What is a windbreak?

A windbreak is a row or group of trees, shrubs, or structural elements (e.g. fences) that are used to block and direct the wind. Vegetative windbreaks are used in agriculture to prevent wind erosion or damage to field crops. For homeowners, windbreaks can be used to block harsh winter winds around housing. By planting windbreaks, homeowners can realize a savings in heating bills. The U.S. Department of Energy has more information about Landscape Windbreaks for your home.

 …

Which home appliances give off the most energy by way of waste heat, and how much do they contribute to my house being so hot in summer? What can I do about it? How do I know which appliances are more efficient and give off less heat?

A number of home appliances give off a significant amount of waste heat and when running, can increase the temperature in your home. As the temperature increases, it may be necessary to run the air conditioner longer in order to compensate for the increased heat and keep the home’s occupants comfortable. This in turn increases your overall energy costs. Appliances that give off heat when running include lighting (specifically incandescent and halogen lighting), televisions, dishwashers, stoves, and refrigerators.
In order …

What is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) per pound of coal compared to pound of wood that is released into the air when each is burned?

The amount of carbon dioxide released from coal and wood depends on the type of coal or wood consumed and the moisture contents of both. A very rough estimate is that for each unit of coal or wood consumed, 1.5 units of CO2 are released. Higher-grade coal has higher carbon content so the amount of CO2 released per unit mass would also be higher.

The major difference between the carbon released from burning coal and wood is that …

Is old insulation in heating and cooling ductwork hazardous to my respiratory health?

Depending on what the insulation type is and it’s age, this flexible ductwork could create health problems. The ductwork insulation material may be glass fiber or another product such as asbestos containing material. The only way to tell for sure is to have a certified public or industrial health lab test a sample to determine if it is glass fiber, asbestos, or another product. Before taking a sample of the material yourself, to avoid generating a hazard, contact the a …

What is a perm rating?

It is a standard measure of the water vapor permeability of a material. The higher the number, the more readily water vapor (in the gaseous state) can diffuse through the material. A perm rating of less than 0.1 is considered a Class I impermeable vapor retarder (which is also considered a vapor barrier); perm rating between 0.1 and 1 is considered a Class II semi-permeable vapor retarder; a perm rating between 1 and 10 is a Class III …

Do I need to insulate and weatherstrip the attic access door?

Yes, if the attic access door is within the living space and can open directly into the attic. Whether in a hot or cold climate, the access door should be treated just like an outside entrance door; it must be insulated and weatherstripped.

During cold and windy weather, heat loss and air leakage through uninsulated and non-weatherstripped ceiling openings is a major source of energy loss (resulting in higher heating costs). During the heat and humidity of the summer, where …

My attic is inaccessible. How do I check for insulation?

If an attic is not accessible, you should consider using an experienced energy auditor, or insulation contractor to assess your attic insulation level(s). An auditor, or contractor using special diagnostic equipment, may be able to determine existing insulation levels and opportunities for additional energy savings. In some cases, the only way to gain access to the attic and determine insulation levels is to cut into the attic from the inside or the outside. For more information, contact your local Extension …

What does the acronym SIR mean?

SIR refers to “Savings to Investment Ratio.” It is basically a calculation of whether a modification to a home will pay for itself in energy savings.  SIR is a most often used by the U.S. Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance program to determine the cost effectiveness and energy savings of applying weatherization measures (e.g. adding additional insulation to the attic).

It is the ratio of the savings generated by the weatherization project to the cost of the project. SIR is …