Rather than focusing on a single component, such as single-paned windows, an old air conditioning system, or leaky ductwork, a participating contractor will assess how improvements to all of these components can work together to provide:
Many air leaks in homes are fairly obvious, such as around windows, doors, and electrical outlets. But others, like those in attics, around chimneys, and through recessed lighting fixtures, are often the more significant sources of energy loss in a home. Sealing air leaks is critical to improving the overall efficiency of your home and will make your heating and cooling system perform better. Along with air sealing, your contractor may recommend that you add insulation. Many older homes are not well-insulated, and some have no insulation at all. Properly installed insulation in walls, floors, and attics provides for more even temperatures throughout the house and results in a quieter, more comfortable living environment that is easier to heat and cool.
Many homes have leaky ductwork and poor air flow, resulting in stuffy and uncomfortable rooms — regardless of the thermostat setting. The home performance contractor may recommend sealing your home’s ducts with mastic, metal tape or spray-on sealant, and balancing the duct system to optimize air flow to all rooms. Insulating ductwork in attics, crawlspaces, and some basements can also help to ensure that your home will be more comfortable.
If your furnace or air conditioner is more than 10 years old, your contractor may recommend that you replace it with high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment that has earned the ENERGY STAR label. Installed correctly, these units can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs. Make sure to insist on a quality installation of your cooling equipment, in particular. Studies show that half of all central air conditioners in U.S. homes never perform to their advertised capacity and efficiency due to incorrect installation. The EPA has introduced ENERGY STAR Quality Installation Guidelines to help ensure that your cooling equipment is properly installed by a contractor to deliver efficiency and comfort.
Quality Installation Guidelines are based on industry best practices to help avoid common cooling equipment installation problems like incorrect sizing, insufficient refrigerant charge and airflow, and poorly sealed and improperly balanced duct systems. Only selected contractors have the training and certifications necessary to conduct installations that meet ENERGY STAR Quality Installation Guidelines.
For more information on how to ask for a quality installation of a new or replacement central air conditioner system, check out ENERGY STAR Quality Installation.
Energy used for lighting and appliances can account for half of your home's total utility bill. As a result, the home performance contractor may recommend ENERGY STAR qualified products, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, electronic equipment, light fixtures, and compact fluorescent bulbs. An energy- and water-efficient hot water heating system may also be recommended.
Once you’ve taken steps to increase your home's efficiency, you may also want to consider adding renewable energy systems, such as solar electric (photovoltaics) or solar hot water, to further reduce your utility bills.
A local Home Performance with ENERGY STAR sponsor (a State Energy Office, utility, or nonprofit energy efficiency organization) is responsible for ensuring that participating contractors maintain high standards for quality. This typically includes providing specialized training for contractors and conducting quality assurance inspections to verify that Home Performance with ENERGY STAR projects get done right.
Find more information on Home Performance with ENERGY STAR in your area.