Tighten that House

A room insulated with spray foam, via Creative Commons

When considering how best to lessen their carbon footprint, most people try to take advantage of some low hanging fruit, like buying less beef or setting the thermostat a little lower.

Currently the City of Cincinnati is offering a great way to substantially lower your home’s environmental impact. The Greater Cincinnati Alliance’s Home Performance Program is set up to provide an affordable way to lower the heating and cooling needs for your home.

First there is a Home Energy Assessment, and then you decide what you want to do. If you spend at least $1,000 on improvements, the City will foot half of the bill, up to a maximum of $1,500. Even better there is financing available.

If you’re sold on the program, then what exactly should you do? Get a new furnace? New windows? Those can be great but to get the most bang for your buck I would recommend: 1) Air sealing and 2) Insulation. And here is why:

When you think of heating and cooling a home there are only a few key things that will determine how much you pay (and energy use).

For example, it’s winter and it’s 20 degrees outside and you would like it to be 70 in your home. The difference between 20 and 70 is a whopping 50 degrees, so first you need good insulation. Little or no insulation lets the cold from the exterior of your house move right on in. But, also, your home needs to be reasonably airtight. You could have all the insulation in the world but if there is cold air streaming in around window and door frames then your house is still going to be cold. Also, it would be nice if some sun would shine in and warm things up. So during the winter you want good insulation, good air tightness, and sunlight coming in.

Now, consider summer. It’s 85 degrees outside and again you want it 70 in your house. The difference between 85 and 70 is a lot less, and therefore insulation is much less important. In fact, in Florida the building codes require hardly any insulation at all. However, air tightness is still very important. If hot and humid air leaks into your home, your air conditioner is going to run a lot more. Finally it would be nice if the sun did not shine in your home. Thus, during the summer you need good air tightness and no sun shining in through the windows.

The conclusion is that air sealing will save energy both during the winter and summer. This, combined with the fact that air sealing is much more affordable than buying new windows, is why I recommend looking into this program if you want to help the environment, be more comfortable and save money in the long run. So check out the Greater Cincinnati Alliance’s website for more information, http://greatercea.org/ residential/incentives/cincinnati/.

Casey Moothart is a Northside resident who spent a long, long time taping and spray foaming his Northside house as it was being built.

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