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When it comes to money, common sense typically kicks in. For instance, we would never shred or burn a $100 bill. It makes no sense, and it’s also illegal to destroy U.S. currency. Money is too hard to earn. We respect money. We would never waste money. At least not on purpose ...?

However, the vast majority wastes money unknowingly. Lots of it. The reason we waste this money is we are typically unaware of where it is going until someone points it out. A great example is lost heating and cooling efficiencies that are quietly slipping away every day; year after year. Being proactive will stop these wasted energy dollars from being lost.

Deb and I discovered lost energy dollars going through the roof of our condo during the first few years we lived there. We may never have found the problem if it wasn’t for having a Blower Door test performed. This whole-house pressure test measured airflows and helped locate air leakage. The Blower Door test indicated there was a wide-open chase that housed piping and ductwork from our first floor to the fourth-floor attic.

The open chase allowed a chimney effect to draw air from all four floors and dumped tempered air into our attic and out the roof vents. After finding the problem, we sealed off the chase near the attic.

We also did heat scans to verify if our insulation was installed correctly. It wasn’t, so we made improvements. We saved a lot on energy costs. A side note is this was new construction, and thankfully the builder is no longer building in our community.

Many types of construction in our community hide heat losses fairly well. It’s never safe to assume homes are problem-free. For instance, a John Henry’s technician found a 50-year-old, three-bedroom ranch home that had a return air duct being fed from an attic. Energy costs were approximately 40 percent higher, and the home was always uncomfortable. There probably are more of these homes in our community.

Another energy-waster example is in homes that have dirt floor crawl spaces that function as return air systems. The exterior walls of these crawl spaces are a common source for heat loss. The dirt floors contribute to dirty air that gets distributed throughout the homes on a regular basis. They can also be a source of mold.

It’s best to get rid of crawl space return air systems and have ductwork installed. Sealing all ductwork can reduce air leakage and heat loss by 20 to 30 percent; especially in crawl spaces, attics and behind walls.

Let’s also include ductwork that has been installed under concrete floors and covered with soil. It also provides ideal conditions for mold and should be replaced with ductwork above the floor. Ductwork below the floor should definitely be cleaned and tested for mold. Better yet is relocating it.

Other ways to reduce heat loss or heat gain is by installing quality windows and doors. Many options are available, including window thickness or types of tinting that are especially beneficial to reduce heat gain from the sun. Quality windows and doors increase comfort as drafts are eliminated and relative humidity levels are easier to control. They also reduce outside noise.

Typically, new windows and doors properly installed will have a better seal around them too. That’s important, because a one-eighth inch air gap 36 inches wide is equal to a 2.4” hole punched into a wall!

There are other ways to reduce energy costs. One of the best is to install high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment; especially variable speed heat pumps for added savings and comfort. LES pays rebates on high-efficiency equipment.

An electronic air filter can allow up to 40 percent more air to pass through it than a standard air filter that has to be changed every two to three months. That saves energy too.

Simple improvements such as adding insulation in homes can save 30 percent or so in heating and cooling efficiency.

Of course, it’s important to have heating and cooling systems serviced regularly to achieve maximum energy efficiency and reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s good for our planet too.

These energy-saving examples can save you money year after year. Energy saving starts as soon as you make improvements.

Wouldn’t it be great to cut your energy consumption substantially, be more comfortable, have healthier indoor air quality and extra money in your pocket? That’s really the bottom line.

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L Magazine editor

Mark Schwaninger is L magazine and Neighborhood Extra editor.

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