In our previous article, How Your Attic Affects Home Energy Efficiency we discussed how an attic affects home energy usage. In this next part of the series, we will discuss another commonly overlooked area of your home that affects energy efficiency, the basement. Typically, people don’t concern themselves with heating or cooling the basement and since it is below the main level, most of it is used primarily for storage, it is one of those “out of sight, out of mind” things and we just know to keep the door closed because it’s cold down there! In the summer, the basement may be a cool reprieve from the warmth in the rest of the house. If a home has a crawl space, it can be even more overlooked and stealing just as much energy from your home, especially if the floor and walls are earth rather than concrete. In this article, we will discuss a few ways your basement affects home energy and how you can maximize its efficiency.
Whether or not your basement is insulated is a big factor in how energy efficient it is. The law of thermogenics states that heat will move from warmer areas to cooler areas. If your home is heated to a cozy 70 degrees and your basement is only 55 degrees because it is only 20 degrees outside, your heated air, meant to warm your living space, will move to the basement to warm that area. If your walls are insulated, concrete serves to further trap the warmed air within its walls. All this means that you are wasting a lot of energy warming air that does not need to be!
Insulating your basement also helps to prevent moisture problems as well potential radon problems. Insulation also helps with freezing issues! So, when you are thinking to yourself, “should I spend the time, money, and energy to insulate my basement?” in terms of energy efficiency, the answer should be a resounding YES! It is recommended that if your home is located north of Alabama, insulating your basement walls is strongly recommended. It is estimated that adding basement insulation or improving existing inadequate insulation can save you upwards of three to four hundred dollars. The verdict is still out on basement ceiling insulation, however, insulating the basement floor can be a practical choice. When deciding whether or not to insulate the basement floor, consideration should be taken for potential flooding and what kind of floor you intend to install. Floor insulation should only happen after walls are insulated first.
Insulating a basement is not quite as easy as insulating your attic was, but is still completely doable. If your home’s basement is already completed, it is too late to install middle layered insulation, which is the most expensive but causes the least problems. If you are ambitious, you can place external insulation between the concrete basement walls and the ground or house siding. The most common place to insulate an existing basement is internal. Because of excess moisture in the basement, insulating the basement has a few more barriers to overcome. Using plastic coated insulation can cause molding when water is trapped. A combination of insulations is the most cost-effective and efficient way to insulate your basement and prevent moisture problems. If you choose to insulate a crawl space, it should also be ventilated to avoid trapping moisture.
If your basement has windows, they can greatly affect the energy efficiency. The purpose of basement windows is to help provide light to a dark space as well as improve ventilation and air circulation throughout your home. It is important to make sure that the windows are energy efficient and not allowing cold air or moisture to enter the home. A storm window can reduce air leakage and the exchange of moisture, and can also reduce heat loss by ten to 20 percent! Caulking and weatherstripping around the window can aid in reducing air leakage around the windows.
House-wide ventilation is important for more than just avoiding breathing stale air. Temperature differences within the home as well as compared to outside, affect air pressure within the home. If a home does not have sufficient ventilation, theoretically, it could combust! All homes, even the best-sealed ones, have some air leaks. Purposeful ventilation is provided through vents and chimneys. These places include dryer and stove vents. Fans assist in mechanical ventilation, whether air conditioning is installed or not. Proper ventilation helps reduce moisture problems by allowing a well-ventilated space to “breathe.” The difference between a well-ventilated basement and a poorly ventilated space is most obvious in the smell and the dank feeling of moist air.
Understanding the importance of your basement in your home’s energy efficiency cannot be underestimated. Your basement can easily cost several hundreds of dollars annually. Although improving your basement or crawl space energy efficiency may be relatively more expensive and moderately more difficult than other home improvement projects, it is well worth it. An energy efficient basement can be felt, in terms of your wallet’s weight, as well as comfort in the space. If you made your basement energy efficient, it could easily transition from a cold, dark storage area that the door is kept closed onto a comfortable additional living space. Contact us at Apex Home Energy Savings for a free home energy audit to discover how efficient your home is and where improvements can be made. We can happily provide a free estimate for any repairs or upgrades.