Energy Efficiency: Find the Potential in Your Home

Finding savings potential is the life of an Energy Auditor. The fun part is simple: no two homes are exactly the same and finding power savings potential in each home is golden. Looking for areas where energy efficiency can be increased and electric waste can be stopped becomes an energy auditors hunt for gold. Every home has energy efficiency potential, whether the home was constructed in 1911 or one hundreds years later.

The trouble is, we all can not be trained energy auditors: we all can not run around our homes with a blower door and a smoke puffer. To most of us, a duct blaster would do us about as much good as a gold pan and metal detector.

The potential for saving electricity is usually found in areas of a home where something is missing. A n energy auditor looks for missing components of home power efficiency. Across the country, typical homes use as much as two times the energy as is necessary to maintain comfort and convenience. This unnecessary power use costs about 45 billion annually.

Are your power bills heading north and growing like a redwood? Well, you are simply doing your part in covering that 45 billion. Little here and a little there, we do our best to help pay for the countries energy waste. The missing insulation, air sealing, and lack of efficient heating and cooling systems drives the waste that costs us all so much.

Energy Efficiency:

Fortunately, we do not need to continue to pay a share of the countries waste, we can choose to look for the potential savings in our home and let the neighbors pay the waste bill.

The do-it-yourself energy auditor with a desire for lower power bills has a better chance of finding energy savings than the average prospector with a gold dredge. If looking for energy waste is not your thing, but you would like to save energy and lower your power bill, contact you power provider and inquire about their program for providing free home energy audits. You will be surprised how much your power provider would like to have you save energy.

Use the Retrofit to Increase Energy Efficiency:

A retrofit is a change or addition to a home, or the homes heating system, that increases conservation. Retrofits can be the result of a homeowner that is sick of energy waste and high power bills or retrofits can be part of a weatherization program. Across the country – State and County weatherization programs set a great example for saving energy.

The weatherization programs are often utility sponsored and households that take part save about 23% on heating cost and 26% on cooling. All income level households can find some level of weatherization program that will assist them in conservation retrofits by contacting their power provider.

Residential weatherization programs use four main strategies to reach potential energy efficiency.

Retrofits to the building shell:

Studies in home electrical and gas waste point to holes in the building shell as a huge contributor to energy waste. Energy Auditors have learned that air leakage can vary greatly from home to home and energy savings come primarily from plugging large leaks.

Improved insulation products and installation methods have made retrofit insulation projects increasingly effective in maintaining an efficient thermal barrier. Insulation, air sealing, and heating duct sealing are cost effective by paying for themselves in energy savings in just a few years.

The continued development of improved window glass, coatings, and window frame stability have made window retrofits increasingly more energy efficient.

Thermal Improvements:

Old residential heating, cooling, and water heating systems perform inefficiently. New testing equipment and maintenance techniques can improve the energy efficiency of existing equipment and delivery systems. The energy auditor with a duct blaster can test your heating and cooling delivery system and provide accurate data on the efficiency of the system.

Improve Mechanical Equipment:

The efficiency of heating, cooling, and water heating equipment improved from 30% to 60% from 1973 to 1993. Equipment manufactures have continued to make improvements and today, gas furnaces have reached 95% efficient. Heat pumps and heat pump water heaters have made great strides and challenge natural gas in efficiency.

The Energy Star program has regulated appliance efficiency until the standard household appliances are more energy efficient than ever before. The refrigerator, dishwasher, and clothes washer operate on just 50% of the energy that was needed 20 years ago.

Resident Education:

Central to any retrofit weatherization program is household education. Occupant awareness of power saving equipment and methods is central to maximizing savings. The price of power may rise and fall, but our determination to increase household conservation and get the most out of our efficient equipment and appliances must not be a factor of the cost of energy. We all can see the dollar sign on a power bill, but successful household conservation requires a lifestyle adjustment.

Along with providing weatherization and home energy audit services, your power provider has likely developed a strong energy education program. In some cases, an Energy Educator can visit your home and provide a professional presentation and offer informational literature.

Join the energy auditors and the weatherization programs and look for the energy efficient potential of your home. Don’t just live in your home and pay the electric and gas bill, look for your homes energy efficiency potential like a gold prospector would look for a pot of gold. Chances are, you’ll find more gold in your house than Gabby and his donkey can find in yellow bottom creek.

Thanks for stopping by Detect Energy, hope you’ll come back soon, but I won’t leave the light on for you…

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Blinds Between the Glass and the Energy Efficiency Myth

“Blinds Between the Glass” refers to an innovative window system that features blinds or shades that are permanently sealed within a double-glazed cavity. Surprisingly, they have been around for a long time. According to Pella, one of America’s leading window manufacturers, they first introduced between-the-glass blinds in 1966. It’s only in the last few years, however, that they have surged in popularity to become a mainstream window option for homeowners who like a clean, modern look and the idea of minimal maintenance.

Companies that manufacture them cite their hygienic, maintenance-free convenience, their uniform and stylish good looks, and their innovative sun-shading and privacy features. As for homeowners with children or pets, their cordless design is a safety feature that is especially appealing. For allergy sufferers, eliminating dust-collecting draperies and airborn allergens seems like a pretty good incentive to purchase.

But are they energy efficient?In these days of soaring energy bills and dwindling resources, both personal and planetary, absolutely every homeowner is most concerned with energy efficiency when buying replacement doors or windows. It’s the one issue that probably trumps all others, because no one wants to see their hard-earned dollars vanish out the window.

So the question must be asked: Are blinds between the glass windows and doors really as energy-efficient as some claim? The only way to truly answer that question is to understand (a) what energy efficiency means in terms of windows and doors specifically and (b) how this type of window option is put together.

Window and Door Energy Efficiency 101

Modern windows are smart windows, and window science has completely changed how we understand energy efficiency. The measuring stick we use to gauge the energy efficiency of a window is sophisticated indeed.

We’ve known for some time that glass by itself is a poor insulator; however, double-paned windows created a revolution in the window marketplace. With double-paned windows, the two pieces of glass seal a layer of air between them, thus providing added insulation.

But there was another revolution in energy efficiency on the horizon, thanks to Low-E glass and argon gas. Low-E (low-emissivity) is a thin coating of transparent metallic material that’s applied to window glass for insulating purposes. The Low-E coating helps to prevent heat gain (or loss) in your home by acting as a kind of reflective shield, pushing radiant heat that tries to pass through the glass back to the source it originates from. Argon is a heavy, invisible, non-toxic gas that is a far better insulator than air-the weight of this gas dramatically reduces the amount of heat that can pass through the space between two panes of glass.

Today’s windows are in large part energy efficient because of the treated glass and the use of argon gas. Using stainless steel spacers for insulating performance and paying special attention to framing materials that permit only a low coefficient of thermal expansion so temperature variations don’t loosen the bond or create gaps are also important. But a Low-E coating is the critical element in making windows energy efficient.

How Do They Do That?

A popular TV ad asks, How do they get the caramel in the Caramilk bar? One could well ask the same question of blinds-between-the-glass windows and doors. How do they get the blinds in between the glass?

There are two ways in which these windows and doors are manufactured. First, many blinds-between-the-glass windows and doors are constructed like a glass “sandwich.” In other words, the blinds are inserted between two panes of glass. A Low-E coating is not applied, because silver oxide is especially sensitive to scratching. And there is minimal room in a glass sandwich with a blind for the maximum benefit of an argon gas fill. In comparison, there’s simply no way a window with between-the-glass blinds can reduce your energy bills as much as a sealed double-pane window.

The Triple Pane Option

With time, and in an effort to make windows with blinds between the glass more energy-efficient, some window companies turned them into triple-paned windows. That means they have three pieces of glass with two spaces in between: one space holds the between-the-glass blinds, while the other space has a Low-E coating and argon fill.

While triple-paned windows with blinds between the glass may be more energy efficient, just be aware that the extra piece of glass makes the windows bulkier. The biggest drawback to the triple-paned windows however is the cost. They are significantly more expensive because you’re basically paying for two windows-one with modern, energy-efficient technology, and one with between-the-glass blinds.

The Blinds Between: Innovation without the Science

One of the arguments put forth claims that the Low-E glass and the internal blinds together contribute to making the entire glass unit more energy efficient, that the internal blinds absorb solar heat gain. Let’s take a closer look at that claim.

There are no blinds-or window covering of any kind for that matter-that can significantly increase thermal efficiency and match that of a sealed glass unit with an argon gas fill and a Low-E coating. In fact, the blinds between the glass actually diminish the amount of argon gas you can put between those two pieces of glass, ultimately compromising the energy efficiency of the total package.

But most notable of all is this very simple fact: blinds, drapes, shades, and all other window coverings only marginally impact energy efficiency in one way: by blocking visible light transmission. In other words, sunlight! So even if your blinds are on the inside of the glass, it’s going to amount to the same heat reduction and light reduction that you would get from just pulling the drapes across or drawing a regular blind on a sunny day. You are simply blocking light, not increasing the actual energy efficiency of the window.

The Bottom Line

To sum up, this “augmented” energy efficiency derived from blinds between the glass is largely unfounded, and for two main reasons: internal blinds cannot absorb the solar heat gain and Low-E is absolutely essential for any sort of significant energy efficiency. It’s the only way to reflect radiant heat back to the source. Otherwise, heat transfers easily through the glass sandwich-blinds or no blinds. Inside or out!

You could save a lot of money and get equal or better energy performance from energy-efficient, double-paned windows with Low-E coatings and argon gas. But if you really love the look, then by all means go for it. Just know that your best energy efficiency option will be the triple pane solution.

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