Going into hot, dusty attics is something we do every day for our Green ID energy audits, all year round. While crawling around all those attics we get asked a lot “does my insulation need to be removed?” Many homeowners notice dust streaks around their registers or a thin film of powder on their furniture and think their source of dust is from the insulation in the attic. Other homeowners feel like the dirty insulation becomes useless with age, especially after settling below the attic studs. This may be true, but is insulation removal necessary? This is such a common question I decided to go into more detail on when attic insulation should be removed and when it can stay and the costs you can expect.
When Insulation Removal is Necessary
The Attic Was Infested With Rats Or Other Critters
Roof rats are a common problem around neighbors with fruit trees. You may even hear them tapping around your attic at night. These critters will build nests and use the insulation as their home while seemingly multiplying and inviting all their friends to their new home. Rat urine and droppings are hazardous and need to be removed along with all the insulation in the infected areas. If a rat has been in an area, a trail of droppings will follow them. In this situation, insulation removal is necessary and the attic must be disinfected before blowing in new insulation. For our Green ID insulation service, we prefer using cellulose blown in insulation because of the fire retardant chemical borate that’s used is also a rodent deterrent. Currently, it can be sucked out using an extraction machine. If the attic has fiberglass batts, they can be taken out by hand.
If you’ve had a roof leak or the condensation from your air conditioner has spilled out of the drip pan onto your insulation, the insulation can hold moisture for a long time and become a source of mold spores or mildew. It also will lose its effectiveness at slowing down the transfer of heat into your home once it’s wet. If a small area was affected, only that portion should be removed, the entire attic insulation does not have to be removed
With Spray Foam Insulation To Air Seal The Attic
In hot dry climates like Phoenix, we typically use open cell spray foam and remove all the insulation from the attic floor (we explain why below). Spray foam is an insulator and air sealant in one and with the attic ventilation completely closed off, there’s no more dust coming in from the outside. We want to create a completely sealed attic space which will naturally also improve the air quality of the home plus reduce your energy bills
When You Do NOT Need To Remove Your Attic Insulation
There are times when we would not recommend removing your attic insulation. This may contradict what some companies tell you but hear me out
Having old insulation may settle over time and you may be shocked to see the studs of your attic floor showing, but the insulation does not have to be removed. Yes, you probably need more insulation added (air seal the attic floor first) but even old insulation still has its R-value, or insulative properties. Unless it’s water damaged or rodent-infested, you do not need to remove your attic insulation. Remember, if you are concerned about dust and air quality, you need to have your attic air sealed to separate the attic from the house before you add more insulation, otherwise you’ll just make the dust problem worse. A thorough Green ID Energy Audit can help identify whether your attic needs sealing or additional insulation.
When Your Energy Audit Company Tells You They Need To Remove All The Fiberglass Batt Insulation Because It Is Misaligned
Of the few insulation companies that actually know what the problem is with “misaligned insulation,” I would wager that most are energy auditing companies. And of those energy auditing companies, there are some that are lazier than others and would recommend you remove all the fiberglass batt insulation in the attic to fix the misalignment problem. The problem with this approach is that it will cost you twice as much and unnecessarily add a day to your job. You’ll also be charged an extraction fee to remove the insulation, which takes at least one day. Then you’ll have to pay to have your entire attic reinsulated, which will take another day. Green ID is always looking for the best solution for YOUR particular home, not just the quick fix.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO REMOVE YOUR FIBERGLASS BATT INSULATION. It still has its insulative properties and just needs to be installed properly to work right. What I recommend to our customers when we encounter misaligned insulation is a process called lift and fill. This method does not require more man power, but it does require more skill. This is why I perform all our lift and fill jobs myself or someone I’ve trained and worked with for over a year. Lift and fill requires us to lift and blow loose fill insulation under each fiberglass batt, then replace the batt and blow loose fill insulation on top, creating a sandwich of fiberglass batt insulation. The loose fill insulation is able to form around canned lights, under electrical wires and cross studs and in-between stud cavities. If done properly, the difference in comfort is night and day. We end up saving you money by not charging you double to properly insulate your attic. If you believe your attic needs this kind of insulation service, you can contact us today to schedule an appointment
How Is The Insulation Removed From The Attic?
For loose fill or blown in insulation, we use an extraction machine to suck out the insulation. We use the same machine to suck out the insulation when we are applying spray foam along the roof decking. Many homeowners have tried to remove the insulation by hand in trash bags but anything over 500 sq ft is a monumental task and has always proven too much work. The extraction will suck out the insulation from a 6” hose and fill 20 gallon bags. A typical 2,000 sq ft home will use about 6-10 extraction bags. For fiberglass batt removal, it must be done manually, one batt at a time
How Much Does Insulation Removal Cost?
If, during your Green ID Home Energy Audit, we determine that insulation removal is necessary, the cost will depend on the existing depth of insulation, square footage, attic access and offshoots, and if it is rodent infested. The cost will range from $0.70-$1.50 sq ft for extraction.
Will Removing My Insulation Make My Air Quality Better?
If your home has lots of air leakage and connections from the attic into the house, then yes. But, the attic floor must be air sealed after the insulation is removed or spray foam applied to the roof decking. Simply removing the insulation, then blowing new insulation is not guaranteed to improve the air quality because all the leakage pathways from the attic into the house will still be present. Once all the insulation is removed, the attic floor needs to be air sealed to stop the transfer of attic air from going into the house. I also recommend having each room pressure balanced and ductwork sealed. Room pressure balancing is important if you notice doors close by themselves when the air or heat comes on, or you notice a rush of air under the door with the HVAC system running. Not fixing a room pressure imbalance can cause outside air to come in the home from the outdoors or the attic because that room becomes pressurized while the rest of the house gets put under a negative pressure and sucks air in from the outside.
Having spray foam applied to the roof deck creates a sealed attic space with no ventilation. This creates an air tight attic where the insulation cannot collect dust from the outside and it cannot enter the home. Spray foam does off-gas for about 6 hours after it’s applied but once it’s cured there is no ongoing off-gassing. In Phoenix, our attics are vented to the outside so many layers of dust can accumulate in the insulation, especially fiberglass insulation. That dust can then find its ways into your home through air and duct leakage pathways. Attic insulation dust is a carcinogen and harmful to breath.
Making The Decision To Remove or Repair
It can be challenging and overwhelming to know what to do about whether you need insulation service, ductwork repair or other home improvements. That’s why we offer a straight-forward Home Energy Audit that will assess the airflow of your home and help determine any necessary work. Contact Green ID today to get started. We’re happy to answer questions and demystify the process of making your home run efficiently and safely!
#1 Fair and Effective Recommendations- An true energy audit should be unbiased and not product specific. If your APS or SRP energy auditor recommends products like radiant barrier, windows or solar these are red flags that you are not getting a true energy audit. We have gone into many homes that have had energy audits done by companies that clearly missed the low hanging fruit of recommendations and instead offered to seal 20 canned lights and put a radiant barrier in a home for almost $8,000. If radiant barriers, canned light sealing or new windows are a major aspect of your auditors recommendations or sales proposals, it's time to politely show your rep to the door and look elsewhere.
#2 Credentials - Be sure that the energy auditor/inspector of choice has the minimum insurance, bonds, licenses and credentials. The minimum requirements for participating in most local programs are:
#3 Beyond The Energy Audit - Make sure the company you are considering takes a whole house approach. They should perform a comprehensive energy audit and also have the resources and capability to perform a full spectrum of appropriate efficiency retrofits. The energy auditor/inspector may cover all aspects from audit/inspection to retrofit, or work closely with certified and authorized partners to handle everything.
We emphasize this point because there are product specific contractors in existence who may use the efficiency audit and audit program platforms to sell their specific products and services regardless of a real or appropriate need.
The bottom line is if you call a company that doesn't specialize and perform a whole house approach to energy auditing and repairs then you may likely be calling out a sales person for a specific product. Ask about the whole house approach to energy efficiency when you call for an energy audit/inspection.
#4 The Right Tools For The Job - The energy auditor should have the right tools for the job. The big question is, "Do they include infrared photos and scanning in the program rate?" If they are charging extra that's a big "NO HIRE" from where we stand. Infrared should be included. Chances are, if they include infrared, they most like have the other tools necessary. However, here is a list of other "must have" equipment items:
#5 No Shortcuts - There are certain tasks that are required to be completed for proper energy audit performance and certification. Here they are:
#7 Ask The Right Questions - Look, it's your house and your money, you are hiring a professional to be a professional. Let them do what they do. That is why you asked them out. But before hiring, here are some questions you should be able to get solid answers to.
#8 Signing Documents... - You may be required to sign a utility company rebate form and/or a general agreement prior to the inspection. However, some companies may try to get you to sign a contract that states you must use their company after the audit if you decide to get any repairs done. Be sure that you are signing for audit only and that you are free to use who you want for the repairs - This enables you to get competitive bids, negotiate and make intelligent and qualified decisions.
#9 Get What You Paid For - Be sure you own the final report, data and images. The final report is part of what you are paying for. If you decide not to use the auditor's services for the retrofit, then you can supply a copy of reports, data and images to another contractor and skip getting/paying for a second inspection.
If you’ve ever gone out to your garage to find melted candles or dead drill batteries from the intense Phoenix heat, you’re not alone. You may be shocked to learn that Phoenix garages come uninsulated from the builder, leaving them to get hotter than the outside during the summertime often reaching temperatures of 120 degrees or more. Many customers want a way to cool their garage so we’ve complied a list of best ways to cool a garage in Phoenix.
1. Additional vent ducted off your main HVAC system. If you AC system is oversized (like many are), this may seem like a good option to add another register and duct from the HVAC system into the garage. However even a standard two car garage requires 18,000 - 24,000 BTU of cooling capacity, and something that no AC system has the additional capacity to do. In our experience, adding an additional register in the garage is barely noticeable and hardly makes it more comfortable, a two garage is just too big. Even when homeowners enclose their garage to make it livable space, insulate the walls, ceiling and garage door panels, an additional two ducts never cool the space down enough.
2. Window AC unit. Window AC units just aren’t big enough to cool a two car, uninsulated garage in Phoenix. The largest window AC units are 15,000 BTUs and can cool 400 sq ft if the space is properly insulated to 78 degrees if left running all day long. If your garage has wall and ceiling insulation, a 15,000 BTU window AC unit would need to run from 8 am continuously all day to keep it comfortable. We don’t recommend using a window AC unit to cool a garage because it will cost about $80 - $140 each month to run during the heat of the summer assuming a well insulated garage ceiling and walls.
3. Swamp cooler. Swamp coolers are an inexpensive way to cool an area however evaporator cooling doesn’t work well during temperatures above 110 degrees or in the humid weather of the monsoon season. In the heat of the summer, a swamp cooler would move air through the garage but it wouldn’t help to cool it much. Some homeowners will have us re-duct the swamp cooler duct from the main house to the garage, which can make good use of the swamp cooler. We don’t recommend installing a new swamp cooler to cool a garage however because it wouldn’t be able to cool the garage well during the middle of the summer or monsoon months.
4. Ductless mini split system. Ductless mini split systems are the best way to cool a garage because of the increased size available, superior efficiency ratings and ability to cool a garage much quicker than a window AC unit, swamp cooler or adding a separate register. Ductless mini splits provide greater temperature control than tapping a new supply duct and register from an existing AC system. Ductless systems are like its name implies and have no ductwork to spread allergens or contribute to ductwork leakage. The indoor evaporative coil is mounted on the garage wall so no windows are required for installing mini split systems. Ductless systems are also super efficient, with the lowest efficiency rating starting at SEER 17 system.
A ductless mini split system is the best and most cost effective way to cool a hot garage. Whether you have a workshop, car or hobby collection a mini split system is cheaper than a central AC system, cools the garage better than adding another register and duct off your existing AC system, works superior to a swamp cooler and room air conditioner. See how much a ductless mini split system costs in a table we’ve created here.
How Much Will Insulating My Garage Help To Cool It?
There’s no doubt if you want to keep your garage cooler, it needs to be insulated. By insulating your garage you can expect to cool it from 5-15 degrees. The easiest way to do this is to insulate the garage door panels with insulated foam board. A 1.5” sheet of foam board can be cut to fit into each panel. If your garage door panel gets hit with direct sunlight, that aluminum will radiate lots of heat into the garage.
The next step is to insulate the ceiling of the garage with blown in insulation. At least 10” of cellulose insulation should be added above the garage for an R-value of R30. If there is no attic access in the garage, a new attic hatch can be cut in.
The final step to insulate your garage is the walls. The shared wall between the garage and the house is already insulated. The other exterior walls of the garage have zero insulation in them. We use a method called drill and fill to drill at least one hole in each stud bay cavity, then dense pack cellulose insulation into each stud cavity. A foam plug is used to close the holes leaving them ready for texture and finishing.
What About Venting My Garage?
Some homeowners will open their attic hatch to let the warm garage air rise up into the vented attic space. Homeowners have also asked about adding another high-low vent in the side wall of their garage to help circulate more airflow. Both these work but won’t have a noticeable impact on the hot garage temperature. A better ventilation solution is to install a ventilation fan (must be larger than a bath vent fan) in the garage ceiling to actively bring out the hot garage air and vent it to the attic.
SRP has a great rebate program for high efficiency air conditioners but homeowners need to be aware of SRP’s requirements to qualify for the A/C rebate. Many companies offer “rebates and incentives” but they never comply with the SRP rebate requirements and really just hike their original price up so high, then discount it by applying cash back and incentives and in the end, you still end up paying a higher price for a new A/C system and you miss out of SRP’s quality install requirements. You’ll know you are getting a true SRP rebate when you complete these forms. In this post we will breakdown the SRP air conditioning rebates, SRP rebate requirements and the importance of why SRP puts them in place.
The A/C system is by far the largest energy user in Phoenix homes, often doubling in the summer months so any savings you can get from a high efficient A/C unit will translate into year over year savings for the life of the system. Only SEER 16 and EER 12.0 or higher units qualify under SRPs rebate requirements. There are additional requirements that SRP puts in place to ensure a quality install and for good reason.
SRP Cool Cash Air Conditioner Rebates
SRP has a generous rebate amount for high efficiency air conditioners both for split systems and package units in the table below.
All the requirements must be met for the SRP A/C rebates to apply. Typically SEER is given more attention that EER or HSPF ratings. However, SRP requires the EER for good reason. In hot, dry climates like Phoenix, EER is more important than the SEER rating.
EER Is More Important Than SEER
I like the way SRP has structured their A/C rebates because they put requirements in place that award rebates not only for a high efficiency A/C system, but also to make sure a proper installation takes place. Here is a list of the SRP rebate requirements and explanations.
What Happens If One Of The SRP Requirements Are Not Met?
If for example, the new high efficiency A/C meets all SRP’s efficiency requirements but after installation your contractor finds the airflow or charge is out of specifications and will not meet the SRP rebate requirements, you have two options. The first option is to have the A/C contractor fix the deficiencies to meet SRP rebate requirements. Depending on how much additional work is required, this may be done at no cost or at an additional charge. Now let’s say the airflow is out of SRP’s specifications because the ductwork is sized wrong and fix the problem will cost an additional $300 that you do not want to pay. Under this scenario, the unit would no longer qualify for the SRP rebate.
Are There High Efficiency Package System Heat Pumps?
Just because Trane, Carrier or Lennox do not have a high efficient package system doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. SEER 19 variable speed compressors do exist for package heat pumps. Contact Green ID for a free consultation of our high efficiency A/C systems.
Other SRP Rebates
SRP not only has rebates for high efficiency air conditioners, they provide rebates for sealing ductwork, adding insulation, shade screens, smart thermostats and air sealing. See the table below for details.
Using the SRP air conditioner rebates are a great way to lower the cost of a high efficiency A/C system while ensuring a quality install. Contact Green ID for a free consultation to go over your A/C replacement options or if you would like a complete energy audit, you can start by taking a quick online survey to see if your home is a good fit. Click here to find a list of all other SRP rebates.
Attic Insulation Sins, The Top Mistakes Insulation Contractors and DIY’ers Make And How To Avoid Them
Insulation jobs are not as simple as blow-and-go and mistakes made or overlooked by insulation contractors can end up wasting a lot of your money with little benefits to show. Here are 3 critical items that must be done for every insulation job to make sure the insulation is not compromised because when it comes to blowing insulation, the preparation is almost as important as the depth.
1. Air seal the attic.
Two story homes and ranch style homes are particularly guilty of committing air sealing sins. Air sealing is separating the attic from the conditioned house and you would think that the framers, drywallers and A/C contractors would know this when they build the house but surprisingly in most homes we find a lack of boundary between the attic and home.
Often times there is no barrier between the attic and the house except for a piece of ¾” drywall that is all that is stopping the Arizona summer heat from entering the home. Of course there should be a nice thick blanket of 12” of insulation on top of the drywall but no, during our attic inspections we often find these attic air sealing sins and need to air seal the home before we blow the insulation.
Why Is Air Sealing Necessary Before Blowing Insulation?
If you take away nothing else from this blog, know that insulation is not an air barrier. What does that mean? It means that attic insulation does not stop the air from passing through it, so even if you pile 24” of insulation in the attic, hot attic air will still pass through the insulation and get into the home. Think of a sweater on a windy day, that sweater is still letting a ton of air through. You need a wind breaker on top of your sweater to keep you warm just like your insulation needs an air barrier to be effective. What qualifies as an air barrier? Drywall does, as does foam board, plywood, and spray foam when installed continuously to seal the cavity air tight. Don’t make the mistake of typical insulation contractors and blow-and-go and air seal your home before you insulate.
What needs to be air sealed?
Soffits, wall chases, plant shelves, top plates, exhaust fans, boot to sheet rock gaps, thermostat wires, electrical wires and plumbing penetrations. A home energy audit can help identify how leaky your home is and where the majority of leakage is coming from (it’s not your windows if you live in Arizona).
2. Kneewalls Are Neglected. A kneewall is a vertical wall in your home that has a back side in the attic. Kneewalls are a nice architectural feature that homeowners use the horizontal shelves as a place to hold decorations or they may be functional to change from a vaulted part of the house to a flat ceiling in a bedroom or office. The fact is that kneewalls are also in the attic and just like the drywall ceiling, they need to be properly insulated. Many a times our thermal cameras will reveal how poorly insulated kneewalls are. If the entire attic floor is well insulated but the kneewalls are bare, guess where the all the attic heat is going to enter your home through? That’s right, your kneewalls. Heat flows in the path of least resistance and having improperly insulated kneewalls will compromise the entire attic insulation.
3. Taking Care Of The Attic Hatch. I love when insulation contractors throw a fiberglass batt across the attic hatch and call it good. It’s like telling your kids to clean their room and you come back to see a half-ass job and them preoccupied with whatever they were doing before. Nice try, but that’s a fail. You want a permanent solution and our method is to glue a couple sheets of thick foam board to the attic hatch so the hatch is permanently insulated. Or have you ever noticed how the insulation conveniently tapers down around the attic hatch because no one figured you could build a dam around the hatch and insulation right up to the hatch? All interior attic hatches need to be insulated with foam board and have a dam built high enough so insulation can be the same depth right up to the attic hatch.
Honorable Mentions – Insulation Tips and Common Mistakes To Avoid
What Insulation Upgrades Do Not Need To Be Done
This list includes common insulation misconceptions, upgrades that won’t save you money on your energy bills but they may or may not be beneficial in other ways.
By doing these upgrades before you insulate your home, you’ll be sure to have a properly sealed and insulated home.
Find out more:
Does your attic insulation need to be removed?
How much does insulation cost?
SRP rebates for insulation.
Load controllers are great at saving energy but no one expects or wants to sacrifice their comfort to have one installed? If they did, then no one would need a load controller and we would all just shut off our air conditioners during the hottest part of the day like our grandparents did before central heating and cooling. The whole purpose of a load controller is to work behind the scenes, with little interference with our everyday lives. What happens in some homes is that the friendly, non-assuming load controller who is supposed to save us money on our energy bills turns into this dominate, house controlling monster that everyone hates. That’s when we get the call of, “just take it off my house!”
Of course, no one wants to get to that point so this guide will help you decide if a load controller is right for your home. If you are considering solar or purchasing a load controller for your home, we’ve found that load controllers like certain types of homes… and if you’re one of the lucky ones that fit into its preference category, then we would give the thumbs up on installing one. If you find your home doesn’t fit the load controller’s Type A fit, your home may still be compatible and benefit from a demand controller, it may just not be a match-made-in heaven.
What Are Load Controllers?
Load controllers or demand controllers are installed to save energy and are frequently required by utility companies when homeowners have solar panels installed. Load controllers work by limiting the amount of energy used at one time by shutting down major appliances like the air conditioner, water heater, pool pump, dryer and oven. Utilities companies like SRP are basically requiring all homes with solar panels installed, also have a load controller installed and APS utility companies is also encouraging homeowners whether they have solar power or not to use load controllers to control their energy consumption.
What Homes Are Ideal For Load Controllers?
1.Slightly Oversized HVAC Systems
That’s right, we said it. Even when writing this I still do a mental double-take because after all the soap box preaching we’ve done about the negative impacts of oversized air conditioners, our experience with load controllers on homes has been better when the air conditioner is about 10% oversized. This doesn’t mean that a 5 ton unit gets put in place of a 4 ton system. I recommend that if your HVAC system is border line now AND you are considering a load controller for your home, I would recommend you stay with the same size system you have now.
Use this table below to use as a guide to know if your HVAC system is oversized (the only true way to know what size AC your home needs is to do a Manual J load calculation).
5 ton 1650 – 2000 sq ft
4 ton 1500 – 1600 sq ft
3.5 ton 1300 – 1450 sq ft
3 ton 1100 – 1250 sq ft
2.5 ton 900 – 1050 sq ft
2 ton 700 – 850 sq ft
If your home size fits and size of AC unit within these guidelines your AC system would qualify as “slightly oversized.” Even though we have put oversized AC systems in a bad light before, using an oversized system with the strategy laid out can be an advantage.
Why is having an oversized system a good thing?
A slightly oversized AC system (with the items below) will let you leverage super cooling much more effectively. Super cooling is the ultimate way to game APS new rate plans and utility companies demand charge. The loophole in APS’s new rate plans and in many utility companies demand based rate plans is that off-peak energy is ridiculously cheap… $0.05 per kWh compared to $0.14 per kWh with conventional rate plans. With super a cheap off-peak rate plan E-27 for SRP customers and Saver Choice Max for APS customers, you “super cool” your home during off peak hours to 72 degrees. Then when peak-hours come from 10-2 pm for SRP or 3-8 pm for APS, you raise the thermostat up to 84 degrees. With a well sealed home, your home’s temperature will never get about 80-82 degrees during the middle of the summer and your AC unit will never kick on.
The problem with A/C’s that are sized just right for the house is that they aren’t designed to reach 72 degrees in the summer. They can maybe get to 78 degrees during the heat of the summer and it will run constantly. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s what A/C contractors are shooting for with a perfectly sized system (read why it’s important to size you’re A/C properly here). With an oversized system, reaching a lower thermostat setpoint is easier and you’re beating APS at it’s own game by pre-cooling your home for pennies.
Now if you have a slightly over-sized A/C system now but are not considering getting a load controller (see below for homes that would NOT be a good fit for a load controller), it’s best to size your system right and take advantage of what a properly sized A/C system can do for your comfort, your energy bills and your air quality.
2. Have Good Insulation and Well Sealed Ductwork
Having a well insulated attic and sealed ductwork also plays an essential role in the super-cooling strategy. It’s important to keep all that cool air INSIDE your home once you’re A/C has done all that hard work. If you’re home is leaking 30% of its air into the attic before it ever gets to your rooms and you’re insulation is below the rafters, all the cool air will leak out like when you first shut off your car A/C in a hot parking lot. The ROI for putting more insulation and sealing the ductwork makes sense and we like to say that you are lowering your energy bills without raising the thermostat.
3. Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat is not as essential as #1 and 2 are, but it sure makes life easier. The ability to set-it-and-forget-it reduces the friction of having to remember when to adjust your thermostat each day. Smart thermostats like Nest, Eco Bee or Lyric are not recommended with load controllers because of the 5 minute time delay after the thermostat has been turned off. A regular programmable thermostat is the best option.
4. Single Story Home
Why a single story home and why not a two story home? A single story home has more attic area to add insulation to, whereas a two story home has more wall area that cannot have insulation added (it can, but it can be cost prohibitive). Having more attic insulation will help keep all the super cooled air inside your home compared to a two story home which has great heat gains from less wall insulation and from the stack effect of warm air rising to the 2nd floor.
What Homes Are Less Than Ideal For Load Controllers?
1. Smart Thermostats
Smart thermostats do not like load controllers because they are designed to have a continuous power supply. When the load controller kills the power to the smart thermostats, it takes 5 minutes for the thermostat to reset itself. This can conflict with the load controller calling for the AC to turn on and off during peak hours and lead to high temperature swings inside. So when the load controller is calling for the A/C to turn on, the smart thermostat may still be in re-boot mode and unable to turn the system on.
2. You Have An Air Conditioner That Was Properly Sized For Your Home, Or Slightly Undersized
A properly sized A/C system is good thing for so many reasons and I am not advocating to oversize your A/C system on purpose. The ideal situation is if you’re A/C unit was recently installed so you’re not going to pay for a properly sized unit anytime soon (and it happens to be oversized). However if your home did have a Manual J calculation done and your unit is properly sized a load controller may not be best for your home and here’s why: to use the super cooling strategy a properly sized AC system will likely not be able to take your home’s temperature past 76 degrees. It’s simply too much load for your unit to handle. Then when peak hours come during the hottest part of the day and you raise the thermostat up to 84 degrees, your homes’ temperature will rise much quicker from 76 degrees than from 72 degrees and you’re A/C system will likely turn on multiple times. Will it be enough to still save money on your energy bills? Yes, but not as much as the home sitting at 72 degrees.
3.You have an unpredictable schedule that lets you work from home some days
To take full advantage of demand control (penalty) rate plans, the supercooling 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 supercooling plan will be difficult to do because, of course we need to be comfortable in our own homes!
Breaking APS and SRP’s Rate Plans Down
For APS customers the rate plan you want to choose is the Saver Choice Max or Saver Choice Max Tech plan. For SRP customers, it’s the E-27 plan. Under these plans APS off-peak rate is only $0.052 per kWh compared to APS peak hourly rate of $0.087 per kWh plus a $17.44 per day demand fee, and SRP’s off-peak rate is only $0.042 and $0.063 on-peak and with a demand charge of $9.59 for the first 3 kW and $17.82 for the next kW and $34.19 for each additional kW. We’ve worked out the numbers and if you can avoid the daily demand charge, the savings is significant. If you can’t avoid the demand charge, your energy bills are going the same or slightly higher! That’s a huge difference, and that’s why it’s so important to be able to follow a set schedule.
Homes That Should Avoid Having A Load Controller
1.Work from home, or you are at home during the summer afternoon
If you work from home, have a parent or spouse that spends their day at home, and then following the supercooling plan is harder to follow than if you are gone for work Monday through Friday on a regular schedule.
2.You “have to have the air set at 74 degrees all day”
I can’t blame those that are creatures of comfort. I crossed the line at my house when I quietly turned up our thermostat one degree at a time during the summer to experiment our upper limit comfort levels and as my family was starting to sweat and get more uncomfortable each night my wife finally caught on and now get an earful anytime I want to touch the thermostat. My wife now has total control of the thermostat and it pains me to have lost that battle. She keeps the thermostat set between 76-78 in the summer now and I can’t do anything about it. Needless to say that I am not supercooling our home if she’s at home during the day and I my load controller is currently inactive.
I would not recommend load controllers on your home if you have medical conditions that require your home be kept at a certain temperature or you run a day-care or nursing home from home. There are other ways to save money on your energy bills, but a load controller probably wouldn’t be the best thing.
With APS lowering their rebate amounts, it’s not all bad news. SRP customers were delighted to hear their SRP rates were lowered this past summer and now the SRP rebate program has increased. Even if you have had an SRP energy audit in the past but have not done any upgrades, your home would qualify for these new rebate amounts. Homes must have an energy audit performed by a company like Green ID to qualify.
Beginning November 1, 2018 SRP homes having duct sealing or insulation upgrades performed can enjoy increased rebates! See the table below for SRP new rebate changes.
SRP Rebate Program Changes
The SRP shade screen rebate will remain the same at $0.80 sq ft, as will the energy efficient air conditioner rebates from $400-$800 and Nest thermostat rebates of $75.
Can I Submit My Own SRP Insulation Rebates?
The SRP Home Performance With Energy Star program provides rebate incentives for homeowners who have a certified energy audit performed on their home for only $99. Once the energy audit is complete, the contractor will provide recommendations to improve the comfort, air quality and energy efficiency of the home and facilitate SRP rebates on the homeowner’s behalf. Homeowners are not able to apply for the insulation or duct sealing rebates themselves under the program. The energy auditing contractor must create a HPXML file to submit to SRP with the house specifications in order to qualify for the rebates and the rebates can either come off the top of the cost or be assigned to the homeowner. SRP typically takes 2-6 weeks to process the rebate checks. Homeowners that choose to do the insulation themselves will not qualify for the insulation rebate as contractors are trained to meet Energy Star’s strict installation requirements.
There are several critical items that must be done for every insulation job to make sure the insulation is not compromised because when it comes to blowing insulation, the preparation is almost as important as the depth.
By doing these upgrades before you insulate your home, you’ll be sure to have a properly sealed and insulated home.
Will My Home Qualify For An Energy Audit?
Not every home needs an energy audit however most homeowners are misled into thinking they need to replace all their windows or go solar to reduce their energy bills. By having an energy audit done on your home, you are getting a comprehensive test of the house to find the true problems. We don’t send a commissioned sales person to do a “free inspection” and then turn around and use the same recommendations on every home. Our auditors actually spend 2-4 hours in a home, just performing our tests that measure airflow, room pressures, HVAC efficiency, duct leakage, air leakage and so much more. Only then, based on our numbers will we recommend solutions for your home. I tell homeowners all the time, if we find that your home is in good shape, our auditors will let you know that. There’s no games with our energy audits and that fact that most of our energy auditors have been with Green ID for 6+ years is a testament to their expertise. We also complete and apply for all the rebate paperwork on your behalf and even take the cost of the rebate out from the start. To find out if your home is a good fit for an energy audit, complete SRP Home Analyzer form and see where your home stands.
Be sure to take advantage of SRP rebate increase while it lasts because in recent years, SRP rebate amounts have varied and decreased much more than increased.
Here are 9 tips from Green ID to make sure you’re not gobbling up too much energy this Thanksgiving!
1. Turn it down!
If you’re planning on having plenty of people over for your feast, lower the thermostat a few degrees before they arrive. The combination of warm guests and food will compensate for your decreased temperature.
2. Your refrigerator is running...
Take a look at your refrigerator doors! Firstly, keep an eye on them to make sure that they are closed firmly. Secondly, test them to make sure the gaskets are in good shape. You can do this by closing the door on a dollar bill. If the dollar bill falls out or can be pulled out easily, your seals may need to be adjusted or replaced.
3. Check your pans!
Keep the lids on your pots and pans while cooking! This technique keeps more heat in and allows you to lower the heat of your burners a bit!
4.Use the microwave.
Go with your microwave instead of your oven when you can. Your microwave uses less than half the amount of energy that your traditional oven does and it cuts down on time.
5. You do not always have to preheat...
Preheating isn’t always necessary. Your oven doesn’t need to preheat when you’re using it to broil or roast. When your oven does require preheating, allow it to preheat for just five to ten minutes. Preheating the traditional oven for five to ten minutes should be plenty of time.
6. Close that oven door!
Keep that oven door closed! Every time you open that door up to check on your dish a large amount of heat is lost and it takes a considerable amount of energy to restore the heat in the oven.
7. Make your cooking time count.
Cook as much of your meal at one time as you can. While using your oven, try to cook multiple dishes at one time. Even if the cooking directions say that they’re supposed to be cooked at different temperatures, they can often be cooked together. If dishes are cooked within 25 degrees F of the directed temperature they will turn out just as good!
8. Self-cleaning is not always necessary.
Avoid using the self-cleaning option on the oven. Unless a deep clean is completely necessary, stay away from this feature. Instead, use a damp cloth with some dish soap. If you do decide to use this feature, start it right after you finish cooking while the oven is still hot.
9. Cool the Leftovers.
Allow your leftovers to cool down before putting them in the refrigerator. Letting the foods cool off a bit before placing them in your fridge means that it won’t need to work as hard or long.
You can find great heating and air conditioning contractors of all sizes. What makes a great HVAC contractor? Experience, caring about the quality of the work and good customer service are the magic ingredients that are easier said than done. Even if a AC contractor has all these ingredients that make up a great technician or contractor they probably do not have the experience or know how to solve home performance issues like the comfort problems or high energy bills. Many AC contractors default to adding a return in a hot room or blow and go (just blowing more insulation in the attic on top of whatever is existing) and it can leave homeowners short... not solving their comfort or efficiency issues.
Lack of Home Performance Know-How
Call it the Achilles heel of the HVAC industry but AC contractors have all but ignored home performance even though it has huge impacts on the effectiveness of new and existing AC units. Air conditioning contractors are getting pushed out of their comfort zone with home performance. Now not all AC contractors ignore the elephant in the room but many small and large AC companies do. How do we know this? When you perform over 2000 home energy audits you get to see all sorts of situations and get to fix all kinds of messes left over by HVAC contractors. Someone homeowners have trusted AC contractors who are highly recommended and put on a well deserved pedestal but talk to them about home performance, the HVAC poster child can turn into the jealous step sister Drazella and can end up making themselves look like fools. We have seen countless homes that have had "energy audits" done by HVAC contractors and who were supposed to have done home performance work including duct sealing, air barrier sealing, air sealing and insulation realignment. I was shocked to discover duct board put in the wrong location to create a thermal boundary in the attic and the AC contractor charged the customer for this! Their home performance work was done all wrong.
Wrong Airflow Recommendations
Installing a new high efficiency air conditioner is only as good as the old ductwork that is in the attic. In older homes, air conditioning systems were designed to match the old HVAC system and have the opportunity to be upgrades with the new unit. Too many air conditioning contractors just consider the unit, and ignore the ductwork. If the ductwork is only sized for a 4 ton system, but you are putting a 5 ton AC system on, your home will home get 4 tons of air! In Phoenix, this happens way too often and it leads to comfort, air quality and high energy bill complaints.
We've seen that air conditioning contractors typically love to add a return in a room when homeowners have a hot room in the summer time. We rarely see this work out as a good solution though, more often we are the ones getting calls from homeowners still having issues that are not fixed and AC contractors know just enough to make the problem worse but not enough to actually fix it. Proper airflow recommendations can fix a hot room, but it takes a whole home approach and the experience to know which recommendations to install.
For HVAC contractors
This section is for air conditioning and heating contractors to help understand and practice home performance more proficiently. Just like it would be silly for homeowner to buy a set of gauges and interpret temperature/pressure charts without knowing what they are doing, without an understand of how a home works as a system, specific upgrades like insulation or ductwork sealing can be meaningless or worse, even harmful to a homeowner. To take it a step further, even if the owner of the company becomes BPI certified to do energy audits, an install crew that is used to doing new AC installs day in and day out, may be clueless as to how to create a proper thermal barrier in the attic, or how to run a room pressure test to measure the effects of air sealing a home. Without careful planning and oversight of a crew, their energy efficiency installation work can be a waste of a homeowners money.
What commonly happens is that the AC contractor performs an energy audit with an agenda but their recommendations come out narrow and cookie cutter... they are the same for each house. Then the installation crew that does the work doesn't know how to do it properly or has too little oversight to correct mistakes as they occur and the work is done wrong. In the home performance, energy efficiency industry we have a saying that "99% right is 100% wrong" and it's critical that energy efficiency work gets done right the first time. Why? Well when you blow a bunch of insulation over bad work, it becomes hard to find the mistakes and we may never get a second chance to fix the contractors problems.
Unless you are doing the work yourself, or can check it was done right before and after the insulation goes in, it's best not to get into home performance because you are likely hurting more customers than helping them. While there is no denying that home performance and heating and air conditioning are complimentary and should be done as pairs, home performance is a different animal entirely and requires staff dedicated to its success. That means if you decide to offer home performance upgrades, you'll need at least one dedicated staff to perform home energy audits, lead a crew to ensure the job is done correctly and set up systems and checks to ensure that it gets done right the first time. What systems and checks should you use? That answer is found from actually doing the field work and learning where the pitfalls are and where guys most often make mistakes or take shortcuts, find hiring a manager who has that experience.
There is nothing wrong with offering to add another return to a hot room, or dabble in airflow recommendations but just realize that no one solution is likely going to solve your customers true issues like a whole home performance solution can.
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