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Category: Home Insulation

Ductless Heating and Cooling Systems: Not Your Father’s Heat Pump!

Ductless Heating and Cooling Systems: Not Your Father’s Heat Pump!

As temperatures have plummeted in Seattle over the last few weeks, you’re probably trying to keep your home comfortable while still maintaining a low electricity bill. Many people are aware that ductless heating and cooling systems (also known as ductless heat pumps) provide heat at a fraction of the cost of baseboard and wall heaters, are highly efficient and are easily installed.

A common myth surrounding ductless systems is that they do not perform well at extreme temperatures. While this myth is true for older “unitary” heat pumps, ductless heating and cooling systems have benefitted from the latest technology advances and are able to operate efficiently at temperatures below freezing. A recently released video from NEEA (the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance) features a contractor in Libby, Montana who has used ductless heating and cooling systems to meet the needs of many homeowners in a town that receives over 55 inches of snow each winter and has temperatures below freezing six months of the year.

Up to $1200 of incentives are available through Community Power Works for ductless systems, so there is no reason not to turn up the heat inside when mother nature turns it down outside. For more information about ductless heating and cooling systems, please visit www.GoingDuctless.com or go to Community Power Works to learn more about incentives.

Aaron Winer is an associate program manager at Fluid Market Strategies, a mission-driven consulting firm that provides management, marketing and education services with an emphasis on efficiency and renewable technology programs, sustainability consulting and carbon management services. Aaron has extensive experience with ductless heating and cooling systems and enjoys sharing his technical knowledge on a regional and national level. read more

My home has no insulation. What should I do?

My home has no insulation. What should I do?

Fret no more! Addressing your home’s lack of insulation is easy (and relatively inexpensive), and you can dramatically increase the comfort, health, and efficiency of your home in no time.

Step 1. Sign up for a deeply-subsidized energy audit.

Investing $95 in an energy audit through Community Power Works will help you choose the appropriate upgrades for your home. This assessment lasts two to four hours and results in a customized report of your home’s energy performance. The auditor uses specialized equipment, such as infrared cameras, to pinpoint insulation gaps in your walls, ceilings, and floors, and they can depressurize your whole house to uncover the source of drafts. In addition, your auditor will perform a series of tests to assess combustion safety, indoor air quality, and any moisture damage risks.

Step 2. Pair insulation with air sealing.

Insulation alone will not eliminate drafts and increase comfort, so make sure to opt for air sealing whenever possible. If insulation is like your favorite fleece jacket, air sealing is like a hard-shell rain jacket. Without a rain jacket, cold air can move quickly through the fleece and leave you chilled. Put a rain jacket over the fleece, and the hard-shell acts as an air barrier, keeping you nice and warm. This phenomenon occurs because fleece (or insulation) is meant to create a “dead air space” to help retain body heat (or home heat).

Step 3. Attic, crawl space, envelope.

Best practice dictates you or your contractor approach air sealing and insulation in the following order: read more

Ask the Experts: What is Air Sealing?

Ask the Experts: What is Air Sealing?

Air sealing is one of the most important measures for increasing the comfort, health, and efficiency of homes.  It prevents air from exchanging between the attic, crawlspace, and living space while also preventing insects and rodents from entering the home.  It helps to maintain the temperature of the house and may increase indoor air quality.  Air exchange management is the foundation of a whole house energy upgrade.

Proper air sealing should include attic hatches, can lights, fans, and all electrical or plumbing penetrations.  It should occur in attics, crawlspaces, and basements.  It can be achieved in walls by dense-packing with blown insulation. Air sealing will always also consider ventilation and combustion safety.

Home Insulation

Home Insulation

Air sealing is one of the most important measures for increasing the comfort, health, and efficiency of homes.  It prevents air from exchanging between the attic, crawlspace, and living space while also preventing insects and rodents from entering the home.  It helps to maintain the temperature of the house and may increase indoor air quality.  Air exchange management is the foundation of a whole house energy upgrade.

Proper air sealing should include attic hatches, can lights, fans, and all electrical or plumbing penetrations.  It should occur in attics, crawlspaces, and basements.  It can be achieved in walls by dense-packing with blown insulation. Air sealing will always also consider ventilation and combustion safety.

Freed From Shawls by Insulated Walls

Freed From Shawls by Insulated Walls

George Thompson was used to waking up or coming home and immediately wrapping a blanket or shawl over his shoulders to stay warm. His 1928 Broadview home was drafty and uncomfortably chilly most of the year—but the worst part was that he was paying to be cold. He kept his heater running in an attempt to warm the house and always felt a little cheated when he paid his heating bill.

Last fall, George saw a Community Power Works billboard asking, “Is your furnace burning cash?” The question resonated with him, and when he later learned about the program’s generous rebates while listening to KUOW, George decided to sign-up for a $95 home energy audit through Community Power Works.

The audit produced surprising results. “There was no insulation in the walls. Nada! Zip!” George explains.  To stop warm air from leaking out of his home, George reached out to Community Power Works contractor Neil Kelly.  The Neil Kelly crew insulated the walls and attic and used caulking to plug other holes.

George felt satisfied that he’d made a worthwhile investment, particularly during the free test out energy audit. “The before and after thermal gun pictures were very impressive,” he offers.  The insulation improvements will reduce George’s annual energy use by 26% and will allow him to go shawl-free if he pleases.  “Now I can sit at my kitchen table, drink a cup of coffee, and not have a shawl wrapped around me!”

His advice to other shawl-wearing Seattleites: “Do it! Take advantage of the subsidy today and have a comfortable home tomorrow.” read more

Community Power Works is a Seattle neighborhood-based building retrofit program that will achieve deep energy savings and create green jobs.