After the Winter, when people no longer need to run their AC unit so much to heat their homes, many start thinking about how to reduce their energy consumption through the Summer months. Nobody wants to spend more on energy than they have to. Along with the AC unit, windows and doors are key components for keeping a home cool. Spring is a good time of year to check them out to see if they need cleaning or repairs, or to determine if they need to be replaced.
Review your energy bill.
Bills from the JEA include your energy costs for the past year. It’s easy to compare the amount for the current month to the same month a year ago. If the bill has gone way up for no apparent reason, the reason may be that your house has become less energy efficient. You’ll certainly want to figure out what caused the increase because that’s not the kind of problem that gets better on its own.
Cracks around the outside of your windows and doors will allow air in and out. Wherever possible, seal cracks with a quality caulking product. Sealing up cracks with caulk is an inexpensive job that most anyone can handle.
Look for condensation between the panes of glass. If there is any condensation, it’s an indication that at least one of the panes is leaking. The air between the panes acts as an insulator. When one of the panes in a window develops a leak, you lose that insulation.
To check doors, have someone stand outside while you shine a flashlight around the doors. If your helper can see light coming through, you have a leak.
Hands on inspection
Difficulty opening or closing a window, as well as any sticking, may be an indication of swelling and possible damage from water. Open each window to see if it’s operating properly. Then, try to gently rattle your windows. If a window rattles or moves around in the frame, it’s leaking air.
There are lots of single pane aluminum windows in Northeast Florida in that condition. Many of them were installed many years ago. Unfortunately, there’s no good way to fix them. To make a dwelling energy efficient, those windows have to be replaced.
Check the seals with a lighter or candle.
Without actually allowing the flame to touch the window, carefully move the flame around windows and sashes. Any air current from a draft will cause the flame to flicker.
Check the weather stripping.
Weather stripping for windows and doors is inexpensive. Like caulking up cracks, it’s a job that many homeowners can take care of for themselves.
If, aside from opening and closing, the door moves around, it probably leaks. The threshold should also be securely in place so that it doesn’t allow air in or out at the bottom of the door.
The Dollar Bill Test
One more way to see if your windows are sealing like they should is by closing them on a dollar bill. If you can easily slide the bill out, you can be sure that dollar bills, in the form of higher electric bills, are leaking out of your house, and are “gone with the wind.” To make this test more true to life, you might want to do it with a twenty-dollar bill.
Patio doors are generally larger than other doors and windows in a home. If your patio doors are not energy efficient, they will certainly cost you on your energy bills. Patio doors should close easily with no gaps. As with your windows, look for condensation between the panes and check for any movement in addition to sliding open and closed. If there is condensation, or if the door rattles, there’s some leakage which could be costing you money.
Don’t forget about the Air Conditioner
It’s obvious that your AC unit is the big key to keeping your home cool during the hot weather. What’s not so obvious is that it works hand in hand with your windows and doors. If your windows and doors are energy efficient and they seal the house the way they should, they will reduce the number of hours the AC unit has to work to keep the house cool. Reducing the number of hours, the AC runs will obviously increase its lifespan. Given the cost of a new AC unit, that’s an important consideration.
Proper AC maintenance is very important. Good maintenance will prolong the life of your AC unit by several years. A dirty air filter will make your air conditioner work harder. Air filters have to be replaced periodically. However, it’s easy to forget to do that. If you have a programmable thermostat, it can keep track of the number of hours that an air filter has been in service. When it reaches a designated number of hours - say 120 - it will begin to flash to indicate that it needs to be changed.
If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you might want to develop a schedule for changing the filter. To keep things simple, during the months when your AC runs a lot, you might want to do this once per month at the beginning of the month. AC filters aren’t very expensive and changing one out is something many homeowners are capable of.
Turning your thermostat up a few degrees can have a significant impact on energy bills. The US Department of Energy suggests keeping the thermostat at 78 degrees when you’re home, and turning it up a few more degrees when you are away or sleeping. If you have a programmable thermostat, it can be programmed to change the settings at designated times.
One more thing you can do to beat the heat through the Summer months is to use ceiling fans and tower fans. Using fans and your air conditioner together will keep the cool air circulating very effectively.
In this article, I’ve discussed how to inspect your windows and doors to determine whether they are sufficiently energy efficient to keep your house cool during the hot months of Summer. I’ve also mentioned the importance of proper maintenance of the AC Unit and I’ve provided a few other tips on how to keep energy costs down.
For information about HomeRite Windows and Door’s energy efficient line of windows and doors, call 296-2515 or visit their showroom at 4801 Executive Park Court, Building 200, Suite 207, Jacksonville; FL 32216.
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HomeRite is a window and door dealer that specializes in energy efficient, quality windows and doors with warranties and service to match. The company has been in business since 2005. HomeRite has partnered with a manufacturer that has been producing high quality products and providing excellent customer service for over 60 years. Windows and doors from HomeRite are some of the highest quality, most thermally efficient windows and doors on the market.
HomeRite products add substantial value to their clients’ properties. HomeRite is a member of the United States Green Building Council, a non-profit organization comprised of leaders across the industry working to advance environmentally responsible buildings.
Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. He and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 30 years. They strive to match homeowners with the right windows and doors for their homes and budgets. They make the home improvement process pleasant with first-rate, energy-efficient products, affordable pricing, and award-wining installers who employ the best practices and who always treat customers and their property with the utmost respect.