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Turn Your House Into an Energy Star

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1. Effective Insulation

[What you can do]

Reduce heat loss through the roof by making sure you have 10-14 inches of insulation (fiberglass, rigid foam, or cellulose) in your attic. Distribute insulation evenly so there are no low spots along the eaves and floor joists are covered.

[What our featured homeowners did]

Used a self-hardening, spray-in-place polyurethane foam insulation that offers the industry’s highest insulating factor.

2. High-Performance Windows

[What you can do]

Windows are where most homes lose heat. Replace single-pane windows with double-pane glass, insulate weight pockets (where weights and pulleys are), weatherstrip the perimeter of the sash, and make sure all sash locks work.

[What our featured homeowners did]

Chose the Marvin Ultimate series: aluminum-clad exterior with wood interior, thermal-pane glass with low-E coating.

3. Lighting and Appliances

[What you can do]

Install compact fluorescent lightbulbs, which use 75 percent less energy than comparable incandescent bulbs. (They also generate less heat, so you can reduce air-conditioning costs.)

[What our featured homeowners did]

Used energy-efficient fixtures where appropriate inside the house and bought an Energy Star-rated clothes dryer, refrigerator, and dishwasher.

4. Tight Construction and Ducts

[What you can do]

Prevent outside air from leaking into your house. Seal drafts: Weatherstrip doors, caulk leaky windows, use electrical outlet protectors (like the ones for baby proofing), fill gaps around vent pipes with expanding spray foam insulation, insulate the gap between sill plate and foundation with caulk or foam.

[What our featured homeowners did]

Ensured their home’s envelope was extremely tight, starting with a foundation of concrete block sandwiched between two foam layers, a system that produces an R-22 (most foundations rate only an R-10), and using foam insulation in the shell.

5. Efficient Heating and Cooling Equipment

[What you can do]

Repair poorly functioning furnaces, boilers, and water heaters. Clean air filters every three months and have your furnace serviced regularly; if your furnace is more than 20 years old, replace it. Use a programmable thermostat to save heat if you’re away from the house during the day.

[What our featured homeowners did]

Installed high-efficiency equipment: a Buderus oil-fired burner, HS Tarm wood-burning boiler with insulated storage tank for hot water, and a masonry heater (see “Detail”). For cooling they use a whole-house fan.

6. Partner with Experts

[What you can do]

Use the Energy Star Yardstick program, which compares your home’s efficiency with similar homes across the country and makes recommendations. All you need is your last 12 months of utility bills, the number of occupants in your home, square footage, the year the house was built, and ZIP code. Log on to energystar.gov, click on “Home Energy Yardstick,” and submit your request.

[What our featured homeowners did]

Received third-party verification by working with a home-energy rater who conducted onsite testing and inspections to verify their house used energy-saving features and qualified for an Energy Star rating.

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