Reducing energy loss part of home makeover work

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 70 views 

It was only a month ago that Kyle and Alisha Quenga were surprised with a home makeover from the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.

Since the announcement of up to a $50,000 home makeover on Aug. 8, the Quenga family has had quite a bit of work done to their home just south of Fort Smith.

Among the most noticeable upgrades when first entering their home is the addition of new windows from Weather Barr Windows of Fort Smith. According to Greg Davis of the Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative, the windows have technology that allows light in without a lot of heat, which could be a big help during the early September heat.

"There are double panes and in between those panes is a gas that will keep it from transferring into the house. It makes a huge difference," he said. "And of course, these windows were put in extremely tight and you can even see just tons of caulk. And that's something that really everyone should do. If somebody hasn't caulked around their windows lately, they need to. Period."

Prior to installation of the new windows, the Quenga family had aluminum pane windows, which Davis explained were great conductors of hot and cold, "they'll pull that cold air or hot air to it, and then it of course is convecting back into the house," which will result in extremely high indoor temperatures during the summer months.

The old windows were also not caulked as well as the new windows, which allowed for much of the energy in the home to escape with little effort. Davis said prior to the home makeover, as much as 70% of the home's energy was escaping.

And it was not only through the windows. It was also escaping through the back door, an area Davis said many people are not aware of as a potential escape route for energy.

As he explained it, doors are often installed and molding is put up around it, disguising gaps between the doorframe and the house sometimes large enough to see daylight, as was the case with the Quenga's home. Proper installation and sealing will prevent the energy escape, thereby saving more money.

Another way to keep the house cool, Davis said, is properly insulating the attic. In the Quenga home, temperature readings in the attic were running well over 110 degrees. But sprayed foam insulation has brought the temperature to a tolerable level, only five to 10 degrees above the temperature in the main part of the house.

In order for the house to continue having lower heating and cooling costs following the makeover, Residential Energy Marketing Manager Bret Curry said spray foam insulation similar to what is now in the attic would be applied to the home's crawl space, making sure that cold or hot air does not escape from below the home.

"We've all heard that hot air rises, and it does, that's why hot air balloons work. But heat moves to cool on planet Earth. It has forever and ever. It's thermodynamics. And in a house, on a cold winter's day when the wife complains that her feet are cold, that's because the heat is moving through the floor mainly because there's no insulation under here and then to the cold, open-vented crawl space."

In addition to insulating the crawl space, Curry said the home would also have the vents to the crawl space closed to keep air from escaping. Once complete, the crawl space should see temperatures similar to the attic, with only slight differences between the indoor temperature, he said.

Davis said home improvement work was not the only additions to the Quenga household, pointing out new energy efficient appliances provided by General Electric. Since the new GE refrigerator was larger than the opening in the kitchen, the home makeover crew did cut out additional space from already-existing cabinets. The crew also re-painted the cabinets to make them look new.

The family also has a new sidewalk, thanks to the home makeover crew. Davis said all of the improvements, including the re-painted cabinets and the sidewalk, were meant to "leave the home in better condition" than when the work crews arrived.

Still to be completed is the installation a new geothermal heat pump, a new energy-efficient water heater and the crawl space insulation.

But even with some projects not yet complete, the home still feels cooler and more comfortable, which Davis said could cut their home utility bill by up to half.