Real Energy Savers
By: New Jersey Home Inspector Michael Del Greco
Real Energy Savers
Submitted by: Michael Del Greco, President of Accurate Inspections, Inc. a New Jersey Home Inspection company. Click here for a New Jersey Home Inspector.
Why the title Real Energy Savers? Because the tips listed below go beyond the standard tips which
are usually recommended. Standard tips include: insulating the attic, wrapping the water heater, and
adding storm windows. Implement these real energy savers and start saving big $$$.
1. Outside air for heater burners with an appropriately sized trap (Gas, oil, wood, or coal)
Combustion needs fuel and air. If you use air for combustion from the basement and house, you create a
negative air pressure system inside the house which will draw or induce outside air to be pulled into the
When cold outside air mixes with warm inside air it lowers the ambient house temperature and causes
your heater to go on or stay on.
Outside air ducted to the air intake of the burner will reduce the fuel consumption approximately 17% in
an average house.
An appropriately sized trap is necessary to resist the colder outside air from falling in the basement
continually in the heating season. Look to a mechanical tradesperson for your specific size.
2. Dampers for furnace and water heater flues
Open flues and chimneys create an opening in the house which allows the thermally buoyant warm air
from a basement and/or house to rise out of the chimney. Losses are significant due to the thermal
momentum created by warm chimney walls.
Warm air loss draws cold outside air into the house and is a chronic waste of energy. Proper dampers on the flue will reduce these losses considerably.
3. Reduce thermal air loss vertically through the house and in the walls of the house
Warm air will rise in any opening in a house (i.e., plumbing or electrical chases, balloon-framed houses,
masonry walls that are stripped on the inside to receive plaster or drywall and any openings around
windows, doors, baseboards, trims, etc.).
Warm air loss is the largest and single most wasteful energy loser in some houses. It also creates an
inducement which draws cold outside air into the house.
The solution to this problem is to close any openings that you find. The most effective way to do this is
with a blower door, infredscanner and monitor. The blower door is a large panel with a fan that adjusts
to a doorway. The infrared scanner with monitor allows you to see where the heat loss is. Once you
know where you are losing warm air, it s relatively easy to reduce thermal air loss.
Commercial companies can do the scans, reduce the air loss, and re-do the scanning (Look in the yellow
pages under Energy Conservation and Management Products and Services).
Ceilings above the living space should have 6 to 12 of insulation.
Vapor barriers should be installed on the warm side of any insulation situation. The only function of
insulation is to reduce thermal conductivity. It does not stop air infiltration.
Though wall insulation is beneficial, it is only recommended when you can blow in 3 1/2 and when the
workmanship can be verified by an infrared scanner to check for leaks and uneven application.
5. Storm windows
Storm windows have two basic functions: (1) reduce air infiltration and (2) protect the main windows
from the weather.
Storm windows should be installed on wood thermal breaks if the main windows are metal.
Storm windows have very little effectiveness as far as saving energy if you do not address energy
saving tips #1, 2, and 3 listed above. The negative air pressure system that tips #1, 2, and 3 create will
simply cause cold air to be drawn into the house from some other place.
6. Weather stripping
Give doors and windows a tight seal with weather stripping. This will reduce air infiltration. To realize
the maximum benefit from weather stripping you must implement tips #1, 2, and 3.
Look for more real energy savers in a future column.
Information provided by Michael Del Greco, New Jersey Home Inspector Lic. GI 0121, American Society of Home Inspectors Member 102273, Pesident of Accurate Inspections, Inc. A West Paterson New Jersey Home Inspection firm.