Home Performance with ENERGY STAR
Common Recommendations for Homeowners

Contractor inspecting an atticA Home Performance assessment is fully comprehensive. Items that are checked during most assessments include:
  • insulation levels for all building components
  • window types
  • air leakage pathways with the blower door test
  • efficiencies of heating, cooling and water heating equipment
  • duct system effectiveness with flow hood or a duct blaster test
  • ventilation systems (dryer, kitchen range, bath exhausts)
  • moisture management components (crawlspace vapor barrier, gutters, yard slope)
  • test for the possibility of backdrafting when gas-burning appliances are inside house

What kind of improvements might my house need?

Typical improvements recommended by Home Performance with ENERGY STAR include:
Insulation

Contractor working in atticAlong with air sealing, your contractor may recommend that you add insulation to improve home energy efficiency. Many older homes are not well-insulated, and some have no insulation at all. Even new homes frequently have improperly installed or missing insulation.

Properly installed insulation in walls, floors and attics provides for more even temperatures throughout the house and results in a quieter, more comfortable living environment that is easier to heat and cool.

For this region, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends:

  • Attic insulation: R49; approximately 12–17 inches, depending upon type
  • Wall insulation: R18
  • Basement/crawlspace wall insulation: R11

Learn more about insulation types and R-values.

Air Sealing

Many air leaks and drafts are easy to find because they are easy to feel—like those around windows, doors and electrical outlets. But holes hidden in attics, basements and crawlspaces are usually bigger problems. Sealing these leaks with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping will have a great impact on improving your comfort and reducing utility bills.

Homeowners are often concerned about sealing their house too tightly; however, this is very unlikely in most older homes. A certain amount of fresh air is needed for good indoor air quality and there are specifications that set the minimum amount of fresh air needed for a house. A Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor will use diagnostic tools to measure your home’s actual leakage. If your home is too tight, a fresh air ventilation system may be recommended.

After any home sealing project, always have a heating and cooling technician check to make sure that your combustion appliances (gas- or oil-fired furnace, water heater and dryer) are venting properly. A Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor will always “test out” following air sealing work. For additional information on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues related to homes, such as combustion safety, visit the U.S. EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Web site.

Ductwork

Heating ductworkMany homes have leaky ductwork and poor air flow, resulting in stuffy and uncomfortable rooms—regardless of the thermostat setting. Sealing and insulating ductwork can help to ensure that your home will be more comfortable and energy-efficient.

The Home Performance contractor may recommend the following energy-efficient home improvements:

  • Sealing ducts with mastic, durable foil-backed tape or aerosol-based sealant
  • Insulating ductwork in attics, crawlspaces and unconditioned basements
  • Balancing the duct system to optimize air flow to all rooms
Heating & Cooling Equipment

Contractors installing HVAC equipmentIf your furnace or air conditioner is more than 10 years old, your contractor may recommend that you replace it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR label. Installed correctly, these high-efficiency units can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs.

When it comes to heating and cooling equipment, bigger is not always better. A properly-sized unit will make your home more comfortable by providing more consistent temperatures and better humidity control. Always be sure that your contractor performs a load calculation prior to replacing HVAC equipment.

Windows, Doors & Skylights

Replacing windows is rarely cost-effective based solely on energy-savings. However, if you are planning to replace your windows, doors or skylights because of maintenance or aesthetic reasons, make the most of the opportunity and consider ENERGY STAR labeled products. They save you energy and money, increase the comfort of your home, prevent condensation and protect your valuable possessions from sun damage. They are also better for the environment because lowering your energy use means less air pollution from power plants.

ENERGY STAR labeled windows, doors and skylights are twice as efficient as the average windows manufactured just 10 years ago. They help cut your heating and cooling costs and can make your home more comfortable without compromising cost, comfort, versatility or style. These high-performing windows are available in every operator type, including single- and double-hung, casement, horizontal slider, fixed, picture and patio slider. And they are manufactured with most common frame materials, including aluminum, fiberglass, vinyl and wood.

Ventilation & Dehumidification

Homeowner installing a ceiling fanAdequate ventilation can cut down on the humidity in your home.

  • Use ventilation fans in kitchens and baths to control moisture. Check to make sure ventilation fans venting directly outside. In some cases the vent fan may have been installed to vent into the attic or become disconnected or blocked.
  • Your clothes dryer should be vented directly to the outside. The vent duct should be inspected to make sure it is attached securely to the dryer, is clear of obstructions (e.g. lint), and free from holes that leak air. Vent ducts should be cleaned at least once a year, and damaged vent ducts should be replaced.
  • Ask a contractor to check your heating and cooling system to make sure it is sized correctly and operating properly to remove humidity. If you system is too big or the airflow incorrect, your air conditioner will not remove humidity like it should.
  • If your home uses central air conditioning, consider installing an A/C vent in the humid space in your home and take advantage of the dehumidifying capabilities of your A/C system. This will also help with air circulation, improving airflow between humid parts of your home and drier parts.
  • In certain cases, adding a dehumidifier may be necessary
Moisture Issues

Moisture in basements or crawlspaces could be caused by water leaks or high humidity. Both can lead to mold, mildew or other biological growth. Depending on the severity, conditions can lead to rot, structural damage, premature paint failure and a variety of health problems.

Water leaks
If the problem is localized (a spot on the ceiling, wall or corner) it is possibly caused by a water leak. Water can seep into your house from the outside through a leak in the foundation, or small gaps around windows or doors. Water can also come from inside your house from a leaking water pipe, toilet, shower or bathtub.

If you have standing water on the floor of your basement after a heavy rain then it is likely from a leak in the foundation. You will need to:

  • Clean rain gutter and redirect downspout runoff away from the foundation.
  • Make sure the ground around the house slopes down away from the foundation.
  • If necessary, re-grade so the ground does slopes away. If you have a sump pump, make sure it is working properly.

Reducing indoor humidity
High indoor humidity caused by normal activities of everyday living, such as showering, cooking, and drying clothes, could also be a source of your problem. A damp basement is commonly caused by moisture migrating through a concrete foundation. There may not be a sign of any leak or standing water, but the moisture evaporates, increasing indoor humidity. Another common cause is condensation on the cold concrete walls and floors during humid months.

  • If your basement has a dirt floor, cover the floor completely with plastic to slow down water vapor coming through the soil.
  • Ask a contractor to check your home for adequate ventilation.
  • Air sealing and sealing duct work can help to prevent high humidity levels in your home.
  • During hot humid months, using a dehumidifier in the basement can reduce condensation on the walls. This may work better after you've sealed air and duct leaks to reduce the amount of humid outdoor air you are bringing into the basement.
Missouri/Illinois St. Louis Regional Home Performance with ENERGY STAR
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EarthWays Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden is pleased to bring Home Performance with ENERGY STAR to the St. Louis bi-state area. This program is presented in partnership with:

Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Energy
U.S. Department of Energy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency