How Can I Make My Home More Energy Efficient? – Part 1

Summer is almost here! But, are you ready for winter?  Now’s the time to plan improvements you can make around your home to save money in the winter. Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy efficient - and you can do it yourself!  We here at GAMA Air want all of our friends in Beverly Hills, Culver City, Mar Vista, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel Air, Westwood, Downtown Los Angeles, Vernon, Huntington Park, Sherman Oaks, Encino and the surrounding area to get the most out of the money they spend on their energy bills.

This is the first of a series of Do-It-Yourself blog entries with practical steps you can take to ensure the outdoor weather stays outside. You’ll learn how to find and seal hidden air leaks in your attic and basement, and also how to determine if your attic insulation is adequate and how to add more if it’s needed. We’ll also give tips to make sure your improvements projects are carried out safely. In the end, not only will you reduce your energy bills and make your family more comfortable, but you’ll also help protect the environment. Ready? Let’s get started!

Locating air leaks

More than any other time of year, you will notice your home’s air leaks in the winter. Most people call these air leaks “drafts.” You may feel these drafts around windows and doors. Would you think of these leaks as your major source of wasted energy? They’re not! In most homes more significant air leaks are hidden in the attic and basement. These are the leaks that significantly raise your energy bill and make your house uncomfortable. Why?

Well, heat rises, right? So in cold weather the warm air in your house rises, just like it would in a chimney. This air, which you have paid to heat, is just wasted as it rises up into your attic and sucks cold air in all around your home—around windows, doors, and through holes into the basement. Of course your attic is more than likely insulated. But insulation does not seal air leaks. What’s more, locating these leaks can be difficult because they are often hidden under the insulation. Here’s a list of the most common air leaks, as shown in the image, courtesy of the US EPA:

  1. Behind attic knee-walls
  2. Around and through the attic hatch
  3. Holes where electrical wiring passes through
  4. Holes where plumbing vents pass through
  5. An open soffit that may contain recessed lights
  6. Around and through recessed lights
  7. Through chases (hollow boxes or walls) used for furnace vents or air ducts
  8. Around basement rim joists, where the wood framing connects to the foundation 

A good way to start your project to seal air leaks is to make a quick sketch of your home’s floor plan. You will find it helpful to refer to this sketch once you get into the attic since it will guide you to the areas of potential leakage. In your sketch, make note the points in the list above that apply to your house, but especially note dropped soffits over kitchen cabinets or bathroom vanities, slanted ceilings over stairways, where walls (interior and exterior) meet the ceiling, and any other dropped-ceiling areas. These areas may have open stud cavities leading directly into the attic and can be huge sources of air leaks.

Stay tuned for the next installment from GAMA Air about making your home more energy efficient. (UPDATE: The next part is ready!)

Want to know more? Check out our “Do-It-Yourself” page, or visit our “Ask an Expert” page and send us your question!

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