5 Ways to Improve Homeowners' Energy Efficiency Outdoors
When most people think about ways to save energy in their home, their minds first go to insulation. It makes sense that homeowners would want to focus on insulation—after all, when you minimize air leaks, you can cut down on your use of central heating and cooling units, resulting in tangible savings on the next utility bill.
However, insulating a home’s interior isn’t the only way to provide great energy savings. As a home energy professional, you should talk to homeowners about exterior methods of saving energy that they may not have considered yet. Here are a few subjects to bring up.
Energy-efficient windows. If the homeowner you’re working with lives in an older house, they may want to completely replace their windows in favor of something with a higher energy rating. New windows can be strategically placed to maximize solar heating in the winter and minimize it in the summer. Homeowners should work with a professional and use a site plan to determine where their windows will be most effective. In regions with a long cooling season, homeowners can also add a highly-reflective film to east- and west-facing windows in order to block some of the sun’s heat.
Overhangs. One exterior window treatment that homeowners often overlook is the roof overhang. Overhangs work best over south-facing windows because they can help block the sun during the summer and, if oriented properly, let in sunlight during the winter. Overhangs work best for houses that are currently under construction or undergoing major renovations, as a number of passive solar design factors (including latitude, window size, and illumination levels) will need to be taken into account. Existing homes may still benefit from awnings or lattice-type panels, however.
Geothermal heat pumps. This type of heat pump uses underground pipes to capture ground heat—which remains fairly consistent year round—in order to warm the house in the winter and cool it in the summer. One thing you’ll need to be sure to explain to homeowners about this project is that there’s a relatively high up-front cost: because of all the piping that needs to be buried deep in the ground, homeowners can expect to pay $15,000 to $20,000 for the installation. However, a geothermal heat pump can make up for it relatively quickly by saving anywhere between 30 and 70% on home heating and cooling bills.
Exterior doors. While caulking and weatherstripping can help reduce air leaks for exterior doors in older homes, some homeowners may find it’s a better investment simply to replace their doors with newer, more energy-efficient ones. Talk to homeowners about choosing a door with a steel skin, polyurethane foam insulation core, and magnetic stripping as weather stripping. This is one of the most energy-efficient types of exterior doors and, if installed correctly, it won’t require any additional weatherstripping.
Cool roofs. Homeowners in regions with long cooling seasons can benefit from a cool roof, which will reflect sunlight and absorb less heat in order to reduce air conditioning needs. The good news for homeowners is that they don’t necessarily need to replace their entire roof to get these benefits; while some people do choose to install new reflective tiles or shingles, it’s also possible to use a reflective paint on an existing roof. When talking to homeowners, be sure to mention that the benefits of a cool roof extend beyond savings on their cooling bill; because the roof is retaining less heat, it is likely to have a longer life and fewer repair needs.
There are, of course, many ways that homeowners can save energy inside their home as well, but don’t neglect to discuss the exterior features that will help reduce energy usage. Energy saving needs to take the entire house—inside and out—into account.
Josh Weiss-Roessler is freelance writer who often covers topics related to home construction, improvement, and renovation. He’s also co-owner of WR Writing, a content marketing service that helps businesses, including many construction and renovation companies, to find new leads through blogs, social media, and web content.
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