Close the damper on your fireplace when not in use. If the damper is not effective to stop air from traveling up the chimney, stuff a plastic bag with something soft and stuff it up in the chimney. Leave a small cord hanging down from the bag so you can remember to remove the bag before lighting the fireplace. Pictured above is the temperature thermostat on a gas water heater

5. If you have one room in the house you do not use, close the vent and the door to that room. Check the room regular to see that mold has not found favorable conditions in which to grow.

6. Wash clothes in cold water and only wash full loads. Spin the clothes dry before placing them in the dryer.

7. Make use of a solar clothes dryer. Dry your clothes in a well ventilated garage or dry them outside.

8. Place a radio in the bathroom and limit showers to one song.

9. Take a shower instead of a bath.

10. Dont let the water run when you brush your teeth.

11. Only wash full loads in the dishwasher and air dry dishes instead of using the dishwasher drying cycle.

12. For cooling, use fans instead of air conditioning.

13. Ventilate the house at night and let the home cool off.

Window Screens Block Solar Heat Gain

15. For heating, open the window blinds and let the sunshine in. Trim the bushes and trees that block the warming sun. Picture, Set the thermostat back at night, better yet, use the programmable function.

16. Set the thermostat back 6 degrees at night and when your not home.

17. Pull on a light sweater in the evenings instead of turning up the thermostat.

18. Place an extra blanket at the foot of your bed. ready when needed.

19. If possible, use a microwave oven for cooking instead of the range.

20. Do not pre-heat the oven when not really necessary.

21. Use power strips to supply your appliances and electronic devices. Turn the power strips off at night or when the appliance or electronic device is not in use.

22. Drain your water bed, turn off the heater and go back to a standard mattress. Be sure and water the flower garden with all that free water.

23. If the aquarium does not have any fish swimming around, drain the water, turn off the heater and the water filter and leave the fish in the river.

24. Set your pool pump or spa pump to run at specific times -continuous operation is usually not needed.

Wow, Never Cleaned the Dryer Screen

25. Clean the dryer vent from one end to the other. A dirty or restricted vent increases drying time.

26. Remove window mounted air conditioners when not needed and close the window.

27. With an air conditioner that is mounted through the wall, build a removable box and cover the back of the unit when not in use. Seal the box up to the exterior siding.

28. Vacuum and brush the fins on the furnace fan. Turn off all power to the furnace first

29. Drain a gallon of water from the bottom of the water heater tank every 3 months.This is especially important if you have well water and your water heater is gas!

30. Pull out the refrigerator, take a long narrow brush and clean dust and lint from the condenser coil.

31. Set your refrigerator at 37 to 40 degrees. The freezer from 0 to 5 degrees.

32. Check the refrigerator door seal, replace if worn.

33. Spend time with your power bill, it has a lot of good information you can use to monitor your power saving efforts.

34. Drain the air out of radiators every two weeks.

35. Do a nightly sweep through the house to make sure electrical devices are turned off before heading to bed.

36. If you have a smart meter and your power company has real time monitoring available, sign up.

37. Set the floor or table lamp in a corner where it will reflect light off two walls, thus requiring less additional light.

38. Fill a drinking glass with water and use that water to brush your teeth. No additional water is needed. Power Savings with Little Sacrifice:

Air Sealing and Weatherstripping

Tips For Saving Energy with Little Sacrifice:

39. Add weather stripping to exterior doors, check corners and footplates. Adjust door latch if the door does not shut tight.

40. Add caulk or weather stripping to drafty windows.

41. Plastic storm windows installed on the inside of the window can stop drafts and add insulation value.

42. Install low flow shower heads and faucet aerators that are rated at 1.6 gallons per minute or less.

43. Wrap your water heater in a blanket of insulation made for water heaters.

44. Wrap all exposed hot and cold water lines that attach to the water heater. Wrap the lines all the way from the heater to the wall, ceiling or floor. Check manufactures recommendations written on water heater tank before wrapping insulation around a water heater.

45. Replace all incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs before the old bulbs burn out. Compact fluorescent bulbs are made for every light fixture in your house including recessed or can lights and outdoor flood lights.

46. Replace old energy hog appliances. Check the energy factor rating of all appliances before making your decision. will help.

47. Look for the Energy Star rating on electronics before purchasing items like T.V.s and computers.

48. Replace bedroom and bathroom light switches with motion detector switches.

49. Use caulk or foam spray to seal the plumbing penetrations under kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

50. Install foam gaskets behind electric outlets and light switches. Available at hardware stores.

51. Install and use a programmable thermostat. Automatically set back the temperature at night or when your at work.

52. Cover the range hood vent opening with a removable cover magnetic cover.

53. For home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, use smart power strips that turn the equipment off automatically when not in use.

54. Place heat resistant radiator reflectors between the radiator and the wall.

55. Locate your refrigerator and freezer away from heat producing appliances like a cook stove.

56. Use solar powered yard lights to light up driveways, walkways and steps.

57. Install a compact fluorescent bug light and disconnect your bug zapper.

Testing For Heating Duct Leakage

Tips For Saving Energy with Some Investment Dollars Needed

58. Schedule a Home Energy Audit. Contact your power company and ask if they provide this service. Otherwise about $200 to $400. If the auditor does not have a blower door and an infrared camera, find one that does.

59. Add insulation to attic, under floor, and walls. Contact an Insulation Contractor to get a cost estimate. Only 20% of the homes built before 1980 are well insulated.

60. Seal and insulate the supply and return heating ducts. Contact you power company first to see about incentive and rebate programs.

61. Insulate and air seal basement rim joists.

62. Insulate basement and attic short stem walls and knee walls.

63. Replace exterior doors with new, solid core, insulated doors. Replace the door jams at the same time.

64. Replace single pane windows and old metal framed windows with new energy efficient vinyl windows.

65. Upgrade old heating systems with high efficiency gas furnaces or heat pumps. Contact a State Certified Heating & Air Conditioning Contractor.

66. Replace water heater with new gas condensing model or new heat pump water heater. Consider an on-demand, tankless water heater. Contact a licensed Plumber. Picture, Dual Flush Retrofit for Your Toilet

67. Install a dual flush toilet. Flush liquids at 0.8 gallons and solids at 1.6 gallons. Or, install dual flush equipment in your toilet.

68. Install solar thermal system to provide low cost hot water. Contact a State certified Solar Contractor. Install solar electric panels to reduce the amount of electricity you need to purchase from your power company. Ask your power company about their net metering or feed-in-tariff program.

Kill a Watt Power Monitor

69. Install a solar powered attic exhaust fan. Reduce your cooling needs on sunny days. Very effective.

70. Replace old recessed lights with new, zero clearance, sealed recessed lights.

71. Install climate landscaping. Plant trees that lose their leaves in the fall on the sunny side of your home. This gives shade and protection from the summer sun and yet permits the winter sun to reach your home.

72. Install a ground source heat pump, the most efficient heat pump available. Contact a State certified heating contractor.

73. Purchase a Kill a Watt monitor and use to evaluate the power usage of any appliance or electronics. ( about $30.00, available on amazon )

74. Purchase an Energy Monitor and evaluate your homes electrical usage in real time -right then. ( TED, The Energy Detective or Blueline Power Cost Monitor, or Fido by EcoDog, about $130.00, available on Amazon )

75. In sunny warm climates, install a white roof or paint your roof white. Reduces cooling requirement by 40% over a black roof.

Hope this list of home power saving tips keeps you on your way to being a great Energy Spy.

I am all excited today, Bryan Gabriel took advantage of my invitation to send me more energy saving tips to add to my list. Thank you Bryan. Now that Bryan has broken the ice ( so to speak ) maybe you would like to add an energy saving tip or two. Just email your tips to, and I will add them to the list.

Here are the 30 tips that Bryan sent me to add to the energy saving list. Since my original list contained tips numbered 1 through 75, this list will start at number 76. My original list is published on, check out the original list and then add these to the end. If you would like to download the whole list of 106 tips, go to and click on Free Guides that is on the menu bar. You will find the article saving title 106 to Saving Energy and Lower Power Bills listed as a Free Download.

Adding More Tips For Saving Energy

76. If you need to run the faucet or shower before you get the hot water, save the water in a watering can and use the water for your indoor and outdoor plants.

77. At night close all the curtains and blinds to slow heat transfer.

78. Talk to your family about saving energy and these tips, Ask for their suggestions.

79. Try to charge your cell phone in the car while you are driving instead of using home electricity.

80. Make sure your bathroom fan has a damper in it so the exhaust duct is closed when not in use. Same for the clothes dryer exhaust duct.

Turn Off the Coffee Pot First

81. When you are done drinking coffee in the morning, turn off the coffee maker manually before it turns itself off.

82. If you rinse or presoak dishes before washing, try and reuse the soapy water over and over. Pour the soapy water from the bowl into the cup and from the cup onto the plate.

83. If you rinse recyclable containers before placing them in the recycle container, try to reuse that water over and over. Pour the water from the first bottle into the second and so on.

84. Paint interior walls and ceiling white or light colors to reflect more light all around the room, perhaps one CFL will light the room instead of two.

85. Outside around your A/C compressor or heat pump, make sure there is nothing like plants ( or your yard stuff ) blocking the free flow of air through the coils. Allow three feet of clearance on all sides.

86. In warmer climates, if you replace your roofing, install roof ridge vents to improve your attic ventilation.

87. Turn off TVs, stereos, lights, etc. when not in a bedroom, such as when eating dinner in the kitchen.

88. Use a smart power strip with a control outlet and dependant outlets to control computers and peripherals. Stop vampire energy use.

89. Get a solar water heater for our pool or spa (really affordable and cost effective ).

90. Air seal attic top plates where every penetration exists (framing joints, electrical/TV/telephone wiring, water pipes). Use expanding foam spray.

91. Remove the heating registers and seal with caulk any gap between the metal register boot and the drywall or floor.

92. Inspect the exterior of your houses for cracks that could allow air (and insects, yikes!) to enter your home. Seal with caulk, expanding foam, or other appropriate measures.

93. Many bonus rooms are built over garages. Make sure there is insulation in the bonus room floor (garage ceiling).

94. Sometimes, laundry or utility rooms are added on after original construction, or converted from other spaces. Make sure these rooms are insulated or use weatherstripping to air seal the doors..

95. Check weatherstripping on decorative storms doors. Its nice to have the main door open for light, but not if the storm door leaks like a sieve.

96. Check seals and gaskets on oven doors, keep that heat in the oven.

97. Use a small toaster oven instead of the big oven. Yes, you can bake in them! Great for just a few cookies at a time.

98. Weatherstrip doors leading to attics and basements, or other unconditioned spaces.

99. On a day when you are alone at home, turn off all water faucets, showers, etc. and look at your water meter. If the small dial or needle is moving, you have a water leak to find and repair.

100. If you need a small nightlight (like in a bathroom or childs room) use an LED light that uses 0.5 Watts instead of the older incandescent ones that are about 4 Watts.

101. If your child is watching too much TV, turn it off and have ask them about their day.

102. If you have hardwood floors that feel cold against bare feet, put down a throw rug.

103. If your furnace and blower fan are located in a hall closet, make sure the access door is air sealed with weather stripping. Also, make sure there is adequate ventilation for the unit to work properly. You may need to contact an licensed HVAC contractor.

104. Check your attic and/or crawl space for HVAC ducts that have come loose.

105. If you are replacing exterior siding, consider adding some more insulation. (blue foam is only about 3/4)

106. Consider installing a vestibule or mud room to help regulate air exchanges when entering and leaving your home. Plus, you get a bit more storage space.

Wow, 106 Tips for saving energy I will see my power bill going down now for sure.

Please feel free to share additional power saving tips that have worked for you and your home. I will add them to the list. Email your tips to, use the subject, “More Monster Saving Tips.”

Thank you for stopping by, hope you found some energy saving tips you can use, now go turn a light off.

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