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Even though your new home was listed as “move-in ready,” you’re going to want to identify and address priority service issues right away. The home inspection confirms that the home is structurally sound and that the appliances work, but even well-built homes offer plenty of opportunities to make energy-efficiency improvements. Here are a few easy steps that you can take to assess your home HVAC system’s energy efficiency.
Seal Up Drafts and Air Leaks
Your first goal as you walk through the home is to locate and seal up any drafts. It’s easy enough to notice a blast of cold air in the home during the winter months, but you might need to do a little more investigating during other times of the year. If you discover any drafts, you can use caulk or weatherstripping to tide you over until you upgrade your windows.
Check for any cracks and holes in your siding and foundation and any areas of the home where the brick and the wood meet. You should look for leaks around outlets, pipes, and baseboards inside the home and plug up or caulk any holes that you find. If the home has a fireplace, you’ll need to keep the damper closed when it’s not in use.
Inspect Your Ventilation
If the home has a fireplace or gas appliances, it’s very important to keep the home properly ventilated. Exhaust fans can create backdrafts, and those backdrafts can draw combustion byproducts back into the living space and create elevated carbon monoxide (CO) levels. CO detectors need to be located on every floor in the home close to bedrooms, and they need to be replaced every five to seven years.
Fireplaces and gas appliances are not designed to be serviced by homeowners, and you’ll need to schedule professional service if you suspect you have any ventilation problems. If you see burn marks or soot near your gas appliances or exhaust vents, schedule a service call to your utility company or a professional ventilation contractor right away. If you ever see visible smoke inside the home, exit the home immediately and call 911.
Inspect Your Attic Insulation
Fiberglass insulation can last up to 100 years, but it can begin degrading in as few as 15 years if there’s any rodent activity or excess moisture in the attic. If your blown-in attic insulation has settled, you can add a new layer of insulation on top as long as there’s no obvious mold or water damage. If your attic door opens directly into your home, it should be insulated and weather-stripped. You’ll want to make sure that the attic door has at least as much insulation as the rest of your attic, and confirm that the attic door secures tightly.
Pull back a section of your attic insulation to see if there’s a vapor barrier installed. The vapor barrier blocks moisture and water vapor, which can cause long-term structural damage and reduce the effectiveness of your attic insulation. The barrier will be a plastic sheet, tarpaper, or Kraft paper attached to fiberglass batts. If your home doesn’t have an attic vapor barrier, you can also use vapor barrier paint on your interior ceilings.
Inspect Your Ductwork and Vents
Leaky attic ductwork can waste up to 30% of your monthly air conditioning energy consumption, so you’ll want to confirm that all of your ductwork is intact and free from damage. You’ll also need to keep your exterior vents unobstructed and make sure that they’re not blocked with insulation or items stored in your attic.
If you see any sunlight around openings such as chimneys, pipes, and electrical conduits, seal those openings right away with caulk. Be sure to use a non-combustible expanding foam caulk or sealant around your chimneys and ducts. Make sure to inspect the insulation beneath those openings for water damage, and replace the insulation if necessary.
Check Your Crawl Space Insulation
If the home has a crawl space that’s open to the exterior or an unfinished basement, you’ll need to confirm that there’s insulation underneath the flooring of the living area. If your basement is finished out, insulation might still be recommended. The 2021 International Residential Code (IRC) sets minimum R-value requirements for crawl space and basement walls according to climate zones. An insulation’s R-value is a measure of its ability to resist the flow of heat, and insulation with higher R-values will offer greater thermal resistance.
Homes in zones 0-2 don’t require any basement insulation, and zones 3 and 4 require insulation rated from R-5ci up to R-13ci, depending on where it is installed. Most of Pennsylvania is located in climate zone 5, and a few northern counties are located in climate zone 6. In order to meet IRC requirements, your home will need either R-15ci on the interior or exterior walls or R-5ci and R-13ci on the interior side of your basement or crawl space walls.
Inspect Your Heating and Cooling Systems
Replace your air filters every 90 days and make sure that you’re getting good airflow from your vents. You’ll want to schedule your first preventive maintenance visit as soon as possible or right away if you have any problems. Home HVAC systems and furnaces have an operational life expectancy of 15 to 20 years, and you might not always know the exact age of the unit when you move in. If your heating and air conditioning aren’t distributed evenly through the home, if the unit cycles continuously, or if you hear banging or grinding noises, then it’s probably time to consider replacing the unit.
Schedule a Professional Energy Assessment
The final step is to get some professional advice. Many local utility companies will perform an in-home estimate free of charge, and it’s a good idea to contact a professional HVAC contractor to make specific energy efficiency recommendations for your home. In addition to planning for the eventual replacement of your HVAC system or your furnace, you need to ensure that you have current and functional CO detectors and smoke alarms. People with allergies are always concerned about indoor air quality (IAQ), but mold and mildew can make perfectly healthy people just as sick. Be sure to discuss your IAQ needs when you’re shopping for a new heat pump or furnace, and don’t forget to ask about the manufacturer’s rebates and dealer incentives on new systems.
If you have any questions about assessing the heating and cooling of your home, our team at IT Landes Home Service Team is here to help. We’ve been proud to offer heating, cooling, and plumbing services in Harleysville, Pennsylvania since 1929, and our commitment to legendary service is unrivaled in the Keystone State. We’re a proud 2021 recipient of the Carrier President’s Award, and we bill for all of our services according to standard labor rates with no hidden fees. Contact IT Landes Home Service Team today if you have any questions or if you’re ready to schedule a professional home energy assessment in Harleysville or Montgomery County!