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Which Weatherization Problems Should Be Addressed First?

Some weatherization fixes yield better results than others. Here’s a prioritized list of what homeowners should concentrate their efforts on.

Seal air leaks BEFORE adding insulation in A, B, C order (attic, basement, center) with caulk, spray foam and weatherstrip – see graphic of typical leaks on How to Find Heat Loss page.

  • Attic first – hatch/stairs, around chimney, recessed lights, electric & plumbing penetrations, top of walls
  • Basement next – sill to foundation/rim joist, chimney, bulkhead door, plumbing & wiring holes
  • Center of house last – seal fireplace chimney opening, weatherstrip doors, seal (NOT replace) windows, install outlet plate sealing gaskets, caulk along baseboards

Add Insulation AFTER air sealing, to reduce conductive heat loss. Failing to air seal will allow warm air to push up through loose fill insulation, making it less effective.

  • Insulation materials are rated in R-value per inch of material for “resistance” to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation. Example: Polystyrene foam board is rated at R-5/inch. Department of Energy recommends R-25 on basement and crawlspace walls, so 5" polystyrene foam board would work.
  • See Department of Energy Recommended R-values for various building surfaces.

Upgrade Heating System AFTER Weatherizing

Once you have done weatherization work, it makes sense to consider replacing your old heating system. Your weatherizing work may let you install a smaller and less expensive “sealed combustion” heating system which forces gases produced by burning fossil fuels out of the house and costs less to run. Sealed combustion heating systems take their combustion air from, and expel the combustion gases to, outside the house. It is best, if possible, to do the weatherization first and then change heating system for two reasons. Weatherizing will lower your heating needs allowing you to purchase a smaller/cheaper heating system. Also, a properly sized heater will run more efficiently, using less fuel than an oversized system you will end up with if you change the heater first and then weatherize. Replace existing heating systems and appliances with ENERGY STAR® models, which are 10 to 50 percent more efficient.

Finally, Install Renewables!

Once you have reduced your energy use needs, it’s time to consider replacing your fossil fuel use with renewables such as wood heat, solar hot water and electric, geothermal heating systems, wind mills, and even micro-hydro systems. Renewables are generally more expensive than conservation and efficiency measures. So, if you have a limited budget, you will have a bigger impact on replacing fossil fuel use by putting your money into conservation and efficiency first. Installing renewables will further lower your dependency on non–renewables and your carbon footprint. You can find links to information on federal tax credits for many of these systems at the Federal Residential Energy Tax Credits. You can find lists of renewable dealers at www.REVermont.org and www.myenergyplan.net. SERG also has a list of renewable dealers who offer discounts to SERG donors at the Energy Alliance link at www.SERG-info.org.

You can find a free, online automatic calculator to run numbers and determine your home’s efficiency HERE.

ENERGY STAR® heating systems and appliances can be between 10 and 50 percent more efficient than older, non-ENERGY STAR® models.

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