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Home Performance Guide

November 1st, 2019 BY First American Roofing

Home performance is how all the systems in your home work together as a whole. Your heating and cooling, the roof, your insulation, and the rest of your home should all work cohesively as one unit. If you are having issues with things like ice dams or drafty rooms, the problem can be a sign that your home performance is poor, and something along that chain is broken. At First American Roofing and Siding, we always look at your home as a cohesive system and strive to make sure your home performs as it should.

Signs of Poor Home Performance

Ice Dams Come Back Every Winter

Ice dams should not happen every year. First, the dangers of removing ice dams yourself are very high, and unattended they can fall or damage your home if they get too big. Ice dams are a sign that you have poor insulation and air circulation in your home and attic. First American Roofing can help repair and improve roof venting, air circulation through the vents and attic of your home, and add air sealing and insulation to prevent ice dams from happening every winter.

Ceiling Stains After the Spring Thaw

If you’ve ever noticed stains on your ceiling after a rainy season, or after the winter melt, you likely have a leaky roof. A puncture or hole in the roof, or even small leak, is the second leading cause of stains on the ceiling. We will determine the position and resolution of your leak and help prevent future leaks while ensuring no mold remains.

Drafty Rooms or Hallways in Your Home

If you feel your home is too cold, despite your heat working, this could be due to poor circulation and insulation in your attic. Your attic may need air sealing and new or more insulation that will help keep heat in and cold out. We have had customers notice immediate results of cold rooms warming up after air sealing gaps in the attic alone, followed by insulation.

Mold on Your Bathroom Ceiling or Walls

When warm, humid air from a hot shower meets a cool ceiling from a poorly insulated interior, the result can be mold. It can also be from poorly ventilating bathroom fans. They should be cleaned and maintained to ensure they pull all the warm air out of the bathroom.

Getting a Home Performance Test

Getting a home performance test done by First American Roofing can be the first step towards evaluating your home performance and determining improvements you can make.

Home Blower Test

When conducting a home blower test, a fan is placed near the main entrance of the house and depressurized. This process sucks all the air out of the interior, which then would suck exterior air into the home. The technician running the test can then walk through the home and use tools to find where outside air is leaking into the home. Using tools like heatless smoke, or special thermal cameras to detect changes in temperature, the technicians can find spots that have even the smallest leak. In the end, your home will be given a score on air-leakage to help determine the next steps for improving your home’s performance by sealing those spots.

Infrared Scan

A thermal imaging infrared scan of your home can help find spots that are drafty or don’t hold heat, or cold, well. The infrared scan will be able to read temperature changes in your home, and this can indicate poorly insulated spots, or determine a leak that needs to be sealed.

Combustion Safety Test

A combustion safety test scans your combustible appliances like your stove, furnace, and boiler for any gases or fumes. This can determine their efficiency as well as their safety. Inefficient heating or cooling can be stemming from your appliances, and not necessarily your insulation.

Ways to Improve Home Performance Efficiency

Air Seal Your Attic

The most beneficial thing you can do for insulating your home is keeping the air from transferring, which is called air sealing. Air sealing is important because it keeps heat and moisture from escaping. To visualize what we mean by air sealing, it has to do with holes drilled by electricians that guide wiring down to all your home’s outlets. If you were to take off the faceplate of your outlet or light switch, you would see the opening in the wall, where all the wiring is located.

If you were to follow that wiring up to the roof or attic, you would see it goes through a hole about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide in the attic, covered by some type of board or plate. If these holes are not sealed, that warm or cool air that’s regulating your home’s temperature can escape right through your outlets and out the top of your home.

Keep Bathroom and Kitchen Vents Clean

The fan in your bathroom is intended to pull out steam that, if consistently left in the bathroom, can lead to mold and mildew growth in your bathroom. It can also peel wallpaper or ruin paint over time. It should be cleaned at least once a year. To clean it, first shut the power off at your circuit breaker to ensure no accidents. Unscrew the cover of the vent and remove as much dust inside as possible. Clean and dry the vent cover and return it to its place. This can help it suck steam out more efficiently, so it spends less time in your bathroom.

Oven or exhaust fans should also be cleaned once a year. Kitchen fans should often have a grease or air filter in it that needs to be removed and cleaned, or replaced each year. Having proper ventilation in your kitchen can help with maintaining your home’s heating and cooling system. It can help the entire home run efficiently together without having extra heat or smoke filling your home, which throws off your home’s performance.

Make Sure Your Home is Well-Insulated

Types of insulation typically used are fiberglass and cellulose. Fiberglass insulation is made up of extremely fine glass fibers. It can come as rolls or a loose filling. It works to trap pockets of air and keep in warmth or cold. It is very commonly used, as it’s inexpensive and very easy to install. It is important to wear safety gloves and glasses when handling fiberglass insulation. The tiny glass fibers can get into pores in the skin or eyes and cause itching and rashes.

Cellulose insulation comes in a few different forms but generally in loose-fill or dry-wet spray fill. It’s a great, green alternative to fiberglass insulation. It contains recycled paper material, or sometimes other plant material. Its flexibility makes it easy to fill any shape or size area, including going around pipes or wires.

Home Performance Materials

Insulation

Re-insulating, not just adding insulation to your home, can improve your home performance exponentially. We can help you choose the proper insulation that would work for you, and also walk you through air sealing to ensure your insulation installation isn’t all for nothing.

Trees and Shrubbery

Yes, your landscape plays a part in the overall home performance. A strategically planted tree or bush near your home’s exterior can provide the right amount of shade or windbreak to keep your home nice and warm, or cool, as it should be.

Fluorescent Lamps

Fluorescent lamps actually give off a bit of heat, and so in summer months, when you want to cool an area, you may be combating that with warm lights in your home. On the other hand, they are quite affordable and very energy efficient. So, even the lightbulbs you use throughout your home should be thought out to ensure true efficient home performance.

Window Plastic

Plastic window sealing kits can be a great way to insulate a drafty window or room temporarily. Old homes that would be costly to replace the windows can utilize window plastic as a great solution in the between your repairs or updates to your home. It can also be useful if you have a window in your shower, that you enjoy having the natural light, but hate any cold ruining your hot shower.

Home Performance Cold Weather

Living in the Upper Midwest, we know quite well that our homes need to be built to handle the most extreme weather and temperatures of winter. This means that the home performance systems that allow us to stay nice and warm in the cold weather need to work at top-notch efficiency. Your furnace, water heater, vents, fireplaces all need to be properly sealed, cleaned and functioning together as a unit.

Home performance assessments can determine any issues with your cold-weather systems, but there are a few things you can look out for before getting your home tested.

Drafty rooms and windows would be an immediate sign that your home is not properly heated or insulated. If you have your heat on, and it supposedly works properly, you shouldn’t have to feel cold in any parts of your home. This can be due to poor insulation, a blocked air duct or vent, or poorly sealed windows. Work with a contractor to figure out the reason you have drafty rooms. In the interim, you can also seal windows, especially old windows, with plastic. Plastic window sealing kits can be picked up at any hardware store, or online anytime. They can be a good temporary alternative to replacing or resealing your windows for the time being.

If you have a fireplace, be mindful of any drafts you feel while the chimney is sealed shut. Any leaks or cracks could allow the outside cold air to get into your home, or allow heat to escape up the chimney. There are tools you can use like chimney balloons to temporarily seal the area until you get repairs or a home performance assessment. We always recommend calling a professional before making any heavy repairs on your home heating appliances.

Home Performance La Crosse

The City of La Crosse is a beautiful town, right on the Mississippi River, and promotes a clean, sustainable area. The Mayor of La Crosse encourages the residents to get annual home performance tests. This year the City of La Crosse held an Energy Challenge to create an opportunity for local homeowners to improve upon their homes while also making a big impact on saving energy alongside their friends and neighbors.

First American Roofing, along with seven other Focus On Energy trade ally contractors took part in the challenge. The residents could signup for a spot to win a $500 grant, going to the first homeowners to get their home performance assessment and make their improvements. For residents who do not receive the grant, they can still benefit from all the incentives Xcel Energy and Focus on Energy provide for energy-efficient homeowners. Living in a city that cares that much about the wellbeing of their residents, and building a city that becomes more and more efficient, is what makes La Crosse such a great place.

We love participating in programs like this and are always excited to do home performance tests. The best times to do them are before the very warm and very cold seasons. These are when you are going to use the most HVAC in your home, and you should ensure they work to their best abilities in the most efficient way. A home performance assessment can tell you if they are, and what to do to improve on it if need be.

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