HVAC Efficiency Starts at Home: A Guide to Sealing and Insulating for Optimal Performance
As society continues to work toward reducing its carbon footprint, homeowners are going to creative lengths to improve energy efficiency. This has involved leveraging some of the most cutting-edge technology and smart home features on the market.
While features such as solar panels and motion-detected lights are definitely great ideas along this front, it is important to not forget about the meat-and-potatoes of a well-built house in ensuring optimal HVAC efficiency. Specifically, focus on the role of proper sealing and insulation in creating airtight, energy efficient structures.
In this article, we will talk about the various ways to seal and insulate the home to improve R-value and create an airtight building envelope--critical factors in promoting optimal HVAC efficiency.
Start With the Framing
The first step to an energy-efficient home is ensuring that it is well-framed. This helps guarantee that the building envelope is airtight and well-insulated. A well-framed home will have less air leakage and be more energy efficient.
One way to achieve a well-framed home is to use insulated concrete forms (ICF). ICF is a construction method that uses concrete-reinforced insulation blocks to create a highly insulative, airtight building envelope. ICF framing has a higher R-value than traditional framing types, such as structural wooden panels. This is because the ICF blocks create a continuous air and moisture barrier that is not undermined by fabrication imperfections.
As a result, ICF is a preferred framing material for energy efficient buildings. In addition to lower heating and cooling costs, ICF homes are more resistant to damage from natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
Explore the Various Areas to Insulate
There are many areas of the home that can be insulated to improve its efficiency. One of the most common areas to insulate is the interior walls. However, there are other areas that can be insulated, such as the roof, exterior walls, and floors.
For example, the roof can be insulated with cover board. This is a type of insulation that is applied beneath the roof shingles. It helps to keep the attic space cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
The best insulation for exterior walls is typically rigid polyiso board. This type of insulation is installed between the studs of the exterior walls. It helps prevent temperature fluctuations during times of extreme weather, which usually causes HVAC to work its hardest.
Below grade insulation can be installed beneath the floors. As a surprising amount of heat is lost through the floor, it helps to keep the floorboards warm in the winter.
Comprehensive insulation of all aspects of the home can create a truly elite air barrier and R-value that keeps HVAC usage in check.
Assess the Quality of Roofing and Siding
Roofing and siding are two of the home's primary defenses against the elements. As such, damage to these areas can lead to unwanted air transfer and elevated HVAC costs.
Signs of damage in these areas include raised shingles, fading and discoloration, or even missing sections. Any of these indicators should be immediately addressed.
Often, repairing damaged sections of roofing and siding can be difficult, with a full-scale replacement necessary to seal the home. When choosing replacement materials, composites fabricated from a mixture of inorganic compounds are often the best option because they do not require frequent treatment and are inherently weather resistant.
Check the Condition of the Windows
The condition of the windows can also have an impact on the efficiency of the HVAC system. Degraded windows can cause the air conditioning to work overtime to reach the average temperature to set thermostat in summer.
Replacing older single pane windows with double pane options can improve HVAC efficiency. In addition, adding window trim may be a good idea to prevent some unwanted air transfer.
It is also important to check for cracks in the glass, framing, and any looseness of the grilles and sashes. These can all be indicators of degraded windows that are not functioning properly.
Seal At-Risk Areas of the Home
There are several areas in the home that are at risk of air transfer, which can lead to increased HVAC costs. These areas include window-to-wall transitions, door frame to wall transitions, and the areas where plumbing and electrical wiring enter the home.
To seal these areas, it is important to use a silicone-based sealant. This type of sealant is ideal because it is flexible and resistant to temperature changes. It is also critical to ensure that the sealant is applied evenly and without gaps.
Get Started Today Toward Greater HVAC Efficiency at Home
Creating an airtight structure high in R-value is a primary concern for homes looking to improve HVAC efficiency. For more information on how to properly seal and insulate your home to promote energy efficiency, explore the resources at Climate Control Systems for the latest ideas in the industry!
Ryan Shure is a freelance writer and editor focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value. Ryan’s work can be found on Building Product Advisor, a new construction industry resource site.