New Jersey residents are spending more money to heat and cool their homes. Many homeowners are not getting the comfort they are paying for because homes often suffer from cold spots, rooms that are too hot or too cold, ice dams, drafts, building rot, and mold and mildew problems. These may all be common signs that the house is not properly insulated, that the heating/cooling system needs repair or replacement, or that moisture in the house is not being effectively controlled through ventilation. In fact, most homes leak so much that it is the equivalent of leaving a 3’ x 3’ window open all year round.
What is Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®?
The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program, sponsored by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program, uses a whole house approach to make homes of any size or style more energy-efficient, lowering energy costs by up to 30 percent. Each participating contractor is accredited through the Building Performance Institute (BPI), a national resource for building science technology that sets standards for assessing and improving the energy performance of homes. BPI Accredited contractors participating in Home Performance with ENERGY STAR use the advanced diagnostic equipment to test the home and identify necessary energy efficiency improvements.
What is a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Assessment?
This is the first step towards improving a home’s efficiency and reducing energy bills. During the assessment, the BPI Accredited contractor will evaluate heating and cooling equipment, insulation levels and air infiltration. The contractor will explain to the homeowner what improvements can be made, as well as the cost of making the improvements. During the assessment, the contractor will perform a number of tests on the home using the latest diagnostic equipment and building science principles to determine what areas will benefit from energy efficiency upgrades. Specifically, the contractor will test the home for air leakage using a blower door, and will look for opportunities to improve the home’s insulation, heating and cooling system, windows, appliances and lighting.
Why do homes develop mildew and mold?
Mold and mildew can occur when warm, moist air condenses on a cold surface. Many building products will support mold growth, especially wood-based products. Mold in a home can often go undetected since it tends to occur on the coldest surfaces, such as closets on outside walls (especially when the walls are improperly insulated), behind furniture and in attics and basements. The presence of mold in homes is typically a sign of insufficient ventilation, uncontrolled air movement or excessive humidity levels. A BPI Accredited contractor can perform diagnostics that indicate air leakage paths and insulation conditions to determine the home’s particular needs. Since molds are usually caused by a combination of problems, a home performance assessment is recommended to effectively develop a plan of action to help remedy the problem.
Why do ice dams form on the roof?
Ice dams form when the snow on the roof melts and re-freezes, causing the ice to back its way under the roof shingles. Further melting can occur at this point, causing water leaks and damage. A major reason for ice melting on the roof is warm air from the home leaking into the attic, moving past the insulation and warming the underside of the roof. This can happen even when there are thick amounts of insulation in the attic, if the warm air is allowed to by-pass the insulation via air gaps and leaks between the attic and heated living spaces below. This means insulation alone is not always enough to correct the problem. Stopping air leaks combined with proper insulation and ventilation are typically required to remedy this problem. A BPI Accredited contractor using special testing equipment, such as a blower door, is a proven way to locate and measure air leakage in your home.
What indicates that a heating system is running inefficiently and unsafely?
The telltale signs of an improperly functioning heating system include varying temperatures from room to room, the house feels too hot or too cold and the heating unit cycles on and off excessively. Homes with forced air heating systems use a duct system to distribute air. Most ducts, whether old or new, have cracks, gaps and holes that waste about 25 percent of the treated air. In addition, it is important to have fuel-burning equipment like fireplaces, water heaters, dryers, and furnaces checked for proper venting to avoid harmful gases, including carbon monoxide, from entering the home.
Can programmable thermostats help lower costs?
Properly controlling a thermostat can help reduce your heating and cooling costs. ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostats can be set to adjust the temperature at pre-determined times while the homeowner is away from the house or sleeping. Residents enjoy greater comfort conveniently, without wasting time or energy. However, only a whole house approach can result in maximum energy savings.
Why is insulation important?
Whether a home is old or new, inadequate or improperly installed insulation can lead to high energy costs, uncomfortable rooms and structural problems. Heat moves from a warmer area to a cooler one. Proper insulation levels slow the movement of heat through the walls, floors and ceilings, keeping heat inside in the winter, and outside in the summer. A BPI Accredited contractor will check insulation levels and make sure it is installed properly, and ensure that all the holes, cracks and gaps in the home are sealed for air leakage.
Why is ventilation important?
Ventilation is a vital component to every house. Ventilation systems are important for healthy, safe and comfortable living space. These systems help remove moisture from the air to help avoid mold, mildew and condensation problems. Ventilation also helps eliminate potential indoor air pollutants, cooking odors or stale, stuffy air. A house has to “breathe” and proper ventilation can help ensure your home has a steady, healthy amount of fresh air.
Why is air sealing important?
Insulation alone is not always enough to make sure your home is energy efficient. Stopping air leaks combined with proper insulation and ventilation are the three major components required to ensure a home is tight while providing a sufficient supply of fresh air. A BPI Accredited contractor using special testing equipment, such as a blower door, can locate and measure air leakage.
Are the condition of the doors and windows important?
It’s important to have well-insulated, high-performance windows and doors. Homeowners will see and feel the difference through improved comfort, reduced condensation and lower utility costs. Look for the ENERGY STAR symbol to identify the most efficient windows, skylights, and sliding glass doors.
When buying new windows, consider U-value and Low-E coatings. U-value is the measure of the window’s ability to insulate. Lower U-value means less heat flows through the windows. Low-E (low emissivity) window coatings are thin and transparent, permitting visible light to pass through, while effectively reflecting radiation - keeping your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
How can a homeowner improve the efficiency of a water heater?
Typical recommendations include insulating an existing tank, replacing the existing tank with a more efficient model using the same fuel, or replacing the existing tank with another fuel source, usually natural gas or a heat pump water heater. If the hot water pipes are not insulated in a cold basement, a BPI Accredited contractor will often recommend insulating the first six feet of pipe.
Why is health and safety testing important when conducting home energy improvements?
BPI Accredited contractors have been trained to inspect and test combustion appliances such as heating equipment, ovens and water heaters for proper performance to help ensure safe operation. This evaluation includes measurement of carbon monoxide produced by the appliance and testing to ensure that potentially dangerous combustion gases are not introduced into the home. BPI Accredited contractors test for combustion safety problems before and after performing any energy improvements to your home.
What should consumers look for when buying new appliances?
When it’s time to buy or replace home appliances, be sure to look for models with the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR qualified appliances incorporate advanced technologies that use 10 to 50 percent less energy than standard models, saving you money on utility bills while reducing air pollution.
For example, an ENERGY STAR qualified clothes washer uses 30 to 40 percent less energy and saves about 7,000 gallons of water each year. Many dishwashers with the ENERGY STAR are built with innovative technology to clean better while using less energy and water. Today’s ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators use half the energy of a 10-year old conventional refrigerator.
How can consumers improve the lighting in their homes?
When replacing light bulbs or installing new light fixtures, consumers will save time and money when they choose models that have earned the ENERGY STAR. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), today’s ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) equal or surpass the quality of light found in conventional incandescent bulbs. CFLs use two-thirds less energy and last up to 10 times longer. ENERGY STAR qualified lighting and fixtures are available in a variety of styles and sizes.
What options are available to help finance Home Performance with ENERGY STAR improvements in New Jersey?
Convenient, low-interest financing is available to help pay for home improvements made by participating BPI Accredited contractors under the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR initiative. There are no application fees or closing costs, and the loans do not require a down payment. Additional assistance may be available when homeowners meet certain income eligibility requirements.
What is the best way to select a contractor?
Not all contractors are the same. Contractors participating in this initiative have earned certification through the Building Performance Institute (BPI), a national resource for building science technology that sets standards for assessing and improving the energy performance of homes. A BPI Accredited contractor is trained and skilled in building science technology. We are proud to be one of the only BPI Accredited contractors in Gloucester County. Click on the "Schedule Tech" form below to set up a Home Performance Assesment.