February 1st would bring about the third worst snowstorm in snowfalls in Chicago’s history. Those of us here have battled through it since Tuesday and still are. I was on my way home from an appointment early afternoon. What was supposed to be a 15 minute drive turned into hours. I found out later that evening that hundreds of motorists were stranded on Lake Shore Drive.
It was a difficult day for many and the storm didn’t let up into the evening. Not sure if it was my mind playing tricks, but I thought I heard thunder in the late hours around midnight… With winds gusts of ~50-70 mph and freezing temperatures, it was not hard to notice the continual increase on the thermostat and cold drafts entering the home.
I first went outside to shovel (futile attempt) right before midnight when I noticed several inches of snow that had blown into the front hallway – mostly entering from the mailbox slot. There was an enormous amount of heat loss in the building which affects the thermostat setting and energy costs. Only the extremely temperatures of the day allowed me to observe weaknesses in my buildings envelope. There are many ways heat loss is caused and ways to take preventative measures.
The chart shows primary air infiltration areas. Note that floors, walls and ceilings account for about a third of air loss. Older buildings may have even more areas of infiltration.
There are multiple ways that homeowners can help minimize heat loss, in addition to diagnostic tests used in energy audits to specifically analyze points of weakness/infiltration.
Considering that floors, walls and ceilings account for almost a third for penetration, these areas should be examined very carefully. Older buildings should be check carefully as years and repairs may have compromised seal in multiple areas. Common areas of penetration include:
- Plumbing penetrations through insulated floors and ceilings
- Chimney penetrations
- Wiring penetrations through insulated floors, ceilings, and walls
- Door and window frames
- Mail slots
- Utility service entry points
- Cable/Satellite/Telephone entry points
- Dryer vent outlets
When addressing heat loss while furthering the green potential of your home, there are several action items that a homeowner could concentrate on. You can save a copy of the list below as a PDF as well.
Tier 1 Low Cost Actions:
- Insulate water heater.
- Install Weather-stripping and door runners.
- Caulk doors and windows.
- Replace filters.
- Replace mail slot with magnetic / dual slot covers.
- Cover & insulate areas of penetration (e.g.: air conditioner openings that do not seal tight).
- Hang heavy curtains.
- Keep doors closed to unused rooms.
- Lay out rugs.
- Install a programmable thermostat.
Tier 2 Medium Cost Actions:
- Conduct an energy assessment / audit.
- Insulate attic, ducts and similar areas.
- Ensure that all walls are properly insulated.
- Install ceiling fans and set to low speeds.
- Install chimney cap.
- Plant trees to provide a natural barrier.
Tier 3 High Cost Actions:
- Install double/triple pane windows. (Check performance numbers as some triple pane windows may not out-perform double pane.)
- Grow a green roof.
- Tuckpoint and sealing around areas of penetration into building (wiring, piping, exhausts, utilities, etc).
- If installing new flooring, consider installing a layer of cork for insulation.
- If planning on replacing furnace, install a high efficiency furnace.
Sherwin L. Sucaldito, REALTOR®, GREEN, ABR, CRPM
The Institute of Luxury Home Marketing
Green REsource Council, GREEN
Accredited Buyer’s Representative , ABR
Certified Residential Property Manager, CRPM