Getting to the 'top' of energy and comfort issues

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(BPT) - While rising energy prices can lead to higher heating and cooling costs, any spike in energy bills should invite further investigation. If your home’s heating and cooling bills are higher than normal, checking with your neighbors to see if they’ve noticed similar cost increases is a good first step. If owners of similar sized homes in your area are not noticing higher utility bills, it may be time to take a closer look at specific aspects of your home’s heating and cooling system.

The individual components in a home’s HVAC system work together to help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The furnace, air conditioner and thermostat are typically the most obvious parts of a system. However, other less visible elements, such as attic ductwork and insulation, also contribute to the HVAC system’s overall performance and energy efficiency.

The ductwork in a home’s attic distributes conditioned air to rooms throughout the home. Leaks in ductwork, loose joints or poor connections between ductwork components can allow conditioned air to escape into the attic before it reaches the intended part of the home. The amount of insulation in an attic also plays a role in comfort and energy efficiency. According to EnergyStar.gov, 9 out of 10 American homes are under-insulated.1 Sufficient levels of insulation help reduce heat transfer between the attic and living spaces in the home.

Warning signs of issues in the attic

What are some warning signs that a problem may be lurking in the attic? One tell-tale indicator that your home may have “attic issues” can be observed by simply looking at your home’s roof on a cold morning. If frost or a dusting of snow appears on the roofs of neighboring homes while your home’s roof is frost/snow free, this may be an indicator that your attic is under-insulated or that heated air is escaping attic ductwork and “heating” the roof deck so that frost/snow melts away.

Other signs of a problem with ductwork may be noticeable inside the home. Rooms that are consistently too warm or too cold, or that have a musty odor, may indicate compromised attic ductwork. An increased level of dust inside the home is another sign that ductwork may need attention. Leaks in attic ductwork can allow dust and various particulates inside the attic to enter ducts. Distributed throughout the home, these particulates can negatively affect air quality.

Detecting issues can inform solutions

While a frost-free roof on a frigid morning or torn ductwork is an obvious sign of a problem, attic ductwork issues are often hard to see by simply looking around the space. A contractor trained to inspect ductwork and assess insulation levels in the attic can identify issues that may reduce your comfort and lead to higher energy bills.

Training and tools play a crucial role in identifying problems in the attic. For example, Owens Corning equips Certified AirCare® Professionals with training and tools to assess attic insulation and ductwork. The information gathered through a thorough inspection can inform recommendations to support comfort and energy efficiency. An HVAC technician should include an attic inspection as part of routine maintenance visits as well as service calls. During the inspection, a technician should check ductwork for leaks and may use special thermal technology that visually shows where air is escaping from the ductwork.

A Certified AirCare® Professional also will measure attic insulation and advise you on the energy savings that could potentially be achieved by adding insulation to bring your home up to the levels recommended by energy codes for your home’s climate zone.* Today’s energy codes specify higher levels of insulation compared to homes built even a few decades ago.

It is important to remember that a higher energy bill does not necessarily indicate a problem with equipment. An inspection by a heating and cooling contractor who brings a system perspective to caring for a home’s air and the attic infrastructure that supports it can help improve a home’s comfort and energy efficiency season after season. To find a Certified AirCare Professional in your area, visit https://www.owenscorning.com/en-us/insulation/find-hvac-contractor.

*Energy savings may vary.

2023. Owens Corning. All rights reserved.

1 EnergyStar.gov – Why Seal and Insulate? https://www.energystar.gov/saveathome/seal_insulate/why_seal_and_insulate