A great opportunity to save energy is by properly selecting and planting trees around your home. Referred to as “treescaping,” the art of selecting and maintaining trees for a specific purpose or area, you can save up to 25 percent of your household energy consumption for heating and cooling. Tree species and proper placement are critical to energy-savings effectiveness. Below are instructions to help you in this decision-making process and steps on how to appropriately plant a tree:
Potting Soil or Compost
Mulch (organic materials)
Bolt cutters/metal snips
- For maximum energy savings, plant deciduous trees (those with seasonal leaves) to provide shade and block heat in the summertime while allowing sunlight for your home during the winter. Plant these trees on the west and south sides of your home for best results.
- For energy efficiency in the winter, plant evergreens on the north and west sides of your home. A well placed windbreak can reduce wind velocity by 80 percent.
- Utilize the sun or a compass for determining the correct direction to place your trees.
How to Plant Your Tree:
- Before you begin to dig, call 811 and make sure the area is free from underground utility lines.
- Dig a hole in the soil as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.
- Mix compost or potting soil with the soil removed from the hole if your soil is very heavy or sandy.
- Remove the tree from its container, gently freeing its roots.
- If the root ball is surrounded by burlap or wire, remove this before planting.
- Place the tree in the hole so that it sits at its original soil line.
- Firmly, but gently fill the hole half full of the removed soil.
- Water well, then fill to the top with soil.
- Form a shallow basin around the tree and fill it at least three times with water.
- Cover the ground around the new tree with four inches of mulch, keeping mulch away from the trunk.
- Take care of your tree – keep it well watered for the first year, twice a week is typically sufficient.
Be sure to make safety your top priority and don’t plant near power lines. Before you dig, call 811.
Caulking to Stop Air Leaks
We all want our home to be energy efficient, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts are responsible for the loss of between 5-30 percent of a home’s energy. Keeping tight seals around your doors and windows is a simple and cost-effective way to help reduce power bills.
Latex Paintable Caulk
Standard Caulking Gun
Scissors or Knife
Caulking compounds vary in strength, properties and prices. For a long-lasting seal, choose permanently waterproof, flexible, shrink-crack-proof 100 percent silicone (specifically for doors and windows), and if you are painting, try paintable silicone. For this project, we will caulk around a door frame.
- Before you apply the caulk, wipe down the surface with a damp cloth to remove any residue or dirt; then strip or scrape old caulk out of the gap or crack.
- Take the tube of caulk and cut the tip at a 45 degree angle.
- Pierce the seal on the cartridge to allow the caulk to flow evenly.
- Insert the tube of caulk into the caulking gun.
- Start applying a bead of caulking to the areas you have prepared, squeezing evenly, and with consistent pressure and speed to control the rate at which the caulk leaves the tube.
- Complete a section at a time and smooth out the caulking with the tip of your finger.
Note: The trick to a good caulking job is to hold it at a consistent angle and draw the bead continuously rather than in a stop-and-start fashion. Then release the trigger before pulling the gun away to avoid excess caulk oozing out.
Caulk forms a flexible seal for cracks, gaps or joints less than one quarter-inch wide. Making smart choices like caulking to stop air seepage throughout your home can help you save energy and money.
How to Weather Strip a Door
Does your home have air leaks or “drafts”? Regardless of the term you use, such conditions can significantly raise your energy bill and make your house uncomfortable.
A common area for air leaks is found around doors. To inspect doors for leaks, see if you can rattle them – movement means possible air infiltration. If you can see daylight around a door frame, then the door leaks. You can usually seal these small openings by weather stripping them. In less than 15 minutes and $15 dollars, you can help protect your home from unwanted air. Here are the tools and supplies you’ll need for weather stripping a door:
Supplies: Self Adhesive Foam Weather stripping Door Sweep kit (includes screws)
Tools: Clean Towel Spray Cleaner (like the kind for counters) Scissors Utility Knife Tape Measure Screwdriver Drill
Directions: Doors require two different kinds of weather stripping: sweeps for the bottom and self-adhesive foam for the top and sides.
Installing Self-Adhesive Foam
1. Clean the stop-moulding with a cleaner and dry completely.
2. Cut self-adhesive foam to fit each side and the top of the door. Also, you may need to split the stripping into two portions.
3. Peel the back from the foam and press it into the inside of the stop-moulding.
Installing a Door Sweep
1. Measure the bottom of the door.
2. Cut the sweep to fit the door, using a utility knife and/or scissors.
3. Holding the stop up to the door, mark where the screw holes of the stop are.
4. Drill holes in the door at the designated marks.
5. With the door closed, screw the sweep to the door so the bottom of the fin is in contact with the floor.
When finished, sit back and enjoy the energy savings of stopping cold air from entering your home in the winter, and warm air from infiltrating in the summer—a year full of savings in one simple project!
Installing Hot Water Heater Blankets
Water heaters can use a lot of energy even when you’re not using hot water. A common culprit is stand-by loss which occurs when heat travels and is lost through your water heater’s walls. One way to combat this is by using a water heater blanket, which adds an additional blanket of fiberglass insulation to reduce stand-by heat loss. To determine if you need a water heater blanket, place your hand on the tank itself. The tank should be room temperature, if the tank is warm or hot to the touch, then you need to install a water heater blanket.
Water heater blankets come in kits that contain a blanket, straps and tape for approximately $20 (Lowes and Home Depot). The straps hold the insulation the water heater and the tape seals the seams to the insulation.
Here are some tips about installing your water heater blanket:
- Turn the water heater off before installing the blanket. Read all the instructions that come with the blanket.
- Identify and wash the area of the water heater where the blanket will be taped, so the tape will stick.
- Cut the blanket to size with scissors or a sharp knife, leaving some extra until you know how much you will need.
- Identify the pressure relief valve on either the top or the side of your water heater. Don’t cover this important safety device.
- For electric water heaters, you can insulate the top of the tank as well as the sides. Note where the two rectangular covers provide access to the thermostats and elements. Cut small flaps in the insulation to provide access to these panels.
- For gas water heaters, don’t insulate the top. Note the gas valve and burner access door near the bottom of the tank. Cut the blanket so it is at least two inches away.
- Install the blanket so that it is snug, and fasten it well so it will stay in place.
This long-lasting conservation measure will save energy for the life of your water heater.
Insulating Foam Sealant
Air leakage through small holes and cracks around the home is a major cause of heating and cooling loss. According to a report by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a homeowner can save 10 to 20 percent on their heating and cooling costs just by closing up those air leaks. To reduce energy costs, air-seal and eliminate drafts by applying insulating foam sealant throughout your home. Foam sealants expand to form an outer skin containing closed air cells providing an effective barrier against energy loss and can be used around windows and doors, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, baseboards, sill plates, exhaust vents, siding edges, sky lights, attic fans, garage ceilings, etc.
Insulating foam sealants come in different applications (i.e. windows and doors, gaps and cracks, firelock, aquascape, and landscape). Be sure to apply the appropriate foam sealant and read all directions thoroughly before applying.
Do It Yourself Attic Insulation
Have you looked in your attic lately? Insulation in your attic is an essential component to help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. While the cooler temperatures are making your attic more comfortable, it’s the perfect time of year to re-apply attic insulation before the hot summer heat arrives.
There are numerous types of insulation to choose from, and each has a different method of installation. The example below uses cellulose–an easy “do it yourself” process.
Directions: Purchase the cellulose insulation at your local hardware store where you should also be able to rent an insulation blower. The amount you need will depend on the square footage of your home and the thickness of the existing insulation. Make sure the thickness of your insulation (including any existing insulation) is between 12 and 15 inches, which should give you an R-value of 38. You will need at least one person to assist you in applying the insulation.
Installing Cellulose Attic Insulation:
1. Place the insulation and the blower machine outdoors. DO NOT operate the machine indoors.
2. Take the blower’s tube up into the attic with you (through a window or door in the house). Make sure you are outfitted with gloves, goggles and a breathing mask.
3. Have the person (also outfitted with gloves, goggles and a breathing mask) stationed near the blower machine begin to feed it with the loose, cellulose insulation, one bale at a time. When ready, this person will also control the flow of the insulation by using an on/off switch or a lever that allows insulation to pass through.
4. In the attic, sweep the blower’s tube in the locations where you desire the insulation. When finished, have the person stationed with the blower turn off the machine.
On average, an 1,800 square foot house will take approximately four hours to complete at a cost of $500. Prices and times may vary due to retailers, square footage and depth of existing insulation. On a house with little or no pre-existing insulation, adding more—and doing it yourself—can help make your home more comfortable and provide some cost savings to your power bill.