Congratulations, you have made it through another Illinois winter, but your household budget took a pretty good hit keeping the homestead warm. Now that the weather is nice, you want to get started on some do-it-yourself home improvements that will save money on your energy bill and make your home more comfortable. Where do you start? Personally, I want your efforts and hard earned money to be well spent making good cost-effective energy efficient improvements.
I have included some common DIY improvements and I could easily do a monthly article on each one I talk about in this article, so I will give you the shortened versions. FYI – when caulk is to be used in the following improvements use acrylic latex paintable caulk. Clear in color is usually best.
Attic hatch – air seal and insulate. Secure the trim to the ceiling and caulk between the trim and the ceiling drywall, apply foam tape to the trim to hatch mating surfaces, glue 6” of ridged foam board (R30) to the top of the hatch using PL300 Foam Board adhesive. No fiberglass batts here. They do not work!
Recessed lights – If the fixtures are airtight or use an Air-Loc® housing from the inside of the home, caulk between the metal housing and the drywall ceiling. If they are not airtight fixtures replace them if possible with IC rated, (Insulation Contact) airtight fixtures, if no attic access is possible you can install “air tight recessed light inserts.” While you are at it, install a CFL or better yet an LED bulb.
Bath exhaust fan – air seal the fan from inside the house by removing the grille and fan assembly from the housing in the ceiling. Clean all fan parts and the housing in the ceiling. Caulk between the metal housing and the ceiling drywall, seal all holes in the metal housing with silicone caulk or foil tape, check to make sure the damper is operating properly and put it all back together. A bath fan can leak a lot of air.
Doors – check the door and threshold seals by placing a dollar bill between the door and the weather seal, close the door. Pull the dollar bill out. If there is little to no resistance, replace the seal or adjust the striker so the door closes tight against the weather seal by bending the adjustment tab in the striker outward. Or, it may be time to replace that old door.
Rim joist – most homes have a fiberglass batt installed in the rim joist for insulation. Not good enough! Fiberglass batts do nothing for stopping air leakage and the rim joist is the leakiest part of the home. When air flows through fiberglass the R-value drops dramatically. The best way to seal and insulate this area is to apply two to three inches of two-part spray foam to the rim joist. Homeowners can buy “Froth-packs” of two-part spray foam and do it themselves or hire a professional. Either way it will be money well spent.
Furnace filters – if you are using high efficiency pleated air filters check to make sure they are not too restrictive and reducing airflow in the system. Here is a quick check to see if you have this problem. With a new air filter installed and the air handler operating, slowly slide the filter out of the slot and slide it back in. If moving the air filter in and out changes the sound of the air handler then the filter is too restrictive. With this better filter media the size of the filter is too small and
makes it harder for the air handler to pull air through it and reduces airflow. You have two options: replace the filter with a cheaper, less restrictive filter, or better yet have a “Box Media Filter” installed by your HVAC contractor. You will have cleaner air and your system will operate much more efficient.
Clean the dryer vent – you should clean your dryer vent once a year. Also, every few years the ducts inside the dryer should be cleaned. This involves taking the front and back of the dryer off to access these ducts and may need to be done by a professional.