We had an energy audit done on our house (free from the utilities company!)
We thought he’d go around the house with a fancy heat gun checking for drafts or something, but he didn’t. But no, first order problems don’t require any fancy equipment.
What were his main suggestions?
1. Put a tent over the stairs to the attic on the attic-side in the air conditioned access part. He was shocked that we have attic access from inside the house and not just from the garage. This has turned out to be difficult because there’s an inconveniently placed pipe up near this access point in the attic.
2. Do something about the old-fashioned recessed (bucket) lights.
3. Get black screens for our sun-facing windows. (These look pretty creepy from the outside, like the windows are painted black, but our HOA must allow them because all sorts of folks in our neighborhood now have them.)
The recessed lighting has a light in a can, basically. The cans (from before 2004) have holes in them because if they don’t, then the lights get so hot that it’s a fire hazard. Because of the holes, the hot attic air comes down into the house because of some sort of pressure convection thing. When the air conditioner is on, it pressurizes the house which means it blows cold air up into the attic. Not only that, but these lights are supposed to have no insulation within three inches so that things don’t get so hot that they catch on fire. When people do temperature readings, you can see where the recessed lights are.
Since then, they’ve made new models that don’t have holes that you can put insulation up against. Also compact fluorescent lights and LED lights are not as hot as regular lights.
He said, we’d really like to seal off those holes. Our choices:
A. Switch out with the new cans. They may not be air tight but it’s better than just the holes. Just like any fixture, they have a light shape and maximum wattage. Their maximum wattage is lower than the old-style cans, but that’s clear on the can. With this option, you can also do B because the cans themselves are metal and still transfer heat into the house.
B. Buy covers that are insulation tents that you can just drop over the cans. These can be used with the old-fashioned hot bulbs, but you have to be sure to open vents within the covers for safety reasons. But then there’s a hole again. With the modern lights you don’t need to open the vent.
C. Tape off the holes in the current cans. You can only do this with the low-wattage bulbs. The internet is full of horror stories about what a bad dangerous idea this is. We have opted not to do this one.
We have 9 of these recessed lights. DH switched out 7 for LED and 2 for compact fluorescent (we’d already swapped those out when the previous bulbs burned out). Finding them in the attic was difficult– one of them was buried in insulation underneath the air conditioner and took 20 min to find.
DH is concerned that if we just do option B that at some point in time someone will put in a bulk that the fixture says is ok, keep the vents closed, and it will start a fire. Who? Maybe a tenant or someone who buys the house after us… something small probability but a scary one. We could remove the tents prior to someone else living in our house, but we’d have to remember to do that.
So most likely we’ll go with option A and option B combined and have an electrician do it. DH has been banned from home wiring projects after a mishap wiring a fan. (This ban is ironic given his educational background and the other types of home improvement projects he has not been banned from. But an alive husband is the most important thing.)
How much will that cost? Well, the new LED lightbulbs cost ~$30 each, so ~$210 for that. The new cans are ~$10/each, so ~$90. The tents are ~$15/each on the direct webpage (the amazon link above is more pricey), so ~135. We’re not sure how much an electrician will cost– that’s something we need to find out. But this little project will most likely cost more than $500 total. How long will that take to pay for itself in lower utility bills? No idea! But our summer energy bills are pretty awful, so it might be less time than we think. If only we could also do something about the water bill.
Have you done an energy audit? What do you do to keep your energy costs down?