The University of Alabama

UA Matters: Home Energy Tips for Earth Day, Every Day

UA Matters logoThis year marks the 39th anniversary of Earth Day, a worldwide movement to protect our planet, our children and our future. Environmental consciousness has become more and more heightened, from recycling newspapers and plastics to driving hybrid vehicles. Through this kind of awareness, Earth Day has had an immeasurable impact in every community throughout the United States. Earth Day is observed worldwide April 22.

MORE EFFICIENT HOME HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEMS

earthdayMost consumers have become energy conscious and look for ways to make their homes more energy efficient. Dr. Keith Woodbury, professor of mechanical engineering at The University of Alabama, recommends numerous ways for people to make their homes more energy efficient.

  1. Make sure the home is well sealed – caulking (especially floor plates), weather stripping, and using an insert fireplace with outside combustion air, rather than a standard fireplace, increases efficiency.
     
  2. Insulation is a must for energy efficiency – Request 2″ x 6″ (rather than the standard 2″ x 4″) framing with R19+ insulation. Also, insulate foundation or crawl space perimeter and install R30+ ceiling/roof insulation.
     
  3. Windows let in more than light – install windows with 0.5 or less U-value and low leakage rating (<0.35 cfm/sq.ft.). Also consider installing tinted windows or add shades on east and west walls, and add a small overhang on the south wall to block summer sun but let in winter sun.
     
  4. Heating or cooling in non-living areas – inspect all ductwork in unconditioned spaces, such as attics and basements. For ductwork in attics, mastic all joints and put a minimum of two inches of insulation. Carefully seal any ductwork in crawl spaces or in un-insulated basements to prevent moisture and mildew in return ducts or return air.
     
  5. Location, location, location – do not locate equipment (furnaces, air conditioners or water heaters) in the attic because it gets very hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
     
  6. For new construction, consider a closed loop geothermal heat pump or a 13 SEER air-conditioner. Avoid super high-efficiency 2-speed heat pumps (SEER = 14+). The rating method does not consider the many hours of high temperatures in Alabama. This equipment is more expensive and is actually less efficient on very hot and very cold days.
     
  7. Best Economic Value – replace all incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). CFLs last longer, use 70 percent less energy, and give off 70 percent less heat which reduces the load on the air conditioner.
     
  8. Calculate how much you are spending on heating, cooling and water heating before paying extra for energy efficiency upgrades. Sometimes the return on the investment can be many years.

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UA Matters is a bi-weekly column that offers information and tips on consumer issues facing Alabamians. The columns are available to reprint in your publication free of charge. Also, access to subject matter experts is available upon request. For more information, contact Suzanne Dowling at 205/348-8324 or sdowling@ur.ua.edu.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.