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.
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 home 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
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 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.
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. Even different types of siding play into the performance of your home if you don’t have adequate insulation under it.
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 in Hot Weather
As much as cold weather can affect your home’s performance, so can hot weather. Anything that might affect your home’s HVAC system and energy usage can drastically bring down your home’s overall performance. So we’ve got some tips on how to combat those swings in temperature and keep your home running as efficiently as possible in the steamy summer months.
There are several ways to ensure your home stays cool in hot weather without your energy bills skyrocketing. Many things contribute to your A/C system working harder to cool the same amount of space. If you notice your bills increasing year by year, and you find yourself cranking the air conditioning way up just to stay comfortable, there could be many issues going on. Some things that can affect your HVAC system in the summer include:
Your Air Conditioner is Old
Regular maintenance is vital to keeping your home’s performance running efficiently and your systems running well. But maintenance can only get you so far as your HVAC systems age and become outdated. Imagine the stress your system goes under, especially here in the midwest. They must handle 40 below cold and then shift to 100 degree days with humidity in the summer. That’s a lot to handle!
So as those systems get older, they start to lose that “oomph” they once had. And this can simply be because the parts are getting older, they’ve discontinued parts so you can no longer repair it, and it’s just worn away from the inside out. Depending on usage, it’s recommended you replace your air conditioning unit every 10 to 20 years.
Your Ducts are Dirty
The ducts in your home are the highway for heating and cooling to be dispersed throughout your home. That warm or cool air brings with it dust, cobwebs, and all kinds of junk that over time will stack up on the walls of the ducts and at all of your vents. Not only does this mean you are breathing in all of that dust and junk, but it’s lessening the efficiency in which those ducts can carry your cool air in the summer.
With a less efficient duct system, you aren’t getting the proper amount of air coming out of your vents. Thus, you might find yourself cranking up the air conditioning just to feel comfortable. But this means the system is working double-time to get adequate cooling throughout your home. It’s essential to keep your duct systems clean. Air filters can help do this, but only if you change them regularly (about every 6 months). You can also call a local air duct cleaning service to clean them out once a year, in-between seasons. You’ll be so surprised when you get your ducts cleaned out and have the A/C blasting out of your vents, finally!
Your Windows and Doors are Leaking
Your home’s performance really depends on the integrity of your home’s air sealing ability. Imagine you have a bucket you’re trying to fill with water, but that bucket has even the smallest hole on the side. As water leaks out of that hole, you have to continue filling it with the faucet but never actually getting it full. This is what happens when your home’s doors or windows aren’t properly sealed.
Small cracks in the trim or on the bottom of doors and even your attic can all leave your home susceptible to air leaks. Those air leaks mean the heating and cooling you’ve worked so hard to fill your home with are slowly escaping every minute. Making sure all areas of your home that lead to the outside (front and back doors, windows, attic, fireplace) are all well sealed and insulated to ensure the cold temperature you’ve set your thermostat to is staying inside and not escaping. This not only makes your systems work extra hard but increases your energy bills exponentially.
Your House Doesn’t Have Enough Shade.
One way to improve your home’s performance that has to do with your home’s exterior is ensuring you have trees and bushes surrounding your home that can help insulate and shade it from the elements. In the Northern Hemisphere, the south side of any home will get the longest amount of direct sunlight throughout the day. The longer that sun shines on your home, the faster it’s going to heat up. And the more your house heats up, the more your air conditioner has to work to cool it down.
Planting some nice trees and shrubbery on the south side of your home, or whichever side has large windows welcoming UV rays, can help shade and insulate that area of your home. If you don’t want to go through the expensive and lengthy process of landscaping, black-out curtains can give the same effect.
Black-out curtains come in all sizes and colors and can be essential to providing shade from the sun, as well as keeping your windows from letting out the nice cool air. They work wonders in the winter as well, keeping in the heat.
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.