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Prep Your Home for the Dog Days of Summer

The face of summer 2020 will undoubtedly be changed by the COVID-19 pandemic for most Americans. However, one thing won’t be affected – those scorching “dog days.”* And with climate change rampant, we can expect the annual average temperatures across the U.S. to continue the same increase we’ve observed over the last century. 

According to the Farmer’s Almanac

“For a large part of the United States, this summer is likely to be a scorcher! June will set the tone for the season, with above-normal temperatures in the northeastern quarter of the United States, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska.” 

“Heat will come in spurts in the first half of the summer season,” AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Pastelok adds. “But, as we get into July, it will start to dry out a little, and I think that’s when we’ll start to see the heat peak, with temperatures climbing into the 90s.” 

For homeowners, thoughts turn to AC units when it comes to keeping the home cool across such heat waves. However, the key to keeping cool this summer is actually right over your head. That’s right – although we often think of attic insulation as the gatekeeper when it comes to retaining warm air and keeping out freezing assaults, a properly sealed and insulated space plays a vital role in staying cool.  

Maintaining the proper level of insulation keeps sweltering, humid air from creeping inside. “The way thermodynamics work is heat flows from a hotter place to a cooler place,” Lauren Urbanek, a senior program advocate with the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards, Climate & Clean Energy Program, said in an NBC interview. “Not having insulation means heat is seeping into your house and your air conditioner is having to work a lot harder.” 

Multi-layer, reflective insulation can both stop heat transfer and resist it, curtailing radiant heat from entering your home during the summer and exiting during the winter. 

As we’ve noted before, if you suspect insulation issues, the first step is to examine your attic floor. Is the insulation level even with or below the top of your floor joists? Use a ruler to measure the depth of your insulation. You can then estimate what’s known as an R-value.  

From there, it’s often helpful to schedule an attic audit from an energy-savings professional. A home-energy analysis can save homeowners an average of 5 to 30% on monthly energy bills and can also uncover possible unsafe conditions in insulation, attics, walls or basements. 

Finally, a major, doggone culprit when it comes to letting those sweltering canines inside could be a lack of proper sealing. Hidden leaks in your home can account for significant air loss.  

As the U.S. Department of Energy notes: “Air leakage occurs when outside air enters and conditioned air leaves your house uncontrollably through cracks and openings. When it’s warmer and less windy, not enough air may enter, resulting in poor indoor air quality. Air leakage also contributes to moisture problems that can affect occupants’ health and the structure’s durability.” 

Strategies for plugging up air leaks across your home include: 

  • Caulking and weatherstripping leaking doors and windows that leak air 
  • Caulking and sealing air leaks near where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring travel through walls, floors or ceilings. 
  • Installing foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on walls. 
  • Inspecting dirty spots in your insulation for air leaks and mold (sealing leaks with low-expansion spray foam and installing house flashing may be needed). 
  • Locating soiled spots on ceiling paint or carpet (possibly indicating air leaks at interior wall/ceiling joints and wall/floor joists). 
  • Covering single-pane windows with storm windows. 
  • Installing more efficient double-pane low-emissivity windows.  
  • Injecting foam sealant on gaps around windows, baseboards and other leakage sources. 
  • Covering the kitchen exhaust fan to prevent air leaks when not in use. 
  • Replace inefficient door bottoms and thresholds with models that offer pliable sealing gaskets. 
  • Sealing leaks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces and gas-fired water heater vents with fire-resistant materials such as sheet metal or sheetrock and furnace cement caulk. 

In addition, your home could also benefit from solar-powered attic ventilation systems that not only improve comfort across all season but also protect your roof. During the dog days of summer, an attic can reach temperatures of 160°F or more. Solar-powered attic fans expel hot air, returning the attic’s space closer to the outside ambient temperature.  

As implied by the name, the fans operate entirely off solar energy, pulling the outside air in through existing static and soffit vents. By pulling from this external air source, the attic fan will extract the hot, humid air up through the fan and create a constant exchange of air in the attic. 

Contact us today to discuss how we can help shape up your attic for the coming “Dog Days Daze.” 

* Wondering why we call them the Dog Days of Summer? You may have heard of Sirius (the star, not the satellite-radio company). Dubbed the “Dog Star” by the ancient Greeks, the word Sirius means “searing” or “scorching” – a reference to its brightness in the night sky. During the hottest months of summer, Sirius is one of the most prominent stars in the sky – hence, dog days.  

The Greek poet Homer, writing in The Iliad, was no fan of these dog days either:  

Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky 

On summer nights, star of stars, 

Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest 

Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat 

And fevers to suffering humanity. 

 We wonder if a well-insulated and sealed attic may have changed Homer’s mind? Don’t wait for the melting heat to hit. Contact us as Attics and More and let us show you how we can help keep your home cool and your air conditioner working at maximum efficiency. 

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Steps to a More Energy Efficient Home

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we commemorate the recent 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we can look back as a society and witness some solid victories in our quest for greater energy efficiency.

According to the Energy Efficiency Impact Report, investments in energy efficiency have significantly reduced spending on energy expenses over the past few decades.

The report notes:
“Without the energy efficiency investments made since 1980, energy consumption and emissions would have been 60 percent higher, and consumers would be paying nearly $800 billion more per year in energy costs. Efficiency’s benefits go beyond energy and cost savings, including a cleaner environment and improved public health.”

Within the average home, steps to energy efficiency can take many forms – from baby steps like switching to energy-efficient lighting to bigger steps such as sealing and insulating your attic. Of course, the bigger the step, the larger the savings.

Over the past two months of our shared “stuck-at-home” experience, it’s never been easier to take a look around our homes to see what steps can be taken to keep our nation on track for even greater savings and efficiency.

Take the LED
One of the simplest steps on the savings path is the replacement of inefficient lighting. From floor lamps to track lighting, your house should shine using LED technology. A light-emitting diode uses a semiconductor to convert electricity into light.

LEDs use heat sinks to absorb the heat produced by illumination. The heat sink dissipates the heat into the surrounding environment, keeping the light from overheating and burning out.
Energy Star-certified LED bulbs last 15 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Brightness is measured in lumens (light output) rather than watts (energy consumed). LED bulbs tend to be 6-7 times more energy-efficient than older incandescent bulbs. Studies show they may cut energy use by more than 80 percent. Taking a walk through your house to identify and replace inefficient lighting can save money down the road. They will cost more upfront, but the savings are well worth it.

According to a 2017 analysis by the Consumer Federation of America:
“Assuming an average $55 difference between the ten-year costs of LED bulbs and incandescent/halogen bulbs, a family may well save more than $1,000 by using LEDs during a ten-year period.”

“By using LED light bulbs, consumers not only save money, they also curb electricity use, potentially reducing the need for expensive new power plants,” said Mel Hall-Crawford, CFA’s Director of Energy Programs. “LED bulbs are a win-win-win for consumers, electric utilities, and the environment,” she added.

Tanks for the Savings
A “slightly-larger-than-baby” step you can take is to review the state of your water heater.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy: “Water heating accounts for about 18 percent of your home’s energy use. Reducing your hot water use, employing energy-saving strategies, and choosing an energy-efficient water heater for your home pool can help you reduce your monthly water heating bills.”
How old is your heater? If your water heater is more than ten years old, you may risk leaks or flooding. By upgrading to an EnergyStar-certified water heater, a family of four could save an estimated $3,500 over the appliance’s lifetime by heating water with a highly efficient heat pump. Also, many homeowners are going tankless. A tankless water heater – which heats water only when needed – can save a family of four more than $1,500 over its lifetime.
If you’re not ready to replace the whole water heater, you can realize baby-step savings by turning your water heater down. Most water-heater manufacturers set thermostats at 140⁰F by default. However, most houses will do just fine with the thermostat set to 120⁰F. Caution: Always shut off the electricity to the water heater before opening the heater’s panels to adjust the thermostat.

Energy Savings Above Your Head
What’s going on above your ceiling? If you rarely enter your attic (maybe to see if your prom dress still fits or if those old comic books are worth anything), you may be hemorrhaging dollars and cents if your attic space is drafty or improperly sealed.
You will often find some of your home’s most significant air leaks in the attic. This means higher energy bills and an inefficient home overall with hotter summers and icier winters.
If you’re ready to take an even larger and more cost-effective step in creating a super-efficient attic, now is the time to contact Attics and More for a complimentary home energy analysis by our qualified attic professional. We will make sure the attic is getting proper ventilation with natural airflow that keeps the roof deck cool and dry. This has the added benefit of extending the life of shingles and stopping ice dams. Finally, we can insulate your attic’s entry hatch using our Attic Gator. The Department of Energy offers tips on detecting air leaks and assessing ventilation needs.
While we are auditing your attic for leaks and ventilation issues, now would be a perfect time also to analyze your insulation needs. And, many homes can benefit from solar-powered attic ventilation systems. Attics and More utilizes solar power fans that have a lifetime warranty, can withstand hurricane force winds of 150 mph, and will work nonstop from sun-up to sundown. The necessary three actions we always reiterate for the most energy-efficient home are to seal, insulate, and ventilate.
For more steps you can take towards a more energy-efficient home (from baby to big kid), check out this exhaustive guide by the U.S. Department of Energy. Whether you decide to change a few light bulbs or launch an attic-renovation project, as Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Now is the time to stop and see what Attics and More can do for you with our safe green products and our flexible financing.

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Affordable Financing Available for Insulation and Solar Power

The most significant and most important investment most of us have in our lives are our homes. Much of our time will be spent there, and it is the place where we seek comfort. When it comes to the energy efficiency of a home, energy lost equals dollars lost. A chance to invest smart dollars into your home, making your environment more comfortable year-round with the least out of pocket costs, and doing something positive for the environment just makes good sense.

The NEIF or National Energy Improvement Fund is the nation’s only certified “B corporation” energy efficiency and resiliency lender meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.

Loans are based on credit scores and range from 7.99% to 12.99%. A credit score of 720+ would place you in the 7.99% interest bracket. The average credit score for most Americans is 680 to 699, placing them in the 9.99% interest bracket. A credit score of 640 to 679 would put you in the 12.99% interest bracket, which is still cheaper than a credit card. Terms are 3, 5, or 10 years, and loans may be paid in full at any time without penalty. Credit scores are pulled from TransUnion. The loans are unsecured, and the percent is static and will never increase. The loans can be applied to primary residences, vacation homes, condominiums, and trailers on a fixed foundation. The amount clients can borrow ranges from $2,900.00 to $25,000.00.

To put things in a clearer perspective, 7.99% and 12.99% is only about $6.00 difference per month, and in the loan space of less than $10,000.00, 70% of the applicants will qualify. Only one loan can be taken at any one time, so we encourage homeowners to choose to perform the job wisely and seal, insulate, and ventilate. Doing one or two without the third will not provide the savings, comfort, and environmental impact you will desire. We invite you to play with the calculator on our website portal to see what your payments would be. Additionally, Attics and More does not require a down payment. This is really a win-win for the consumer all the way around.

Steps to Applying for NEIF:

1. Visit our website www.atticsandmore.com.
2. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
3. Click on the NEIF symbol.
4. This brings you to the Attics and More portal.
5. Scroll to the bottom to the Monthly Payment Estimator. By sliding the blue dots to the amount you are
interested in financing, you can compare what the monthly payment amounts would be.
6. Click on “Learn More About the National Energy Improvement Fund.”
7. Click on “Learn More” or “Apply Now.”
8. Click on “For Homeowners” at the top of the page to apply online or pay online.

Some important information for consideration:
Customers can apply individually or jointly, but if a joint application is chosen, the person with the lower credit score is the score the NEIF uses. For this reason, clients should file individually first to see if they can qualify for a better interest rate. If someone applies and the application kicks out, a message will explain what is missing. No down payment is required by Attics and More or the lender. If you finalize an application, the loan approval is good for 120 days from the date completed and electronically signed by the applicant.

After you apply for a loan, a decision is made immediately. If you are not working due to being retired or disabled, the client must choose “other income” on the application requiring additional time for the income to be verified.

We are proud to partner with the NEIF. We take your relationship with our financing company just as seriously as you do. We want our customers to feel comfortable entering into an agreement with this reputable company. Now is the time to take advantage of this fair and transparent financing relationship and show your home and our Earth a little love.

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How Climate Change Affects Home Energy Use

According to broad scientific consensus, annual average temperatures across the U.S. have increased over the last century with the trend expected to continue.

A report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) notes:

“Extreme high temperatures are projected to increase even more than average temperatures. Heat waves are projected to become more intense and cold waves less intense. The number of days above 90°F is projected to rise while the number of days below freezing is projected to decline.”

And as the world experiences more extreme climate changes – notably warmer temperatures – energy consumption and costs will increase as well.

An EPA study reveals:

“If the nation’s climate warms by 1.8°F, the demand for energy used for cooling is expected to increase by about 5-20%, while the demand for energy used for heating is expected to decrease by about 3-15%.

Net expenditure in annual heating and cooling could increase by 10% ($26 billion in 1990 dollars) with a 4.5°F warming by the end of the century, and by 22% ($57 billion in 1990 dollars) with a warming of 9.0°F.”

And, while efforts to mitigate the damaging effects of climate change continue in some nations, homeowners will bear the brunt of increased energy costs for at least the next decade.

The EPA suggests homeowners can battle climate-change increased energy demand by reducing air leaks and drafts, primarily by sealing their home’s building envelope. [A building envelope is the physical separator between the conditioned and unconditioned environment of a building including the resistance to air, water, heat,[1] light, and noise[2] transfer.] The agency also notes that adding  insulation to attics can “save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs and significantly enhance home comfort with comprehensive sealing and insulating measures.”

Roughly 90 percent of existing homes are considered under-insulated, according to a 2009 survey. “If all U.S. homes were fitted with insulation based on the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), residential electricity use nationwide would drop by about 5 percent and natural gas use by more than 10 percent,” Jonathan Levy, professor of environmental health at Boston University and lead researcher, said.

Home energy-analysis experts agree that homeowners should pay attention to the mantra “Seal, Insulate and Ventilate” when it comes to optimizing energy savings. However, some homeowners think they can only pay attention to one or two of these methods. Neglecting any one area of energy loss is like suddenly finding three holes in a boat while on the high seas. The question would never be: “Which hole should we plug first?” Plug them all at once, Captain! The great news is that Attics and More offers affordable financing with great ease of confidential application right from our website.

SmarterHouse.org points out that hidden air leaks in your home can account for significant heat loss: “In the average home, small openings in the outer shell of a house account for almost 30% of total heat lost.”

In addition to enhanced energy efficiency, proper sealing reduces the amount of drafts, noise, and moisture inside a home and will equalize temperature differences in rooms. Ventilation goes hand-in-hand with sealing techniques. The Department of Energy notes: “Ventilation for cooling is the least expensive and most energy-efficient way to cool buildings. Ventilation works best when combined with techniques to avoid heat buildup in your home.”

As noted above, nine out of 10 American homes are underinsulated. Heat loss due to insulation issues in walls, roofs, and flooring combined can account for 45% of total house loss.

An energy audit of a home’s insulation can not only discover energy savings but also uncover dangers from unsafe material.  Also, some energy providers may offer rebates for a professional home energy assessment and air sealing and insulation projects. A qualified specialist will begin such an audit with an attic inspection. EnergyStar recommends considering a professional attic-insulation inspector if a homeowner experiences:

  • “Difficult attic access and limited space to work
  • Wet or damp insulation, indicating a leaky roof
  • Moldy or rotted attic rafters or floor joists, indicating moisture problems
  • Kitchen, bathroom or clothes dryer vents that exhaust moist air directly into the attic space instead of outdoors
  • Little or no attic ventilation
  • Knob and tube wiring (pre-1930), which can be a fire hazard when in contact with insulation.”

In addition to enhancements such as eShield insulation, homes may benefit from solar-powered attic ventilation systems.

Climate change is real science, and it’s really happening. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you create an energy strategy for climate change on a complimentary basis.

 

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Coffee Talk: Why All Household Decision Makers Should Be Present for a Home Energy Analysis – Discuss

A home energy analysis not only saves homeowners an average of 5% to 30% on their monthly energy bills but can uncover possible unsafe conditions in insulation, attics, walls, or basements.

According to HomeAdvisor, homeowners spend between $207 and $647 for an analysis. The good news is that Attics and More will perform a complimentary home energy analysis at no cost or obligation to a homeowner.

A home energy analysis professional will analyze energy bills, inspect various parts of the home, and may use high-tech equipment such as an infrared camera. However, the most crucial part of the analysis process comes down to one thing – conversation.

The Importance Of Being Heard

A home energy analysis expert will spend a great deal of time with homeowners asking questions, making notes, and performing various “walk-and-talks” throughout the home. To maximize this vital process, all decision makers must be present during the home energy analysis.

If mishandled, home service providers can step into a public-relations nightmare when broaching this vital guideline. Worded improperly, a spouse or significant other may feel devalued, or “talked down to” if a contractor insists both homeowners be present.

“I found it incredulous that I would be treated like ‘the little woman’ who was unable to make decisions related to doing work on a home,” a dissatisfied homeowner reported to Angie’s List, when told a home-service professional wanted both spouses present during an initial consultation.

“The person I spoke to on the phone said she understood it could be offensive, but that it was their wish to visit when both husband and wife were present. I was insulted and used another builder.”

And while it may be understandable if a homeowner mistakes such a policy as a Mad Men-era throwback, there are many valid reasons both decision-makers should be present for any consultation or audit affecting the home.

Scott Siegal, president of Certified Contractors Network, told Angie’s List he advises both homeowners to be present at significant consultations.

“We found that the most dissatisfaction comes from a missed communication or an unrealized expectation on the job, and that’s usually a result of not everybody being involved in the buying process,” Siegal told Angie’s List. “It’s nobody’s fault, just a bad circumstance, such as when the husband insists that he makes all the decisions, the contractor presents something to him and the wife doesn’t like the color or style, or vice versa. It’s a whole lot easier if everybody’s on the same page.”

Siegal’s insight is exceptionally accurate when it comes to a home energy analysis. When a specialist visits a home, a major goal is to gather as much data as possible during the initial audit. Unlike a window installation, closet reorganization, or new flooring project, a home energy analysis covers the whole house from top to bottom.

Common Home Energy Assessment Questions

Having access to all decision makers allows the analyst to dig into lifestyle habits that yield more in-depth insight into how energy is deployed in the house. Questions may include:

  • Is anyone home during working hours?
  • What is the average thermostat setting throughout the seasons?
  • How many people live here? Are there times when the immediate family is present temporarily (college break)?
  • Is every room in use? How often?
  • When was X (water heater, insulation, etc.) installed?
  • What major appliances are used the most?

With so many questions, it would be surprising if one decision maker had all the answers – much less accurate ones. With all decision makers present, a specialist can be confident they are gathering the highest quality intelligence.

Creating Clearer Communication

On the flip side, the presence of all decision makers ensures the home energy analyst can handle all the questions at one time instead of creating a back-and-forth, text/e-mail chain series of questions that may create more confusion.

While the old adage “opposites attract” may not be strictly accurate, it is true that each decision maker will approach the home energy analysis process from a different perspective. Each will offer fresh insights and know things about the home the other may never consider or perceive.

In a perfect world, homeowners would possess the clear, logical communication skills of a Mr. Spock “mind-meld.” In reality, a single person could misunderstand a cost estimate or the results of the analysis, causing confusion when sharing information to his or her spouse or significant other. If this misunderstanding is passed on to the other decision maker, the entire project, from data analysis to final recommendations, can be jeopardized and never realized. In addition, the home energy analysis providers may find themselves the loser of the “blame game” when it comes to final estimates or the project’s scope.

And then, there are costs – the greater the amount of accurate information shared during the home energy analysis, the lower the costs for both the provider and the consumer. Extra and unnecessary time spent by the provider may reflect a costlier final bill down the road.

The fruits of a home energy analysis may blossom into any number of beneficial solutions – from wattage-saving solar fans to a more effective attic insulation scheme to superior draft control. The first step down this path to energy efficiency is elementary. Everyone – spouses or significant others – should be present to answer the door when the home energy analyst comes knocking.

Home energy analysis providers should find ways to educate homeowners about the importance of simply being together at the appointment – it’s not a personal thing; it’s not meant to belittle either homeowner. It’s simply the best policy for the best outcome.

Now Is The Time To Schedule Your Home Energy Analysis

Consuming less energy puts more money in your pocket and, as an added bonus, helps keep our environment cleaner. Take the leap with Attics and More and schedule your complimentary no-obligation visit with our home energy savings professional today.