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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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My Grandmother’s Attic

When’s the last time you went into your attic? I did not give my attic much thought until I started a new job. Now I am amazed to discover how rare people go in their attics. I have talked with homeowners who have not been in their attic for 20+ years.  One new homeowner said that she purchased a home 8 months ago and has actually never been in her attic.

Here’s my attic story:

When I was a little girl, I remember seeing magic stairs pop down from the ceiling in one of my grandmother’s bedrooms in her tiny rancher. Kids who see stairs always wonder what’s on the other end. I was so small and the stairs so large that I never went beyond just looking up.

As I got older and saw those stairs descend each Christmas to bring down decorations, I would beg my mother to allow me to go up. It was always a firm “no,” and I lived with it.

After my grandmother passed away, I was at the house with my mother and my aunt. We were packing up boxes and reminiscing. I walked into the spare bedroom, where I saw the stairs to the attic had been pulled down. I was 32, and I had my own attic with pull-down stairs by that time. But the lure remained. I HAD to see what was up there. My aunt heard me step up the first three rungs and yelled out, “Don’t go up there! It’s full of asbestos!” As I am apt to do, I said okay and went up anyway, but stealthily and quickly. It was gross. “Stuff” hung from the rafters, my eyes burned, I couldn’t breathe, and it felt like I was inhaling particles.

A dirty attic with poor insulation, similar to what was in my grandmother’s home.

But I did see my Fisher-Price castle with the working castle gate. I ran and snatched it like a thief in the night. The Lincoln Logs were covered in the debris that was hanging everywhere. On the floor, I saw what polite people would not refer to as “rodent turds,” but it most assuredly was. I ran to the kitchen with my castle and washed it off while my aunt looked at me unfavorably and told me that I should not be handling something covered with asbestos. Plus, I hadn’t listened to her and went up in the first place. She was right, of course.

It ended up that my aunt had specialists come out in hazmat suits and respirators to remove the toxic material in my grandmother’s attic and had it replaced with safe insulation. The lesson that I learned is that if you don’t know what’s in your attic, it can hurt you. I also learned that if you are pigheaded enough to ignore the pleas of your aunt and mother to stay out of an attic, you can score a childhood toy, but at what cost?

I’ll end this by saying: Know what’s in your attic. If you don’t know or don’t want to know, hire a professional to do this for you. Attics and More will provide a free complimentary home energy analysis, which includes inspection of your attic and crawlspace.

As for my Fisher-Price castle? It’s now safely inside my attic. I feel content, and some redemption, knowing it’s there.