A Mutually Beneficial Relationship With Aeroseal
As Aeroseal dealers, Green ID obviously uses and believes in the product. We have performed dozens of Aeroseals on all types of homes. One advantage we have is that our services also include energy audits and ductwork pressure testing, manually sealing the ductwork, Manual D duct design and sizing, installing new and modifying existing ductwork, and air balancing. This exposes us to a wide range of comfort, efficiency and health and safety conditions related to the ducts and improves all aspects of our work but in particular, the Aeroseal process. In similar way to how weight training will improve a swimmer’s time, performing energy audits lets us test the leakage at each register and use zonal pressure readings to find where major leaks are occurring before we even go in the attic. Manually sealing the ductwork physically puts us in front of each duct so we can see mistakes and gain experience where we might need to put a set of eyes on common problems areas. Ductwork sizing and design lets us know how to set realistic expectations for Aerosealing and know when to use it as a comfort solution, energy saving solution or efficiency improvement and know when another recommendation is better suited to solving a homeowner’s comfort, dust or efficiency problems.
What is Aerosealing?
Aeroseal is a method to seal the ductwork from the inside using a hot polymer glue. The Aeroseal machine gets connected to one of the ducts with a clear plastic tubing while all the other registers are sealed off and isolated from the evaporator coil / heat exchanger. Once connected, the Aeroseal machine uses a fan, heater and manometer to pressurize the ductwork and spray the aerosized glue through the ducts. Its’ ingredients are those commonly found in pacifiers and chewing gum and are non-toxic.
The Benefits of Aeroseal Are:
DOE studies have shown the benefits of Aeroseal, you can read the report here and include.
What Are Aeroseal’s Limitations?
This is Aeroseal’s standard benefit list but what it doesn’t tell us is how much each of these benefits will apply to your home. In some cases, the there will be no noticeable dust change because the dust is coming from a dryer vent or air leak. In other cases, Aeroseal really won’t improve your comfort because the sizing of the ductwork is main cause of comfort issues. Some homes will see no improvement in their energy bills but their dust will be reduced noticeably. The best way to find out how these interplay is to have a comprehensive energy audit on your home.
Aeroseal’s biggest limitation is that it can only seal holes smaller than 5/8”, which is pretty small. Leaks in the ductwork that are larger than 5/8” must be sealed manually first. This can be a problem if your duct system has larger leaks because Aerosealing is more expensive than manually sealing the ductwork but won’t get to the heart of your duct leakage problem. Another limitation is the actual Aeroseal company, especially if they are a larger solar or HVAC company, their Aeroseal crew likely won’t go in the attic to find the larger leaks. I’ve come behind these companies to find that they did not go in the attic during the Aerosealing to manually seal the larger leaks and were either to lazy or not well trained to find the more important, larger leaks in the system.
What’s Better Aeroseal Or Manual Duct Sealing?
Companies that only perform Aeroseal would have you believe that Aeroseal gives a far superior seal on leaky ductwork but that’s not true. The truth is that because Aeroseal seals the ducts from the inside, we don’t need access to the ductwork to seal it, so Aeroseal is better suited for those homes. Examples of homes with inaccessible ducts are on a metal trunk system, 1st floor ductwork on a two story home, or on flat roofs. On these homes, Aeroseal is preferred to solely manually sealing the ductwork, but a manual duct seal still needs to be done on these homes when feasible.
If the ductwork is fully accessible, then manually sealing the ductwork with mastic is more effective and less costly than Aerosealing. Why is manually sealing the ductwork more effective than Aeroseal? It’s because we can apply a much thicker layer with a more rigid backing on larger leaks than Aeroseal applies. A thicker layer of mastic will obviously last longer than a thin layer and hold up again the ductwork expanding and contracting over time. On most tract homes, the ductwork is 100% accessible and a manual duct sealing can be done with good results.
Part of the Aeroseal process can be similar to running a blower door test on a home. If you’ve had an energy audit done, you’ll be familiar with this test. A blower door is a diagnostic tool our energy auditors use to put the home under pressure to measure and find air and ductwork leakage. You can actually feel where the leaks are coming from when under a negative pressure around leaky doors, windows, duct registers, pocket doors, etc. During an Aerosealing, we isolate the ductwork and put the duct system under a similar positive pressure test. During this test we can again feel where the leaks are coming from in the ductwork, however we are able to put the ductwork under a much greater pressure where you can really hear, and feel where the leaks are coming from. Once we take a crawl around the attic and check the HVAC system, I’ve been surprised to discover “hidden” leaks in the ductwork I would have never found from doing a manual seal alone. As both Aeroseal and manual duct seal installers, we learn a lot going back and forth from manually sealing the ductwork to doing Aerosealing and here are some nuggets we’ve learned over the years.
How Aerosealing Has Made Me Better At Ductwork Sealing
How Much Does Aerosealing Cost?
Aeroseal costs can vary between $1600 - $2300 per unit. Manually sealing the ductwork costs can vary between $900 - $1200 per unit. These costs can vary depending on the accessibility of the HVAC unit, the type of HVAC system, the number of registers in the home, the height and access to each register and how many systems are being sealed at one time. Visit Aeroseals website for more information on their product or contact Green ID to see if Aeroseal makes sense for your home.
If you are considering having a home energy audit, here are some reasons why and why not to get a home energy audit. I also address some common misconceptions about energy audits to help you make an informed decision. In Phoenix, for existing homes older than 5 years, the cost is only $99 for an energy audit which is much less than a home inspection and quite possibly a much better investment for your money. A good energy audit is based on the numbers of the tests performed, a consideration of your lifestyle at home and combines those with the experience of energy auditor to find the best ways to reduce energy bills, fix hot rooms and improve air quality.
Sometimes the best thing we find is that there was nothing to find. Other times it can seem like the list of recommendations is endless. Either way you are more informed than when you started. At Green ID we are passionate not only about energy savings and comfort but also if we can get you to NOT invest $20,000 on new windows, Intellifilm, solar attic fans and radiant barrier chips, that’s a win too. Here is what the DOE says about Energy Audits.
Common Misconceptions of Home Energy Audits
It's All About The Windows
Sun struck windows are always a weak point in a home’s thermal envelope. If a window gets more than two hours of direct sunlight, it’s cost effective to put a shade screen on the exterior of the window but no more. Even on single pane windows where the windows won’t even close right, it’s never cost effective to replace your windows and you will never save 30% on your energy bills by changing windows. We have done hundreds of energy models and the numbers never show that replacing windows are cost effective in a hot dry climate like Arizona. Many homeowners believe that leaky, old windows are the main cause of their hot rooms or high energy bills and that’s just not true. Save yourself $20,000 and skip replacing the windows for a solar panel system that will save much more money.
You Won’t Learn Anything New From The Energy Audit
Yes you can do things on your own. I’ve written an entire new post about how to do a DIY home energy audit and there are still tests and knowledge an energy auditor will be able to do that you can learn from. It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineer, doctor, facilities manager, HVAC technician, electrician, window guy, home inspector, real estate agent or even a commercial energy auditor, you don’t know everything about your home that an energy auditor will find. Can you learn it?... of course you can. Being a good energy auditor requires knowledge of building science, being a good detective and getting your hands dirty and crawling around attic spaces all while being focused around solving home durability, comfort, health and safety and efficiency problems. We do this day-in and day-out and that’s where the biggest difference between energy auditors and the other trades lie. Seeing 500 homes a year, plus weekly meetings and training, performing installations and gaining customer feedback gives makes us home energy experts.
You Can’t Do Anything Because Of A Flat Roof
Flat roofs have a layer of urethane spray foam protecting the inside of the house from the extreme Arizona heat. Just because no access can be gained doesn’t mean that the ductwork is sealed or that the insulation is good. A thermal imaging camera can identify missing insulation without tearing down walls and a pressure pan leakage test measures the ductwork leakage on each register, pinpointing areas of high leakage. For homes with inaccessible ductwork, we recommend Aeroseal for the ductwork, which seals the ductwork from the inside. For homes with insulation deficiencies, we assess whether it is severe enough to cut an access into the attic to correct the problem. In cases with just a small amount of insulation defects, it is not worth the drywall removal and repair. In cases that have a large amount of missing or low insulation, it is worth the extra cost. The good news is that in some homes we can access the attics from roof vents or interior attic accesses.
That annoying light you can see around your doors is not wasting as much energy as you think.
In Phoenix, gaps around your doors that let light inside are obvious energy wasters, letting the hot summer air creep inside all day long. This type of air leakage is highly visible and stays top of mind for most people thinking about ways to save energy however that’s not the case in Arizona. We have run the numbers hundreds of times and air sealing those gaps around the doors saves less than $5 a year. My wife calls me a penny pincher on my good days and a cheap bastard on my bad ones and I won’t deny it. There was a time where I tail-gated semi trucks to save on gasoline because the wind resistance is less the closer you can get to the semi trucks and therefore you get more miles to the gallon… not the safest way to save a buck and I’ve seen stopped that practice. So if I can save $5 a year with a DIY weatherstripping improvement I will do it. I’ll also take off all my electrical and light outlet covers and put socket sealers behind the cover plates, knowing it’s not going to save me much money but that it will save something.
Green ID our energy audits focus on all types of energy saving methods, from the no cost thermostat management strategies all the way to HVAC improvements. However your money and energy are best spent on big improvements that have a larger impact on reducing your energy bills and fixing hot rooms. Why spend $100 to save $5 a year (a 20 year ROI) when you could spend $1000 and save $200 a year (a 5 year ROI).
All Home Energy Audits Are Not The Same
I’ve seen companies that have paid energy audits come back as fluff either because the energy auditor was inexperienced or is more sales oriented. Typically companies that are mainly insulation, HVAC or do solar as their main business are not good energy auditing companies. The energy auditors are typically inexperienced or the company pushes their main services and overlooks other defects, however bad they may be. Inexperienced energy auditors tend to focus on the wrong things like air leakage around canned lights and misses easy energy saving fixes like changing the settings on a recirculation pump. If the company primarily does insulation for example, I’ve seen recommendations completely miss airflow problems. HVAC companies may be strong in fixing broken air conditioners but ask them to find thermal bridges in the insulation and you’ll get a blank stare back.
The Truth About Free Energy Audits
In general I would skip over the free energy audits, which are really just sales presentations and estimates. The harm in these free audits is what they miss by not doing a thorough inspection. There is no way to visually look at the ductwork and tell how much the entire system let alone one duct line is leaking. This is important because duct leaks are often hidden under the outer and insulative liners covering the actual connections of the ductwork. Flex ducts could be in hard to reach out shoots of the attic under firewalls and I doubt a commissioned sales person is going to want to crawl around your attic to find out.
Insulation defects are another commonly missed item during a free energy audit that should be identified during a complete energy audit. If a sales person just sticks their head up the attic hatch or never goes past the plywood walkway in the attic- you can expect a cookie-cutter solution that will not fix any insulation defects and when the installers come to do the work…guest what? They won’t know what they are looking for and literally blow right over the problem.
The Interview Is Valuable
Living in the home, you have valuable insight for an energy auditor. Smells, comfort and temperature differences, how the temperature changes throughout the day, weird HVAC tendencies, how you use the home, how many people live in the home, temperature settings at each thermostat all give us clues that we can’t “test” during our time in your home.
When Is A Home Energy Audit Not Worth It
Obviously, Green ID does home energy audits but that doesn’t mean that every home needs an energy audit. Here is a list of when an energy audit may not be needed.
A Home Audit Is Ideal If You Have...
A Home Energy Audit Is Worth It Even If You Have:
DIY Home Energy Audit
Yes, there are certainly items you can do yourself to check your energy usage and perform your own audit. Depending on how comfortable you are crawling around your attic, you can even search for obvious duct leakage around connecting ducts. Here are some DIY energy saving checks to do your own energy audit.
What Can A Paid Energy Audit Find That A DIY Energy Audit Cannot?
An energy auditor will have a blower door to depressurize the ductwork and actually measure the duct leakage on each register. This is better than a visual inspection because sometimes the leaks can occur in areas not easily visible or even in accessible areas and the numbers don’t lie, if you have low ductwork leakage then it’s obvious that you can save money by not doing duct sealing. You never know until you test.
A thermal camera scan is a powerful visual tool that is better than a laser temperature gun because you can see a larger picture with the thermal camera. It’s a good DIY tool to go around your home and measure for hot spots by seeing an increase in temperature readings but it’s a painstaking effort scan the entire home and most DIYer’s don’t know the hot spots to look for like kneewalls, air barriers and duct chases.
Our energy auditors are experts in attic inspections whereas most homeowners may only go in their attics twice a year and don’t know what they are looking for. We take airflow measures to check the proper duct sizes, check that your insulation is installed correctly (then measure the depth), check for code violations in the furnace flues and drain lines, check for air barriers, proper attic ventilation, ductwork design and layout. We know how to look at the home-as-a-system of interconnected parts and can help recommend priority upgrades over gimmick energy saving products (KVAR, solar attic fans and TCM radiant barrier).
HVAC contractors have stopped using metal ductwork as their default duct material since the 1980s. The default ducts you’ll see in homes now is flexible ductwork, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a better for airflow. This post will compare metal ductwork with flexible ductwork and help you decide on which is better for your home.
Metal Ductwork Types
Metal ductwork comes in two types, rectangular sheet metal and round rigid ductwork. Rectangular sheet metal comes in 3-4’ sections and is held together with S cleats and drives. Ranch style homes that have registers above the bedroom doorways and a dropped 8’ ceiling in the hallway have this type of ductwork.
The rectangular sheet metal ducts are nailed into the framing of the house and impossible to take out without removing the ceiling as well. Homes built in the 1970s-80s have this ductwork type delivering the conditioned air from a central heating and cooling system but also from an evaporative cooler.
Rectangular sheet metal ductwork are great for airflow because the ducts are oversized to accommodate the large amount of air delivered from the swamp cooler. Studies have shown that metal ductwork is not necessarily better than flexible ductwork but the advantage of metal ductwork is that is hard to install wrong. Metal ductwork does not kink as easily as its flexible ductwork counterpart. As I’ll discuss later, flexible ductwork is not only easy to install, it’s also easy to install wrong with kinks over trusses or electrical wires, too much length, or hard 90 degree bends.
The second type of metal ductwork is round rigid metal ductwork. Round metal ductwork can either be spiral duct, which comes in one 10’ section of different sizes and is not insulated. This is a great look for restaurants, commercial buildings or even homes that want an industrial look. Insulating spiral ductwork more than doubles the price because the insulation is cut and glued between each of the spiral ribs. For this reason uninsulated spiral ductwork is mostly used in conditioned space. The second type of round rigid ductwork is KD pipe which is snapped together at a seem and comes in 3’, 4’ or 5’ sections depending on the size. This ductwork also comes uninsulated and can easily come apart if not mechanically fastened together and can be deformed and crushed if walked on (yes, I have seen cable guys, HVAC technicians, insulation installers, electricians all crushed this kind ductwork and left as a casuality of their work). The airflow is slightly better in KD pipe than in compressed flexible ductwork, but if the flexible ductwork is pulled tightly the airflow will be the same.
Why Metal Ductwork Is Bad
The downsides of metal ductwork is that it rusts and it leaks. With new homes the rust isn’t much of an issue but with homes that also had a swamp cooler installed with metal ductwork, there’s a high chance of rusting already occurring in the metal ductwork. I’ve seen rectangular metal ductwork rusted so bad that large gaps have been made and cold air pouring into the attic in the summertime.
Because metal ductwork only comes in 3 foot sections (compared to a 25 foot bag of flex duct), there are plenty of joints and places where air can escape. In addition, if the metal ductwork was never sealed before the drywall went up when the house was being built, the bottom half of the ductwork becomes inaccessible to seal by hand and requires a more expensive Aeroseal process to seal properly.
The alternative to metal ductwork, and the most commonly used type of ductwork today is flexible ductwork. Flexible ductwork is made from 3 different sections, a outer reflective sleeve, an insulation layer and a vinyl plastic inner liner with a metal spiral rib holding it’s shape. Flexible ductwork was first used in Arizona homes in the 1980’s with a clear inner liner. This type of ductwork has since been outlawed as it deteriorates and becomes so brittle it will crack and split open with the air pressure. When changing your air filters, if you see a clear inner liner at the return duct, you know you have this type of ductwork.
Flexible ductwork must be installed properly to get the right amount of airflow to each room and a poor installation can severely affect airflow and comfort in your home. This means no kinks, using 90 degree elbows at all ceiling cans and the ductwork is pulled tight with minimal slack to minimize friction resistance.
Can I Install Metal Ductwork On An Existing Home?
Yes it is possible to change out the flex ductwork in your home to all metal ductwork but it is costly. Metal duct installers used to have a name, tin-knockers, because of the skill required to measure, fabricate and install the ductwork was a skill. Unfortunately today, there is no name for those of us that install flexible ductwork. The fact is anyone can install flexible ductwork, so anyone and everyone does. With little to no training, installation best practices go out the window, which is one of the main reasons why I’m not worried about finding work for my lifetime but I digress.
Installing metal ductwork in an existing home is expensive for two reasons.
1. Material Cost Is High
I don’t know what prices for tin were in the 1970s but to purchase metal today is pricey. Consider that one bag of 16” x 25’, R8 insulated ductwork cost around $90. A 4’ section of KD pipe costs $23 or $138 for 6 sections and that still has to be put together and does not include wrapping the pipe in insulation. Spiral metal ductwork costs $51 for a 10’ stick, or $102 for 20’ and again it is uninsulated and difficult if not impossible to fit a 10’ section in an attic hatch and through the maze of trusses. Insulating the ductwork increases the spiral pipe to $200 for 20’.
2. Installing Is A Laborious Process
Because the attic can only be access from a 2’x3’ access in the attic (not to mention all the roof trusses one has to navigate) a 10’ section of ductwork can be impossible to move to where it needs to go. Easier attics to get around have higher pitches and plenty of space to walk around but even then, it’s likely a two man task to just set the ductwork in place. Once set, the ducts needs to be secured, sealed and then wrapped in insulation. The right elbows and bends need to be in place to terminate the ducts into the ceiling cans and registers and all that labor can add up quickly. It can be done but but you have to ask yourself if a small improvement in airflow with metal ductwork is worth double the cost of installation verses decently install flexible ductwork.
What’s The Difference Between Metal Ductwork And Flexible Ductwork?
Converting round rigid metal ductwork to flexible ductwork all depends on how the flexible ductwork is installed. A 4% compression is a generally accepted practice. To get less than 1% compression would risk the duct being pulled so tight it would disconnect from one end. At a 4% compression, you loose about 1”-2” of duct diameter going from flexible ductwork to round rigid ductwork. That is, a 6” fleixble duct will deliver the same amount of airflow as a 5” KD pipe duct.
Can I Install Metal Ductwork On A New Home?
What about installing metal ductwork on a newly constructed home? Metal ductwork can better for airflow and the installers don’t have to deal with the space restrictions that come with existing homes, so it would make sense that the cost decreases also. Well, not necessarily because insulated metal ductwork can be twice or more the cost of flexible ductwork. If you are willing to pay double the costs of flexible ductwork and have the piece of mind that all the airflow coming out of your unit is going in your home, than metal ductwork is the way to go on a newly constructed home.
What’s Wrong With Flexible Ductwork?
Nothing is wrong with flexible ductwork when installed correctly. It is on par with sheet metal ductwork for airflow. What’s wrong with flexible ductwork is that it’s so easy to install wrong. What could go wrong with flexible ductwork installation? Here is a short list.
What’s Good About Flexible Ductwork?
There are good attributes to flexible ducts that in my opinion outweigh the bad. We make our case below.
If flexible ductwork is installed correctly, the airflow will be the same or better than a metal ductwork. It’s all in the installation. The advantage of metal ductwork is that you are taking less of a chance of the ductwork being installed wrong than with flexible ductwork. It’s harder to install metal ductwork wrong than it is flexible ductwork. If you can find an installer than follows the best flexible ductwork installation (like Green ID), then there’s no difference between airflow from flexible ductwork compared to metal ductwork. The cost will be significantly less with flexible ductwork compared to sheet metal ductwork.
Loss In Flexible Ductwork Studies https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/836654
The Main Cause Of Loud Noises When The AC System Is Running
I remember sitting to watch TV after dinner during the summer time and finding myself unable to hear the TV only when the AC system kicked on. My AC system was so loud it sounded like I was sitting in a wind tunnel and every time it came on I had to turn the TV volume higher, then when the AC shut off, the TV was too loud and I'd turn the volume back down. I remember not thinking anything about it at the time, only that it was a slightly annoying habit. Little did I know what was causing that wind tunnel like noise was actually hurting my AC system.
It was only year later when I started Green ID and performing energy audits and retrofits that I realized what was actually causing this to happen was an undersized return. Undersized returns plague the Phoenix market in homes of all ages and all types of HVAC systems. HVAC contractors and installers never seemed to get this right and the fact that Arizona homes are typically built with only one return per AC unit, this problem is still going on to this day.
Why Is An Undersized Return Hurting The AC Unit?
If you've ever been short of breath, had asthma or felt winded after an intense workout you know what it feels like to be starved for air... it seems like you can't get enough air into your lungs. That's what happens all the time when the AC system has too small of a return installed. That loud sound I was hearing was actually my AC system wheezing for air, it was literally trying to inhale more air than could fit in the ductwork. This makes the AC system work a lot harder, reduces it's capacity and creates a loud, wind-tunnel like noise at the grill.
How Do You Know What Size Return Is Good Enough?
We use a rule of thumb per the table below for the return duct size however the problem can often lie in other places like the elbow type, return air can, filter, grill, kinks in the ductwork and plenum size. A simple check you can do yourself is with the air or heat on, remove the grill and see if the noise is reduced. Then remove the filter and see how much that improves the noise. The solution to undersized returns is to make the return size larger. We can do this by adding a larger return, a second return, installing a return plenum or changing a twist elbow to a side by side elbow. Having a comprehensive energy audit on the home will present the best options because contrary to what your HVAC contractor may believe, it's not always as simple as adding a second return.
Return Size Chart
5 ton should have at least a 22" return
4 ton should have at least a 20" return
3 ton should have at least a 18" return
One reliable way you can save energy on your home is through proper insulation. But, how do you know what is best for your family's health? We look at the pros and cons so you can choose the best home insulation for your health.
Types of Home Insulation
When making a decision about the best home insulation, there are generally three different types to choose from: Fiberglass, Cellulose and Spray Foam. Because every home is different, we like to provide our customers with information on all of their options and let them choose for themselves. But, before you decide, you want to make sure you fully understand the pros and cons of each option. It is important to weigh your energy-saving needs with your family's health sensitivities and needs.
The Most Well-known Choice: Fiberglass Insulation
As one of the most common choices for insulation, fiberglass also has some of the biggest health concerns. The most evident problem is as a skin and eye irritant. Blown fiberglass is made up of tiny fibers of glass. When touched, it can irritate the skin and eyes, becoming very itchy and uncomfortable. If inhaled, the small fibers can become lodged in the lungs, causing serious respiratory issues. While this may be an issue mainly for the person installing or removing it, those fibers can also get pulled into your air ducts.
The potential for fiberglass fibers to enter your air ducts stresses the importance of a proper and complete install. When properly installed and sealed, fiberglass poses minimal threats to a homeowner. However, fiberglass has a lower insulating value (or R-value) compared to other types of insulation, making it a less energy-efficient option. If your goal is to save the most amount of energy, cellulose and spray foam insulation are often better options.
A Greener Choice: Cellulose Insulation
As you are choosing the best home insulation for your needs, you may want to consider the material your insulation is sourced from. What natural resources is it using? How many chemicals are involved in its manufacturing? Does your insulation produce more waste or reduce it?
Fortunately, there is an option that takes these questions under consideration: cellulose insulation. Made from recycled paper products, cellulose also has a higher R-value, helping to insulate your home better than fiberglass. Blown-in cellulose is treated with borate as a fire-retardant and to keep critters at bay, but this can be an irritant for those sensitive to that chemical. This treatment is necessary for overall safety but can leave some wondering how "green" or healthy it is despite its ability to better insulate your home and re-purpose waste materials for 85% of its composition.
A Great Energy Saver: Spray Foam
One of our best insulation options is also one that has the most questions regarding health. Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) is typically applied to the roof decking of a house, keeping heat or cold out directly at the site of entry. While it has the highest R-value of our three options mentioned here, it also contains chemicals known to be hazardous to our health. These chemicals cause the greatest harm to the installer or people present during the curing process. This is why we request that homeowners stay out of the home for 24 hours to allow the materials to cure and for the risk to dissipate.
The biggest risk from SPF is from isocyanates that are present during the mixing, on-site of the two materials. An experienced installer like Green ID assures that these materials are mixed properly and that all precautions are taken.
A Thorough Install=Better Health
At Green ID, it's important to us that you make the healthiest and most efficient decision for your home. Weighing the pros and cons of the material you choose to use in your home is one issue. The other is having your new insulation installed safely and correctly.
The biggest risk with fiberglass and cellulose insulation is when dust or fibers enter your air ducts. They can disperse throughout your home and increase the risk of allergies. Ask your installer to check your ducts for leaks before working on your insulation. This will help ensure your A/C and heat are working at full efficiency while also preventing airborne allergies.
If you are planning on installing SPF, be sure to leave your home during installation and preferably for 24 hours afterward. Allowing time for SPF to cure will reduce your risk of exposure to the chemicals used in this process. You can even use it as an opportunity for a short staycation! When you return home, your home will be tightly insulated and ready to save you costs on your energy bill.
You may also like...
Getting solar panels installed on your home is exciting and a big step towards energy independence. However, getting a high APS or SRP energy bill in the mail after the solar panels are installed can be a surprising disappointment. Unfortunately this problem happens more often than it should and it’s not necessarily a problem with the solar panels. This post will explain common causes of having high energy bills even when our home has solar panels on the roof.
Solar panels are a great way to produce your own energy but it’s sometimes only half of the picture. Your home is like your body, it’s a group of systems that work together and effect one another... putting solar panels on a home with high energy bills can be like having a heart transplant if your having chest pains, it may solve the symptoms but it’s better to find the root cause and first that first. Using our heart example, those chest pains may be from a high cholesterol, stress or from poor circulation. You wouldn’t go right to the most dramatic solution of swapping out your heart before you tried to fix some of the easier, less expensive options first just like it’s a good idea to find out why your energy bills are so high before you go with solar panels, it may be because the APS rate plan or from air leaks or leaky ductwork.
Reason #1 Why Your Energy Bills Haven’t Gone Down With Solar Panels
High energy bills can be caused from leaky ductwork, improperly sized ductwork, airflow issues, high air leakage, insulation, appliances and motors, energy habits or excessive heat gain. Solar panels won’t necessarily address these issues which is why having an energy audit can be useful in identifying and correcting these “low hanging fruit” items first, ideally before solar panels are installed. Even in newer, energy efficient homes we've found rooms with missing insulation or wrong sized ductwork.
Reason #2 Why Your Energy Bills Haven’t Gone Down With Solar Panels
Another reason why your energy bills may still be high with solar panels is your utility rate plan. Both APS and SRP have specific rate plans for their solar customers and if you don’t manage your energy use correctly, you may not save as much energy as predicted. APS and SRP have solar rate plans that charge a demand fee and essentially punish solar users from 2-8 pm with SRP or 3-8 pm with APS when energy usage reaches above a specified amount. The rate plans aren’t friendly for solar customers because from 6-8 pm the sun is setting or already set and zero energy is produced from solar so solar customers are forced to delay turning on their air conditioners during the summer until after 8 pm. If you aren’t managing your energy usage until 8 pm this can be a problem and your probably paying more than you need to be than if you could put a pre-cooling plan in place. Using a load controller is a guaranteed way to keep your energy bills in check according your utility companies rate plan and worth looking into. I’ve written an expensive post about everything you need to know about load controllers for further education.
Reason #3 Why Your Energy Bills Haven’t Gone Down With Solar
It’s worth mentioning that it goes without saying that if you lower your thermostat in the summer, add an electric vehicle or have another family member move in after solar panels were installed on your home, your energy usage will increase and the original savings predictions may not be valid anymore because they are based off of your historical energy usage. By installing a real time energy monitor like Sense you can view your energy usage breakdown and get a feel for where exactly you are using energy in your home before going solar.
With monitoring available to see your solar panel production you can instantly see how much energy your solar panels are producing and if any panels are not producing. Currently Sense and Curb are good energy monitors
Reason #4 Why Your Energy Bills Haven’t Gone Down With Solar
An aging heating and cooling system that isn’t working properly or improperly sized ductwork can sabotage the work solar panels do by using more energy than your panels offset. Over-amping motors, improper refrigerant charge, slow freon leaks and undersized ductwork all drive up the energy usage. Signs that it may be time to replace an older HVAC system are is if your HVAC system is loud, doesn’t cool or heat your home well, has had a long repair history or is more than 30 years old. Our HVAC technicians and energy auditors will be able to tell how well your HVAC system is performing and give you a baseline of performance to measure against.
How To Lower Your Energy Bills They Are Still High Even With Solar Power
The good news is that having solar panels is the big hitter of energy upgrades and that lowering your energy bills even more won’t require the capital investment of having solar. Some changes you’ll need to make won’t even cost anything such as changing your thermostat settings. Other low hanging fruit upgrades may be fixing poorly installed insulation, sealing leaky ductwork, properly sizing the ductwork or using a load controller to avoid high peak demand charges.
While performing SRP energy audits, we are surprised how many homeowners don’t actually know what SRP rate plan they are. As energy auditors our job is not only to perform the cool test on homes like our thermal camera scan and depressurization test, but also to seek out areas of energy waste that can be changed by managing energy usage and are more lifestyle changes. We’ve seen homeowners reduce their energy bills by as much as 60% simply by managing their energy use on the right SRP rate plan. By simply managing your energy better, you can cut your energy bills without doing any other work. In this post we will go into the best SRP rate plans you should choose for your home and how best to manage your energy to get the most savings.
By far the biggest way to reduce your electric bills is with SRP’s E27p plan or SRP Time-of-Use plan. The E27p plan is a pilot plan that SRP uses for solar customers and is similar to APS demand based rate plans, however you don’t have to have solar on your home to sign up for this plan, anyone can do it. SRP’s E27p plan charges a low off-peak energy rate, a high on-peak energy plus a demand charge if your energy usage exceeds a certain amount during a 30 minute period. The important thing about the E27p and Time-of-Use plan is that the off-peak energy rate is very low, cheap energy. We suggest customers use this plan and take full advantage of the cheap off-peak energy. Typical SRP energy rates are $0.12 per kWh, the E27p plan is only $0.05 per kWh and $0.07 per kWh for Time-of-Use. Since the E27p energy is so cheap, we want you to turn your thermostat down to 72 degrees in the summer during off-peak hours. Yes, that’s right, you want to stay nice and coo during the summer months, even if you are gone to work.
This strategy is called super-cooling and pre-cools your home before SRP’s peak hours of 2-8 pm with E27p or 2-8 pm with Time-of-Use plan. Then at peak hour time, your thermostat will be programmed to turn up to 84 degrees (or higher) and if your home is well sealed and insulated, your AC system will ideally never turn on and you avoid SRP’s high on-peak rate charges. For SRP’s Time-of-Use, during peak hours their energy rate balloons to $0.24 but there is no demand charge with the high peak hour rate. Both the E27p and Time-of-Use plan are good options if you can take advantage of supercooling your home.
SRP Rate Comparison
*Demand charges are$9.43 for the first 3 kW, $17.51 for the next 7 kW, $33.59 each additional kW
Which Type Of Homes Would Benefit Most From Pre-Cooling Your Home?
Who Would Not Benefit From Changing Their SRP Rate Plans?
Depending on your lifestyle, pre-cooling your home with these rate plan changes may not be a good option. If you or someone in our home works nights or as an irregular schedule, it may be hard to keep the AC system off during peak hours if they want the temperature to be 76 degrees during the middle of the day. To take full advantage of demand control (penalty) rate plans, the pre-cooling strategy is essential. You need to be able to reliably, day after day, lower the thermostat during off-peak hours and then raise it during peak hours to take advantage of the utility company’s cheap off-peak energy rate. If you are like me and sometimes work from home or have someone home on an irregular schedule then following the pre-cooling plan will be difficult to do because, of course we need to be comfortable in our own homes!
Supercooling aka precooling your home is an effective strategy to lower your energy bills by lowering your thermostat during off peak hours, buying cheap energy, and then raising your thermostat during peak hours, ideally so your AC system never turns on during peak hours. To supercool your home, you take the temperature to extremes and go down to 70 degrees off peak, and then raise the thermostat to 84 to 86 degrees on peak. With APS rate plans shifting towards more demand based rate plans, they punish homeowners for using their AC systems when it’s hottest out from 3-8 pm by charging a demand fee. How the new APS rate plan works is from the peak hours of 3-8 pm, in addition to a premium energy cost, APS tacks on an additional demand fee when your energy usage exceeds a certain amount every 30 minutes. Demand is a term that means how much energy your home is using at any time. This demand fee can be a significant part of your monthly energy bill and most homeowners are hardly aware it exists.
APS calculates your demand fee every hour based on your home’s highest energy usage during that hour. A demand fee is similar to watching Netflix back when our internet speeds were slower, if you have two people streaming videos at a time, your internet speed may slow down because the usage is to much at one time, just like if you are running both air conditioner systems at the same time, you’ll reach a demand peak and APS will charge an extra fee.
Not all APS rate plans have a demand fee, but the ones that do not have a much higher kWh base fee. The APS rate plans that do not include a demand charge are the Lite Choice, Premier Choice, Premier Choice Large and Saver Choice. Of the APS plans without a demand charge, we recommend only the Lite Choice if you are single and keep the thermostat at 80 degrees day and night. All the other APS rate plans will pay more than the rate plans with a demand charge. The APS rate plans that include a demand fee are the Saver Choice Plus, Saver Choice Max and Saver Choice Tech. APS makes it so that the demand based plans have the opportunity for more energy savings than the rate plans without a demand fee because of these precooling strategies.
How To Take Advantage Of APS’s Rate Plans
Since APS calculates their demand charge every hour, if you have two air conditioners, run only one of them for 30 minutes, then the other AC for the next 30 minutes, never having both of them on during the same time. This way your entire home will stay cooler than if you run only one system most of the day, then after 8 pm the other unit plays catch up trying to cool a hot part of the house, AND you only pay a demand fee of 0.5 x the highest energy usage during that half hour, around 1.8 (average energy usage for a 4 ton heat pump).
Alternatively, the strategy above is better than any of the following scenarios:
1. Having both ACs running at the same for a full hour or your normal temperature range of 77-80 degrees.
2. Having one AC cool one part of your home for a full hour, then having the other AC cool the other half of your home for the next hour.
By properly shifting your AC run times, the new APS rate plan of Saver Choice Max can yield lower energy bills.
Even if you have a trust air conditioning contractor you’ve known for years, maybe they are an in-law or you know them from your church, I would still make sure you have these home performance upgrades done on every new AC unit installation, regardless of what they tell you. I know that having a trusted AC contractor is a necessity in Phoenix and once you’ve found someone you trust, you want to save their number in your phone in case you come home one summer to find your AC system not cooling properly. Even when we perform energy audit on a home and a customer tells us they have an AC contractor they love, we say, “Good!” We want you to keep them but as owner of Green ID, one of my personal missions is to take care of our customers and I’m going to tell you what’s best for your whole home to work well to help lower energy bills and increase your comfort.
I believe if we help solve our customer’s needs, we will profit from it through referrals, home performance work or some other way though it may not be from becoming your AC contractor of choice at the moment. I’ve seen firsthand from training our own AC technicians- from guys fresh out of school, guys with a couple years of experience and technicians that have owner their own AC companies for years before closing their businesses, that experience does not mean these best practices are followed or they even know why we want to install them. Some smaller and one man shop AC companies may not do these upgrades because they require more labor and a skilled helper, and they may not be busy enough to keep someone on full time. Other larger companies may say that they do some of these upgrades like sealing the ductwork but use tape as a sealant, which only lasts a couple years. Not all these upgrades are or should be “free” or included in the cost of a new unit, but they are essential for a new AC unit to operate properly and in most cases it is money well spent, much more in-fact than money spent on higher SEER systems.. get these basics down first for your home, then start adding on the toppings.
Upgrades That All Air Conditioning Contractors Should Follow When Replacing An AC Systems
1. New plenums. Reusing your existing plenums is an acceptable practice but the problem is when your AC systems do not have plenums to begin with and your AC contractor doesn’t plan on installing any on a new AC system. Every HVAC system, whether is a split system or a package unit on the roof, needs plenums, preferable made from sheet metal, not ductboard. Plenums are metal boxes that are located between the ductwork and the AC system. They allow airflow to mix and can handle a much larger amount of airflow than flex duct can. Yes, they require more labor to install and add to the cost, but this is a must have for me and important enough for good airflow that we include plenums in our installations.
2. Ductwork and unit penetration sealing. Sealing the ductwork is a no brainer but somehow this still gets overlooked and we will feel cold air pouring out of the ducts on brand new AC systems. Having a high efficiency AC system that has leaky ductwork is like driving a Prius with a hole in the gas tank. In the case of air conditioners, it would be better to save thousands and purchase a standard AC system but seal the ductwork to make sure all the cold air you pay for gets in the house, not lost to the attic. It’s also important to ask your AC contractor how they seal the ductwork. If they mention tape in any form (with the exception of mesh tape), do not consider that ductwork sealing. Mastic aka pookie, or Aerosealing is the only, and best way to seal the ductwork.
3. Properly sized ductwork. Yes there are rules of thumb you can use to size ductwork and returns, but taking measurements is the only way to know if your ductwork is sized properly. This is where an energy audit is a necessity before the AC is installed, otherwise there is no way to know if what you have is right. Installing new returns is an upgrade that depends heavily on having a return plenum present (see #1). If you have a return plenum present, you can’t really go wrong with installing additional returns in open areas of the house. Be careful when installing new returns in bedrooms because you could easily cause an imbalance in the system, making the AC unit work harder and causing unwanted temperature differences in the rooms.
4. Proper air balance. If you have hot rooms or one room that gets too much airflow and another not getting enough, a new AC system won’t fix that problem, you need an air balance. Often times, contractors will just leave your existing ductwork the exact same way it was attached to the plenum when a new AC system is installed. If the ducts are not resized, relocated or balanced, your home will likely have the same airflow problems with a new AC unit. Often an AC contractor will put a new return in a hot room as their go-to fix, but in our hot Phoenix summers, this solution isn’t enough and the room will remain hot.
You may also like...
Sign Up For Your Home Energy Audit
FIND YOUR HOME TYPE
©2009 – 2018
All Rights Reserved