Sunday, June 1, 2014

LEAPing into the future of energy conservation!

We’ve often written about climate change on this page, and many greenmomsters want to take concrete steps to decrease our carbon footprint.  One of the easiest and most effective ways an individual can change his or her carbon footprint is to try to conserve energy in the home. 

Since our house was built in the 1950s, my husband and I often wondered what updates might be useful in making our home more energy efficient.  We wanted to know what to do, as well as how to prioritize these activities – obviously, we want to address the low-hanging fruit first.  Lucky for us, there’s a community-based non-profit organization in our area that helps to answer those questions.  LEAP (the Local Energy Alliance Program) conducts home energy checkups that help to point out areas where improvements might be beneficial.  This evaluation doesn’t include blower door tests or safety evaluations, but after working with our LEAP representative for about 1 1/2 hours, we felt like we had a “road-map” for future home improvements.  Here’s how it worked:

  1. Our LEAP representative, Corey, arrived on-time and explained how the check-up would work.  He explained the goals of the check-up and what would be covered.
  2. We began looking around the house at common areas where folks tend to waste energy.  Our first stop was the fireplace.  20140520141853  Although we had tried to insulate the fireplace during past winters, Corey suggested using a “chimney balloon,” which is a highly effective way to prevent cold air from entering via the chimney – and you can remove it whenever you want to use the fireplace (pretty much never in our case…)
  3. Next, we moved on to the kitchen.  Our refrigerator is new, but proper settings for temperature always help to maximize efficiency.  20140520143704  Unfortunately, magnets don’t add to your refrigerator’s insulation Smile
  4. We then moved to the area of the house that should be a priority – the attic.  20140520142157  Corey advised that the r-value of our insulation should be R49.  Fortunately, we have some insulation in the attic and only need a couple more inches for maximum efficiency.  The area where we could decrease heat loss is in all of the air spaces around ducts and wires in the attic.  Sealing these air spaces could significantly decrease our heat loss, since heat rises through the house and escapes at the highest point.  Additionally, some polystyrene sheets on the attic doors could help decrease heat loss.
  5. Our final stop was the basement.  As with the attic, sealing various leaky areas, such as the crawl space, should be a priority in an older house.  Additionally, Corey showed us an easy fix to prevent leakage around our furnace – sealing tape.  20140520154608

All in all, we found that this energy check-up was a good use of our time, giving us a list of priorities as we try to make our home more energy efficient.  If you’d like to schedule a LEAP check-up and you live in northern VA, visit for more information. 

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