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					The Energy-
Smart Home
a guide for improving the efficiency,
durability, comfort, air quality and
safety of your home
HOUSE ORIENTATION AND LANDSCAPING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
PEELING PAINT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
ICICLES, SNOW MELT OR ICE DAMS ON THE ROOF . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

EXTERIOR DOORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
BASEMENTS, CRAWL SPACES & SLABS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
 Signs of Excessive Moisture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
 Foundation Insulation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
 Radon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
WINDOWS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
INSULATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
  Fiberglass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
  Rigid Board . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
  Cellulose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
  Foam Boards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
  Spray Foam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
AIR LEAKAGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
VENTILATION SYSTEMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
  Exhaust-Only Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
  Balanced Ventilation Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
HEATING SYSTEMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
  Furnaces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
  Boilers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
  Space Heaters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
  Woodstoves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
  Fireplaces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
  Electric Heat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16
  Taking Control of Your System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16
     Thermostats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16
     Zones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
     Outdoor Reset . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

    Buying New Heating Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
    Combustion Systems Safety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
                                                                                                                HOME INSPECTION — KEY CONSIDERATIONS
WATER HEATING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20            • Exterior                       • Ventilation
  Stand-Alone Storage Tank System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21                        • Doors                          • Heating systems
  Tankless Coil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21      • Foundation                     • Water heaters
                                                                                                                 • Windows                        • Appliances
  Indirect-Fired Storage Tank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21
                                                                                                                 • Insulation & air leakage       • Lighting
  Instantaneous/On-Demand Water Heater . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21
  Solar Water Heater . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22             To a trained eye, a house provides a wealth of information that
                                                                                                                 reveals how well the building is functioning. This guide will show
  Buying a New Water Heater . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
                                                                                                                 you what to look for throughout your house so that you can
COOLING YOUR HOME . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23                  improve its comfort, indoor air quality, durability and value while
  Seal Leaks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23     lowering your energy costs. This guide also will help you to identify
  Keep Out Heat from the Sun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23                     and prevent common health and safety problems found in homes
  Keep Out Hot Attic Air . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23               today. If you’re currently a homeowner or if you’re thinking about
                                                                                                                 building or buying a new home, this guide is for you. It’s full of
  Ceiling Fans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24
                                                                                                                 information that can help you make informed decisions about
  Air Conditioners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24         home improvements that provide the best value for your
  Central Air Conditioners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24               investment dollars.
APPLIANCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
  Cooking Appliance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26            MORE QUESTIONS?
  Clothes Dryer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26        Call Efficiency Vermont toll-free, 888.921.5990, or visit
  Clothes Washer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26  If you are a Burlington resident seeking
  Refrigerator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27       energy efficiency information, call the Burlington Electric
                                                                                                                 Department at 865.7337. If you are served by Vermont Gas Systems,
  Dishwasher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27
                                                                                                                 call 800.639.8081 or visit
LIGHTING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27
  Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27
  Overhead Fluorescent Lighting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28                    THE EXTERIOR OF THE HOUSE
  Mercury Facts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28
HEALTH AND SAFETY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29                HOW IS THE HOUSE ORIENTED & LANDSCAPED?
  Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30                            A home’s landscaping and orientation toward the sun affect your
                                                                                                               comfort in both summer and winter, as well as the amount of energy
TIPS FOR HIRING A CONTRACTOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32
                                                                                                               you’ll use. A house that is designed to take advantage of the sun for
SERVICES AVAILABLE TO VERMONTERS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36                                     winter heating without overheating in the summer is ideal. South-facing
  Home Improvements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36              glass admits the sun’s warmth in winter months. Because the sun is
  Building a New Home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36              angled higher in the summer, overhangs or awnings will block hot
  Buying Energy-Efficient Appliances & Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . .36                                   summer sun from coming in southern windows. Tile, brick or concrete
                                                                                                               on sunlit floors or walls can store heat while the sun shines and release it
  Do-It-Yourself Energy-Saving Tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37
                                                                                                               during cooler hours. Deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in
                                                                                                               winter) on east and west sides will provide sun-blocking shade in the
                                                                                                               summer. Position evergreen trees and hedgerows to block prevailing
                                                              THE ENERGY-SMART HOME — CONTENTS                 THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                          1
Peeling paint on the outside of a house can be caused by a variety of
factors. It may simply be that it’s once again time to paint the house, or
it could be that there is insufficient drainage for rainwater. Peeling also
may be caused by excessive moisture movement through an exterior wall.
This can be the result of rain being driven behind the siding, excessive
indoor moisture from an area such as an unventilated bathroom, or an
unbalanced forced-air distribution system.

Icicles may look quaint, but they are a sign of heat escaping your attic
and possibly other problems with the house, including attic moisture,
roof degradation, and interior leaks and water damage. And when icicles        INSIDE THE HOUSE
break off, they’re a hazard to anyone standing below.
In the winter, take a look at the outside of the house to see if there are
                                                                               EXTERIOR DOORS
any icicles or spots where the snow has melted on the roof. In the             Doors are typically only a minor source of energy loss in a house, but
summer, look for damage that could have been caused by icicles or ice          some differences among doors are worth noting. To reduce drafts, all
dams, such as broken gutters, damaged shingles along the bottom of the         doors should have airtight weather-stripping and a door sweep at the
roof, and mold on the inside of the attic or on the roof.                      threshold. Uninsulated solid wood or panel doors should be protected
                                                                               from the weather by storm doors. This not only will help save energy, but
To reduce or eliminate such problems, it is critical for ceilings at the top   also will make the door less susceptible to condensation, staining,
story of the house to be adequately insulated and have effective air           warping, splitting, swelling and rotting problems. A foam-insulated steel
sealing on the warm side of the insulation. This ensures effective air         or fiberglass door typically has five times the insulating value of a wood
leakage control so that warm air from living spaces isn’t leaking to the       door. Most doors can be adjusted to make them more airtight as well.
attic. Proper attic ventilation can reduce some of the icing problems but
does not address the root cause of the excessive heat loss. Refer to page
10 for some tips on identifying and stopping air leakage from living
                                                                               BASEMENTS, CRAWL SPACES AND SLABS
spaces into the attic.                                                         Your house may be built with a basement, a crawl space, or slab-on-
                                                                               grade (no enclosed space below your living area), or you may have a
                                                                               house built on piers. Any type of foundation plays an important role in a
    KEY CONSIDERATIONS OUTSIDE YOUR HOME                                       home’s durability, energy efficiency and comfort.
    • Building orientation         • Peeling paint                             ARE THERE SIGNS OF EXCESSIVE MOISTURE?
    • Landscaping                  • Heating systems                           Excessive moisture can cause structural damage and can reduce indoor
    • Foundation                   • Icicles, roof snowmelt, ice dams          air quality. In the summer, if warm and humid outdoor air is allowed to
                                                                               enter basements and crawl spaces, it will condense on the cooler inside
    You can make important observations about a home even before               surfaces. This can occur when foundation windows and vents are left
    entering it. Take a few minutes to consider the outside of a home          open when outdoor temperatures are above approximately 60º. The
    and you may find ways to significantly lower your energy costs.            result ranges from a musty smell at minimum to serious mold and
                                                                               mildew problems to, at worst, wet and rotting building components.
                                                                               A wet basement can cause moisture problems throughout the house.
                                                                               Make sure that there is a full perimeter drainage system on the interior

2                                                      THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                      3
or exterior of the foundation. As long as a proper drainage system is            WHAT ABOUT RADON?
installed and any dirt floors are covered and sealed with heavy plastic,         Radon is a naturally occurring gas that can enter some homes through
there’s no need for venting basements or crawl spaces in Vermont.                foundations. It has been implicated in health problems. You can
Look for signs of flooding such as white stains on the inside of                 determine whether radon is a problem in your home by testing your
foundation walls. Roof gutters and proper landscape grading will ensure          indoor air for at least three months. The Vermont Department of Health
that groundwater and rain move away from the house. Downspouts                   offers free radon test kits to Vermont residents. Depending on the
from gutters should be clean and should extend out and 10 feet away              severity of the problem, radon mitigation can be as simple as sealing all
from the foundation. A curtain drain installed a distance from the house         potential below-grade penetration points, including drains and cracks in
will reroute water from an uphill slope and direct it away from the              walls and floors. Managing higher concentrations of radon can be more
foundation.                                                                      complicated, however, requiring the installation of a radon evacuation
                                                                                 system. Seek the counsel of a radon-mitigation professional if you have
Air leakage into basements and crawl spaces during warm weather can              any concerns about excessive levels of radon.
be the cause of large amounts of moisture entry to your home. During
cold weather, air leakage can be the reason for excessively dry air in your
living spaces. To find air leakage locations in basements and crawl spaces,
look for moving cobwebs and daylight on the interior of the foundation,
especially where the wood sills sit on the foundation and also around
windows and doors. A professional energy auditor can use a “blower
door” to identify and quantify air leakage areas in your home.
All above-grade portions of foundation walls in
Vermont homes should be insulated, whether or
not a basement is intended to be part of the
living space. An insulated basement stays
warmer, making the living space floors above                                     WINDOWS
it warmer. If the foundation is in good                                          It’s generally not cost-effective to replace
condition and is well drained, the inside of                                     old windows for energy-saving purposes
the basement or crawl space walls should be                                      alone, because the high cost of new
entirely insulated from top to bottom. In                                        windows is rarely paid back by energy
some houses, it may not be practical to                                          savings. The cost-effective time to buy
insulate the foundation walls except during                                      high-performance windows is when you are
initial construction. In some of these cases,                                    building a new home, putting on an
the ceiling of the basement or crawl space should                                addition, or replacing damaged or
be insulated.                                                                    nonfunctional windows. It is often possible
Check for exterior foundation insulation by rapping with your knuckles           to repair and improve old windows to make them perform almost as well
and listening for a hollow (not a solid cement) sound. If you cannot see         as new ones but at a fraction of the cost. If your windows feel cold or
or feel insulation at the foundation, ask the previous owners or the             drafty, here are some steps that you can take:
builder if it’s insulated or possibly if the insulation is integrated into the   • Replace cracked glazing
wall. In homes with slab-on-grade foundations, exterior slab edges               • Be sure that sashes close and latch properly
should be insulated from the top edge to least two feet below grade.             • Use a window weatherization kit, available at hardware stores, that
For information about the type of insulation to use at the foundation,             includes weather-stripping and plastic covering
see page 7.                                                                      • Install storm windows

4                                                        THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                   5
If you buy new windows, look for the ENERGY STAR® label for northern
climates. The ENERGY STAR label is an indicator of high efficiency. Also       NOTES
look for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label. The
NFRC label shows you how energy-efficient a window is. Most notably,
look for these ratings:
A low U-factor indicates that the window has a high insulating value.
Look for a U-factor of .35 or less.
Windows that have a higher SHGC allow more heat from the sun into
the house. Place these on the south side of the house to take advantage of
low-angled sunlight during winter months. Use windows with a low
SHGC rating on east- and west- facing windows to reduce heat entry in
summer months. The high range of SHGC is .40 and above, while a low           INSULATION
SHGC-rated window is .32 or below.                                            Consistent, well-installed insulation throughout a house — combined
Also look for these features:                                                 with a continuous and effective air barrier — keeps you and your house
                                                                              warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The effectiveness of any
DOUBLE-GLAZING                                                                insulation is described in terms of its R-value. The higher the R-value,
Double-glazing can take the form of single-paned window plus storm            the lower the heat loss (in winter) or heat gain (in summer). There are
window or a window with two or more layers of glass built in.                 many insulation choices to consider. The type and amount of insulation
                                                                              you choose will depend on the particulars of your house and your
LOW-E                                                                         budget. Please note that insulation must be installed to the
Some double-glazed windows have a transparent, low emissivity (low-E)         manufacturer’s specifications and per local fire code.
coating on one or more layers of the glass that can reflect heat back into
the room in winter and back outside in summer. To identify these              MINIMUM RECOMMENDED R-VALUES
windows, hold a light up to the glass: a bluish reflection can indicate the   FOR TYPICAL VERMONT HOMES
presence of a low-E coating. With new windows, look for the NFRC              Flat Attics
label, which should confirm that a window has a low-E coating.                R-38 (12" of blown-in or poured cellulose, fiberglass batts or
GAS-FILLED                                                                    fiberglass loose fill)
Some double-glazed windows have two panes of glass with argon or              Ceiling Slopes/Cathedral Ceilings
krypton gas sealed between them. This minimizes heat loss through the         R-30 (9" of fiberglass or cellulose)
                                                                              Walls, Including Wood-Framed Basement Walls
WARM EDGE SPACER                                                              R-19 (5.5" of fiberglass or cellulose)
The best performing multipaned windows use edge spacer materials,
such as rubber, that are much better insulators than conventional             Foundation Walls
aluminum spacers.                                                             R-10 (2" of foam board, for cement or cinderblock walls, or spray foam
                                                                              for the inside of uneven surfaces like stone)
                                                                              If you want to determine the depth of insulation already in your attic,
                                                                              use a tape measure to probe in a number of locations. Wear a high
                                                                              quality dust mask or respirator while doing this. To check for insulation
                                                                              in your exterior walls, find a hole or gap in the drywall. Then insert a

6                                                     THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                       7
nonmetallic probe (a bamboo skewer works well) in the gap as a                 than fiberglass for spaces of irregular dimensions. Cellulose has a high
measuring stick. Insulation will make it harder to move the probe              recycled material content. Cellulose is blown or poured into cavities or
around in the gap.                                                             open attics. It can be damp-sprayed into wall cavities before drywall is
Proper installation is key. Poor installation of insulation can compromise
R-value and lower its performance by as much as 50%. A good                    Foam Board
installation covers a surface completely and to a consistent depth. Look       R-value: 4 to 6 per inch, depending on type used.
in attics and in walls and ceilings before installing drywall to see that
insulation is placed tightly around all obstacles                              Available Forms:
(such as electrical wires, boxes and plumbing),                                2' x 8' or 4' x 8' sheets, with and without facing (foil or paper).
without any gaps, folds or wrinkles.                                           Characteristics:
TYPES OF INSULATION                                                            Very good air barrier and insulator when properly installed. Closed cell
Fiberglass                                                                     foam board resists penetration by water and water vapor and is an
                                                                               excellent choice for insulating foundations. Boards with foil facings are
R-value: 2.5 to 3.5 per inch.                                                  effective vapor barriers. All types should be properly caulked or taped
Available Forms:                                                               around the edges and at seams. They also should be protected from
Batts (with or without paper or reflective                                     ultraviolet light and physical damage.
facing) or loose fill.                                                         Spray Foam
Characteristics:                                                               R-value: 3.5 per inch for open cell or 6.5 per inch for closed cell.
Easy to install but ineffective at blocking air
leakage. Performance is very dependent on the                                  Available Forms:
quality of the installation. Batts are intended for use in cavities that       Open- or closed-cell expanding foam material.
conform to exact batt widths. Loose fill, which can be poured or               Characteristics:
blown in by machine, tends to perform poorly in open attics because            Very good air barrier and insulator. Closed cell spray foams are good
it is very susceptible to air movement.                                        vapor barriers, have very strong adhesion properties, and conform very
Rigid Fiberglass Board                                                         well to irregularities within framing cavities, and are ideal for use on
                                                                               stone foundations. Spray foams require specialized installation
R-value: 4 per inch.                                                           equipment. They also should be protected from ultraviolet light and
Available Forms:                                                               physical damage.
Foundation insulation system or duct board.
Characteristics:                                                                NOTES
Effective at blocking air leakage if properly fitted. Very permeable to
water vapor.
R-value: 3.2 to 3.8 per inch
Available Form:
Loose fill manufactured from wood-based fibers, such as newspapers,
and treated to resist fire, pests and — in some cases — mold.
Very effective at blocking air leakage when installed at high density (3.5
pounds per cubic foot) in enclosed spaces such as wall cavities. Better

8                                                      THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                       9
                                                                                installed according to the manufacturer’s specification and per local fire
                                                                                Tips on How to Find Leaks Yourself
                                                                                • Check for attic-to-house leakage paths by lifting the attic insulation and
                                                                                  looking for gaps and cracks in the attic floor and ceiling underneath.
                                                                                • Check to see that these areas are sealed: Flues and plumbing vents, wire
                                                                                  pathways, gaps around recessed lights and fans, and chimney
                                                                                  penetrations through the roof.
                                                                                • Discolored insulation — on the warm side, at edges, or in the middle
                                                                                  — is an important clue since it means that dirt and dust are being
                                                                                  filtered by the insulation through air movement, indicating a significant
                                                                                  air leak nearby.
                                                                                • Have the pipes in the house ever frozen? Pipes generally freeze because
                                                                                  cold air blows across them. If there is heat tape on pipes or signs of
                                                                                  repaired frozen pipes, it’s a good indication that some work to reduce
                                                                                  air leakage is in order.
                                                                                • Icicles and ice dams are a sign of possible air leaks from the house to
                                                                                  the attic. See page 2 for more information on icicles and ice dams.
                                                                                • Dusty spiderwebs in basements and crawl spaces can indicate air leaks.
                                                                                • Walk along the inside of exterior walls of the house on a windy day
                  air leaking into the house from outdoors
                                                                                  with a smoking incense stick to help pinpoint drafts. When the smoke
                  air leaking from inside the house to the outside                moves horizontally, a leak is nearby.
                                                                                • Be sure that the perimeter of the box sill (where the first floor sits on
                                                                                  the foundation walls) and all of the penetrations through it are sealed.
If your house feels drafty or dry in the winter, it may have air leaks           NOTES
allowing cold, dry outdoor air into your living space. Sealing up leaks
and drafts in your home is usually the most cost-effective improvement
you can make. Most cracks and holes can be sealed with expanding
polyurethane spray foam from a can. If you have a lot of sealing to do,
consider buying a good quality foam gun that uses replaceable cans of
foam. You also can use rigid foam board cut to fit into holes and then
The most accurate and comprehensive means of pinpointing leaks is a
blower-door test conducted by a professional energy auditor. Efficiency
Vermont can help you find a qualified technician in your area to perform
this test. In new homes, the best time to inspect for and repair potential
leaks is just before insulation is installed so that typical leak sources can
be visually inspected and easily remedied. Air-sealing products must be

10                                                     THE ENERGY-SMART HOME    THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                        11
VENTILATION SYSTEMS                                                           move more air than the typical bath fan. It is essential that a fan never
We all want the air in our homes to be fresh                                  interfere with the operation of combustion appliances in the home (read
and healthy. By keeping the air free of                                       more about backdrafting in the Combustion Systems Safety section, page
pollutants — like toxins from some cleaning                                   18). Fans should exhaust to the outdoors through smooth wall ducts
products, cigarette smoke or off-gassing                                      with a minimum of bends, elbows and dips.
paints — and by lowering moisture levels                                      Balanced Ventilation Systems
that can cause condensation, mold and                                         Balanced ventilation systems use exhaust fans to expel indoor air as well
mildew, we protect our own health and                                         as ducts to bring in outdoor air. The most energy-efficient type of
prevent damage to our homes. Proper ventilation                               balanced ventilation system is one that enables you to retain some of the
is especially important in today’s well-insulated,                            heat from the air leaving your home. This is called a heat-recovering
airtight homes. Unfortunately, the best way to provide proper ventilation     ventilation (HRV) system. A fully ducted HRV is more costly to install
isn’t as simple as opening your windows. Open windows don’t reliably          than spot ventilation. However, an HRV is the most effective approach to
exchange the air in your home with fresh air, and they allow the air that     maintaining good air quality in your home.
you’ve paid to heat or cool to escape. This increases your energy bills and
can decrease your comfort in the house.
                      You can achieve effective ventilation in tight,
                      well-insulated homes by using a relatively simple
                      mechanical ventilation system. Mechanical
                      ventilation provides you with a level of control of
                      the flow of fresh air into your home. In fact, all
                      homes built after December 31, 2004, are required
                      by Vermont’s Residential Energy Code to have a
                      mechanical ventilation system. Systems range from
                      simple bathroom and kitchen fans that are on
                      automatic controls to whole-house heat-recovery
                      ventilation systems. The amount of energy used by
                      mechanical ventilation systems is far less than the
                      amount that is wasted in a leaky home.                  HEATING SYSTEMS
                                                                              Heating accounts for about half of a Vermont
                                                                              home’s energy needs. After your house and car, a
Exhaust-Only Systems
                                                                              central heating system is likely to be your largest
This type of system uses one (or more) exhaust fans to remove air from        purchase. It should last at least 20 years, so it’s
your living space. This process draws in outdoor air through the leakage      worthwhile to consider your heating options
points that exist in even the tightest houses. Typically, these systems       carefully. Heating systems can use a variety of
consist of one or two bathroom exhaust fans. These systems also can           energy sources: oil, natural gas, propane,
consist of a central fan with multiple air intakes in the house.              electricity, kerosene, wood, coal or the sun. If you
For optimal results, control your fan(s) with a 24-hour timer that            heat your home primarily with electric baseboard
automatically turns on the fan(s) when the house is typically occupied.       heat or portable or permanent electrical heat
Quiet, energy-efficient bath fans are widely available in Vermont. Look       sources, please call Efficiency Vermont. We can
for fans that are rated at less than two sones — the measure of perceived     help reduce your electricity costs.
loudness. You can find bath fans that use as few as 18 watts. Today’s
kitchen range exhaust fans generally are louder, use more power and

12                                                   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME    THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                  13
Typical types of heating systems:                                              the characteristics of the space intended to be heated, more than one
                                                                               unit may be required. If you have a constant need for supplemental space
FURNACES                                                                       heaters, you may have insufficient insulation and/or excessive air leakage
Furnaces distribute heated air through a system of supply and return           that needs to be repaired. If you need to use electric space heaters, take
ducts. Heated air enters rooms through supply ducts and is brought back        proper safety precautions. Space heaters should be positioned away from
to the furnace for reheating through return ducts. Some high-efficiency        any flammable materials and should not be left unattended.
furnaces also use high-efficiency fan motors sometimes called
Electronically Commutated Motors (ECM) or brushless DC motors.                 Unless operated exclusively by electricity, space heaters should always be
These motors use about half the power of a standard furnace fan motor          vented to the outside. The combustion process creates harmful by-products
and can thus reduce your winter electric bills. And if you have a central      (including carbon monoxide) in addition to large amounts of water
air conditioner, you can save on summer electric bills.                        vapor, and it is important that these pollutants be removed from your
                                                                               home. If you choose to use an unvented or “vent-free” heater in your
Furnace ductwork needs to be balanced so that rooms with supply                home, be aware that you must also have an oxygen depletion sensor
registers do not become pressurized and rooms with returns do not              (often integral with the unvented heater) and a carbon
become depressurized. Both of these situations can increase air leakage        monoxide detector. Unvented heaters must be used in
between indoors and out, which can contribute to poor indoor air               well-ventilated areas.
quality. Twenty percent or more of the heat your furnace produces can
be lost through leaky ductwork. To avoid this problem, use smooth-wall         WOODSTOVES
metal ducts sealed with foil tape or mastic sealant and then insulated.        Woodstove efficiencies can range from under 50% to
Avoid installing ductwork in unconditioned spaces such as attics, knee         almost 80%, depending on their construction and on
walls and crawl spaces. Clean and replace filters at least once per year or    how they are used. You can increase the
as often as necessary to ensure clear pathways for air.                        efficiency of your woodstove by keeping the
                                                                               stove temperature high enough to completely
BOILERS                                                                        burn the wood and combustion gases. Consult
Steam Boilers
                                                                               the manufacturer or your supplier for
Steam boilers heat water until it becomes a vapor and quickly distribute       recommended temperatures. You can purchase
the steam through pipes to radiators. The radiators distribute heat to         a temperature gauge designed specifically for
each room, and the condensed water then returns to the boiler (either in       woodstoves that shows you when your stove
the same pipe or through separate piping) for reheating into steam.            has reached optimal temperatures.
Hydronic Boilers                                                               FIREPLACES
Hydronic boilers (also called hot water systems) use pumps and valves to       Wood-burning fireplaces are great for aesthetics and ambiance, but they
move heated water to radiators, baseboard convectors, or radiant floor         typically lose more heat than they generate. Fireplaces also waste large
systems. Different areas of the house can be “zoned” so that the               amounts of the heat generated by your central heating system by drawing
temperature can be adjusted separately in each zone (see page 17).             in cold outdoor air through any leakage points in the house. Traditional
Insulate pipes and avoid installing hot water distribution in uncondi-         wood fireplaces are, therefore, best used when the central heating system
tioned spaces such as attics, knee walls and crawl spaces. Radiant floor       is not needed. Sealed-combustion gas fireplaces can be over 90% efficient
heat distribution systems should be insulated on the underside of the          and are thus a far better choice as a useful heat source. Wood-burning
floor.                                                                         fireplaces should have well-fitted glass doors and a source of outside air
SPACE HEATERS                                                                  for the firebox.
Space heaters are essentially “spot” heaters that heat a single room or        Woodstoves and fireplaces should not be operated for extended periods
even the whole house if it’s a small or very efficient house with an open      with just a smoldering fire because those produce substantial amounts of
floor plan. A wide variety of space heaters exist, using different kinds of    carbon monoxide, particulates and creosote.
fuel. Some have supplemental fans to help distribute heat. Depending on
                                                                               Well-seasoned wood burns cleaner and also optimizes the amount of

14                                                     THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                   15
useful heat energy gained. Be sure to close the damper tightly when the       Zones
fireplace/woodstove is not in use. A specially designed chimney balloon       Having multiple heating zones allows you to keep the temperature low in
or rigid insulation can help reduce heat loss up the chimney when it’s        rooms that are infrequently used. If you have a forced-air heating system,
not in use. To prevent chimney fires and blockage, keep chimney flues         you save energy by closing registers and doors in unused rooms.
clear of creosote and be sure that the chimney is in sound condition.         However, this can unbalance your ducted distribution system which can
Have a professional chimney technician inspect and clean all chimneys at      affect the efficiency of the system and can lead to health and safety
least once a year.                                                            issues. Please contact your heating contractor or Efficiency Vermont with
ELECTRIC HEAT                                                                 questions about zoning your forced-air heating system. With a hot water
Electricity is the most expensive energy source in Vermont, even as gas       system, it’s much simpler: Turn down the thermostat for the zones you
and oil prices rise. Not only does it cost you a lot of money to heat with    don’t wish to heat.
electricity, but the amount of energy used is far more significant than       Outdoor Reset
many people think. If electric heat is utilized during the coldest periods    With hot water systems, you can install controls that optimize the
of winter, Vermont’s energy demands will increase, ultimately leading to      efficiency of your system. The outdoor reset control senses the outdoor
higher electricity rates. If you use electricity to heat your home, please    temperature and adjusts the water temperature in your boiler
call Efficiency Vermont. We can help reduce your electricity costs.           accordingly. In this way, you maintain a comfortable house while
TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR SYSTEM                                                 heating the water only to the temperature that you need.
Whatever type of heating system you have, you can optimize its                BUYING NEW HEATING EQUIPMENT
efficiency through the way that you operate it.                               If the heating system in your house is older than 20 years, it’s near the
Here are three strategies to keep in mind:                                    end of its useful life. It’s a good idea to replace it before it fails. New
                                                                              systems are far more efficient than older models, so they will keep you
Thermostats                                                                   comfortable for less money. The indicator of efficiency is the AFUE
By turning the temperature down 10º while                                     (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating. The higher the AFUE rating,
you are asleep and while the household is                                     the lower your heating costs. Look for equipment with a minimum
away for the day (16 hours per 24-hour                                        efficiency rating shown on page 18. You can find the AFUE on the yellow
period) you can reduce your annual heating                                    Energy Guide tag attached to the equipment. Note that this rating applies
costs by as much as 15%. Use a                                                only to your furnace or boiler, not to the parts of your system that dis-
programmable thermostat to automatically                                      tribute heat. Both of the components need to be appropriately sized and
have your house warm for you when you get up and when you come                installed, or they can substantially reduce total system efficiency.
home at the end of the day. The energy used to bring the house back up
to a comfortable temperature does not exceed the energy you save while        Exception: Oil furnaces or boilers rated higher than 87% AFUE are not
the thermostat setting is lower.                                              currently recommended due to their higher maintenance requirements.
                                                                              When buying furnace and boiler systems, look for the ENERGY STAR
For any thermostat to function properly, it must be located in the space      label to ensure that you are getting high efficiency. Woodstoves, gas space
you want to heat. And keep in mind that you will not heat the room            heaters and fireplaces are not available with the ENERGY STAR label.
faster if you turn the heat up higher than you want the temperature to be.
Some thermostats rely on a mercury switch that needs to be level to be
accurate. For this reason as well as because of environmental concerns,
non-mercury models are recommended. If you replace a thermostat that
contains mercury, dispose of it properly at your local solid waste district
dropoff point. Visit for more information, or call the
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation at 802.241.3455.

16                                                    THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                     17
     EQUIPMENT                      RECOMMENDED MINIMUM AFUE                    I All fuel-burning equipment should be sealed-combustion,
     Gas or oil boiler              85%                                            having a dedicated outside combustion air source to the
     Gas furnace                    90%
     with high-efficiency                                                       I Any fuel-burning equipment or appliance that uses natural
     ECM* fan blower motor                                                         gas, propane, oil, wood or coal must be vented to the
     Oil furnace                    83%                                            outdoors. This includes heating equipment, water heaters and
     with high-efficiency                                                          gas clothes dryers.
     ECM* fan blower motor                                                      I Before installing heating equipment, have your chimney
     Gas space heater               80%                                            inspected, if applicable, to determine that it is safe and is
     Oil or kerosene space heater   85%                                            sized appropriately for the intended appliance(s). Have a
                                                                                   professional chimney technician inspect and clean all
     *Electronically Commutated Motor.                                             chimneys once a year.
                                                                                I Avoid the use of unvented heaters.
A key to optimizing your system’s efficiency is to make sure that it’s the      I Whether your heating system is old or new, have it checked
right size for your home. An oversized system not only will be more                and maintained periodically. For oil heating systems, a
expensive to purchase, but also will be more expensive to operate. This is         professional cleaning and tune-up should be done at least
because it will cycle on for shorter periods of time than an appropriately         once per year. Gas systems should be professionally cleaned
sized system will. This results in a fuel-inefficient system — much like a         and tuned every two years.
car getting worse mileage on short city drives than on long highway             I Keep all appliance venting ducts clear of blockages.
drives. Ask your heating contractor to perform a heat loss calculation of
your home in order to properly size your heating system.                        I Keep the area around your heating appliances clean and clear.
                                                                                I When installing fireplaces and stoves, follow manufacturers’
COMBUSTION SYSTEMS SAFETY                                                          required clearance distances from walls and floors.
Fossil-fuel-burning and woodburning appliances, heating systems and
water heaters create potentially lethal combustion gases. Ideally, these        I Keep combustible products such as gasoline, solvents, and
gases leave the house through a chimney or exhaust duct. However,                  paint thinners far away from fuel-burning equipment.
conditions can exist under which combustion gases are drawn back into           I Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on all stories
the house. This is called “backdrafting.” This section will explain how the        of your home.
draft process works and how you can lower the risk of backdrafting and
other hazardous conditions.
                                                                              Reducing Backdrafting Risk
The Draft Process & Backdrafting
                                                                              To reduce the potential for backdrafting:
Gases leave the house through a process called “atmospheric draft.”
Atmospheric draft occurs when the high temperature of the gas causes it       • All systems — Ideally, all systems that burn wood or fossil fuel should
to initiate and maintain an upward flow, or draft, out of the building via      be sealed combustion units, which provide air directly from the outside
the chimney flue pipe. However, the draft process can be overcome and           to combustion equipment. All new homes built after December 31,
reversed by negative pressures in the house created by exhaust fans,            2004, are required by the Residential Energy Code to have outdoor
clothes dryers and combustion appliances. This causes the flue gases to         combustion air delivered to all combustion appliances, including
enter the living space by spilling out the flue. Soot and debris under the      woodstoves and fireplaces. Another option is a power-vented unit,
draft hood is a sign that this has been occurring.                              which uses a fan to force exhaust out of the house.

18                                                    THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                   19
• Woodstoves and fireplaces — See that woodstoves and fireplaces have         STAND-ALONE STORAGE TANK SYSTEM
  tight-sealing doors and no chimney leakage to the inside.                   This is the most common type of water heater, typically using electricity,
                                                                              gas or oil to heat the water. Gas or oil water heaters offer relatively fast
• Unvented Heaters — If you choose to use an unvented or vent-free
                                                                              recovery times and relatively low operating costs when compared to
  propane or natural gas heater in your home, be aware that you must
                                                                              electric water heaters. Electric water heaters are the least expensive to
  also have an oxygen depletion sensor (often included in the unvented
                                                                              install and are a convenient solution for houses in which it’s difficult to
  heater). Unvented heaters must be used in well-ventilated areas in
                                                                              vent a gas or oil water heater. However, electric water heaters may be
  conjunction with carbon monoxide detectors. Also be aware that these
                                                                              expensive to operate.
  heaters introduce substantial amounts of moisture into your home,
  potentially leading to moisture-related problems.                           TANKLESS COIL
Other Important Safety Considerations                                         Common in houses with boilers, a tankless coil heats water right in the
To reduce the chance of fire, always maintain recommended clearances          boiler. There is no storage tank with this kind of system, so the boiler has
(distances from walls, floors and other combustible materials to the stove    to fire up almost every time someone turns on a hot water faucet. This
or fireplace). You can find out about required clearances from the            makes it a very inefficient water heater if the boiler is not already firing
manufacturer, the installer, your local code inspector or the fire marshal.   to provide living-space heat. Also, it usually can’t provide sufficient hot
                                                                              water for more than one use at a time. Its advantage is that it is the least
Never store flammable liquids (such as paint, gasoline, etc.) near            expensive type of water heater to install if a boiler is present.
combustion equipment. Fumes can be pulled into the air intake or flue
pipe, causing corrosion, and a spill can be quickly ignited by the flames.    INDIRECT-FIRED STORAGE TANK
                                                                              For homes with a boiler, a very cost-effective and efficient way to provide
                                                                              hot water is with a storage tank operated as a separate zone off the boiler.
 NOTES                                                                        This is called an indirect-fired storage tank. This type of system
                                                                              combines the advantages of having a separate storage tank, having a
                                                                              single appliance for heat and hot water, and using a fuel that generally
                                                                              costs less than electricity. Even though the boiler will come on during the
                                                                              summer months, this is usually a much more efficient method of getting
                                                                              your hot water than with a separate, stand-alone water heater. Some
                                                                              boilers have optional controls such as “cold start” or “outdoor reset,”
                                                                              which can increase efficiency. Your heating contractor can help you
                                                                              choose appropriate controls for your system.
                                                                              INSTANTANEOUS/ON-DEMAND WATER HEATER
                                                                              These are more efficient than standard storage tanks because they make
                                                                              hot water only when needed, and there is no tank full of water to keep
WATER HEATING                                                                 warm. Electric models are costly to operate and require a separate 100-
Water heaters can have a tremendous impact on energy                          or 200-amp service. Most models generally work well but can be limiting
bills. They are second only to living-space heating systems                   because of their minimum flow rates (typically a half-gallon per minute
in the amount of energy they consume. You can lower                           to activate the unit). Check the specifications for the model you are
water heating costs by installing low-flow showerheads                        considering to be sure that it is right for you. Better instantaneous water
and faucet aerators, insulating your hot water tank and                       heaters will have electronic ignition to reduce energy use, along with
pipes, and using a water-saving ENERGY STAR qualified                         modulating flames to ensure steady temperature delivery over a wide
clothes washer. There are five basic types of water heaters:                  range of flow rates. Instantaneous water heaters are prone to sediment
                                                                              buildup. Because of the amount of mineral content in Vermont’s water, it
                                                                              is highly recommended to have an in-line water filtration system

20                                                    THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                      21
installed before purchasing an on-demand water heater. If this is not            Indirect-Fired Water Heater
possible, install the water heater so that it can be easily flushed each year.   Tank-type water heaters in which the water is heated via a boiler are
SOLAR WATER HEATER                                                               generally about 10% less efficient than the boiler. Before purchasing this
Even with Vermont’s short, cloudy winter days, solar                             type of water heater, ask your contractor for an opinion on the condition
energy can cost-effectively meet most of the water heating                       of your existing boiler, and ask whether it is suitable to use with an
energy needs of a typical household. A properly designed,                        indirect water heater.
installed and maintained system can provide about
two-thirds of the hot water you’ll typically need                                 NOTES
year-round and all of the hot water you’ll need during the
summer. Solar water heaters require a fossil-fuel or electric
backup system for extended cloudy periods. They also require a large
storage tank so that reliance on the back-up system is minimized.
When installing any water heater, it is a good idea to have the unit
plumbed so that it can be easily maintained and periodically flushed.
Fuel costs vary widely from year to year, so have a cost comparison done
to determine whether an oil, propane, or electric water heater will be
most cost-effective for your home. Efficiency Vermont can provide this
cost comparison for you. When shopping for a new water heater, keep
these points in mind:                                                            COOLING YOUR HOME
Gas or Oil Water Heaters                                                         Most Vermont homes stay comfortable throughout the short, mild
• Every water heater has an Energy Factor rating (EF). The higher the            summers without the need for air conditioning. If your home becomes
  number, the more efficient the water heater. Efficiency Vermont                uncomfortably hot during the summer, you can take steps that will
  recommends purchasing a water heater having an EF of at least .61 for          increase your comfort and reduce the amount of air conditioning you’ll
  gas, or .64 for oil. On-demand gas or oil water heaters can have an EF         need.
  of .80 or more.                                                                SEAL LEAKS
• On-demand water heaters should have electronic ignition (no standing           The places in your house that allow heated air to escape during the
  pilot) and modulating (or varying) output.                                     winter also allow hot outdoor air to enter during the summer. Starting at
• The water heater should have a dedicated outside combustion air                the ceiling on the top floor (between the house and attic), seal all
  source to its burner. This will reduce the potential for backdrafting of       locations in the house that allow air leakage. Please refer to the Air
  combustion by-products and help to ensure proper fuel combustion.              Leakage section (page 10) for information that will help you to
• Oil water heating equipment requires additional safety shutoff devices         effectively seal your home.
  to be installed by the contractor.                                             KEEP OUT HEAT FROM THE SUN
The installation contractor should:                                              Open your windows on cool nights and close them before the day heats
• Size the system using the “first hour rating” to make sure that the unit       up, and you’ll keep the cooler air in the house longer. Awnings, shades
  can supply the amount of hot water that your household needs.                  and foliage can block solar gain through windows. If you are replacing
• Provide all the materials and labor necessary for a safe and complete          windows on the east or west side of the house, choose windows with a
  installation of the specified water heating system.                            low (<.32) Solar Heat Gain Coefficient to keep heat out.
• Inspect the chimney, if applicable, and determine that it is safe for          KEEP OUT HOT ATTIC AIR
  water heating equipment installation.                                          Attics can get very hot during the summer. Good air-sealing and well-
                                                                                 installed insulation will prevent this heat from getting into the living area
22                                                      THE ENERGY-SMART HOME    THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                      23
of your home. Do not try to cool the attic by installing an attic fan.          wall-mounted cassettes in a few rooms in the house. A mini-split system
These fans often consume a lot of electricity and rarely have an                can usually provide the same level of comfort as a ducted central air
appreciable effect on reducing heat gain from the attic to the house. In        conditioning system. This type of system can be a good option in a home
fact, an attic fan can make things worse by increasing air leakage in the       that heats with hot water and therefore does not have a duct system.
house if the attic floor is not well sealed.
                                                                                Central Air Conditioner Sizing
COOL WITH CEILING FANS                                                          Make sure that your central air conditioner is sized correctly. An over-
Once you have prevented your                                                    sized air conditioner can actually make a room uncomfortable by not
house from becoming overheated,                                                 dehumidifying properly. Oversized central air systems also cost more to
you can gain an extra measure of                                                purchase and install. Ask your contractor to perform a system sizing
comfort by using ceiling fans.                                                  calculation of your home in order to properly size your air conditioner.
ENERGY STAR qualified ceiling                                                   To ensure that the compressor effectively cools, see that it is installed on
fans move a lot of air with less                                                the north side of the house or in a location that does not receive direct
electricity than energy-intensive                                               sunlight.
models. That moving air helps you cool off. Set the ceiling fan at the
lowest speed that offers adequate comfort, and don’t forget to turn off
ceiling fans in empty rooms.
Room Air Conditioners
Today’s ENERGY STAR qualified room air conditioners are much more
efficient than older units. Using a room air conditioner with a ceiling fan
can keep you cooler in higher temperatures. Choose an air conditioner
that is appropriately sized for the space. A correctly sized air conditioner,
by doing a better job of dehumidifying, keeps a room more comfortable
than an oversized air conditioner. If you are unsure about which size air
conditioner to get, go to and search for “properly sized.”
To allow the air conditioner to cool effectively, install it in a window that
is not in the afternoon sun.                                                    APPLIANCES
Central Air Conditioners — Ducted                                               Whether you’re shopping for a
A central air conditioner consists of a compressor outside the home that        new heating system or a
rejects heat and an evaporator and air handler combination unit inside          refrigerator, your new major
that cools air and blows it into the house through ducts. Make sure that        appliances will have two price
the ducts are well sealed on both the supply and return sides to ensure         tags: the purchase price and the
that the conditioned air goes where it should. Ideally, ducts should be         price you pay on your energy bills
kept within the thermal envelope (conditioned area) of the house. If this       to keep the machine running year after year. Don’t
isn’t possible, see that ducts that travel through crawl spaces, attics or      overlook this second price when determining if
garages are sealed and well insulated. Look for an ENERGY STAR                  your appliance will be a good investment over the
qualified central air conditioner that has a SEER (Seasonal Energy              years in which you’ll own it. You can easily identify new appliances that
Efficiency Ratio) of 14 or higher.                                              cost less to operate by looking for two labels. The ENERGY STAR label
                                                                                identifies high-efficiency models. The yellow Energy Guide label shows
Central Air Conditioners — Mini-split                                           you how much energy an appliance is estimated to use over the course of
Another type of central air conditioner is the mini-split, which does not       a year.
use ducts. This type of system distributes refrigerant to freestanding or

24                                                      THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                      25
Here are some additional tips on getting the most efficiency from your          REFRIGERATOR
appliances:                                                                     ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators use less
COOKING APPLIANCE                                                               electricity than older or conventional (non-ENERGY
Because cooking generally is not a big energy use for an average                STAR qualified) models. Although ENERGY STAR
household, your decision to buy an electric or gas model should be based        qualified refrigerators come in all sizes and
primarily on personal preference rather than energy costs. Regardless of        configurations and with all the convenient features of
the model, maintenance is important for its safe and effective operation.       less efficient models, if you want to minimize your
Clean your stovetop/oven regularly. Gas appliances should be inspected          energy use, choose the smallest model that meets
every few years and tuned by a professional to avoid incomplete                 your needs and avoid add-ons like through-the-door
combustion, a cause of deadly carbon monoxide. Even electric ovens can          ice.
produce carbon monoxide if they are dirty and especially when you are           DISHWASHER
using the self-clean function. Avoid the use of foil pans or liners which       Look for an ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher
can impede airflow to the gas burners, causing an unsafe situation. A           with a high energy factor. A water-temperature
kitchen range hood ducted to the outside will remove pollutants                 boost feature allows you to choose hotter water
generated by cooking.                                                           when you need it. With this feature, your water
CLOTHES DRYER                                                                   heater can remain at a lower, more energy-efficient
Electric dryers are the most common, but dryers fueled by propane or            setting while you raise the temperature of the water
natural gas can be cheaper to operate if the same fuel is used to heat your     in your dishwasher. By not using the heated dry
home or your water. Vent all dryers to the outside to remove moisture,          cycle, you’ll save even more.
fine particulates and any combustion by-products. Clothes dryers with
moisture sensors can save energy by turning off when clothes are dry.            NOTES
Keep the duct length as short as possible, use smooth-wall ducting and
keep the duct free of leaks to prevent lint and moisture from entering the
house, and to optimize dryer efficiency. Clean the lint trap before each use.
Vent piping should be regularly checked for loose or leaky connections
and blockages caused by lint or other materials, which can be a fire
hazard. If you cannot inspect and clean the vent piping, it may be wise to
replace it periodically.
ENERGY STAR qualified clothes washers consume less
energy, water and detergent than top-loading
machines. They also spin out more moisture, which
means that the clothes dryer will use less energy                               LIGHTING
because it will dry clothes in less time. Wash in cold                          COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHT BULBS
water whenever possible, but if you must wash in                                Quality ENERGY STAR energy-efficient compact
warm or hot water, the lower water use of these                                 fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use less than a third of the
machines will reduce water heating costs. When buying                           electricity of incandescent bulbs and last about six to ten
a new clothes washer, look for one with a high                                  times longer. Today’s energy-efficient bulbs start instantly
“modified energy factor” and a low “water factor”                               with no perceptible flicker or buzz, are much smaller than
when compared to other models.                                                  earlier versions and offer good light quality. They fit in
                                                                                almost any lamp/fixture and can replace incandescents as

26                                                     THE ENERGY-SMART HOME    THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                          27
high as 150 watts. A wide variety of bulbs are available, including
dimmable, three-way, floods, globes and capsules. These bulbs cost a bit       IF YOU BREAK A CFL
more than incandescent bulbs, but they pay for themselves many times
                                                                               • Keep people and pets away from the breakage area so that
over due to energy savings and to the fact that you don’t need to replace
                                                                                 mercury powder is not tracked into other areas.
them as often. They are easy to install and offer immediate savings. For
greatest savings, be sure to use them where lights are on the longest.         • Keep the area well ventilated.
                                                                               • Do not vacuum.
FLUORESCENT FIXTURES                                                           • Assemble the necessary supplies before cleaning up:
In addition to CFLs, high-quality energy-saving                                  Latex gloves and tweezers that you’re prepared to throw away,
fluorescent tube-style lights are available. You can                             wide tape and a puncture-resistant container.
use energy-efficient super T-8 tubes with
electronic ballasts to replace older,                                          • Using the latex gloves, carefully pick up any broken glass and
conventional overhead fixtures.                                                  place in the puncture-resistant container.
Conventional ceiling fixtures for your home                                    • Tweezers may be needed to safely pick up broken glass. Tape
can be upgraded to ENERGY STAR fixtures                                          can also be used to pick up any remaining small pieces of glass
specifically designed for efficient lights. These                                and powder residue still located on the spill surface.
efficient fixtures have a built-in ballast and take a                          • After cleanup is complete, place anything that came in contact
pin-based tube. The advantage of this fixture is                                 with the mercury powder into the puncture-resistant container.
that, because it contains a ballast, you won’t need to                         • Dispose of the container according to the guidelines (see
pay to replace the ballast when you replace the light. When shopping for         “Disposal” on previous page).
fixtures of this type, it is highly recommended to choose fixtures that
have electronic ballasts as opposed to magnetic ballasts which are known
to flicker and hum.
CFLs contain a trace amount of mercury, approximately 4 milligrams
(mg), which is about one-fifth the amount contained in a watch battery.
You cannot be exposed to the mercury in a CFL unless the bulb is
broken, disposed of improperly or incinerated. When you use a CFL, you
actually reduce mercury pollution, by lowering the demand for
electricity from power plants that emit mercury. A fossil-fuel-fired power
plant typically will emit 10 mg of mercury to produce the electricity to
light an incandescent bulb but only 2.4 mg to light a CFL for the same
amount of time.
Vermont law requires that products containing mercury, including CFLs        HEALTH AND SAFETY
and thermostats be separated from trash and disposed of in a safe man-       Most of us spend more time indoors than out, so your home
ner. Newer CFLs and thermostats will have the mercury symbol (Hg). To        environment plays a leading role in your health and safety. An effective
learn where to dispose of mercury in your area, contact your local solid     ventilation system will remove stale air and indoor pollutants. Pollutants
waste districts. Phone numbers for solid waste district are listed at the    that can be present in a home include radon, carbon monoxide, poisons,
website of the State Mercury Education and Reduction Campaign:               mold, tobacco smoke, pet dander and volatile organic compounds                                                              (VOCs) in substances like paint. Every home should be tested for radon

28                                                   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                   29
and should have an outdoor-venting fan or other mechanical ventilation        WHERE NOT TO INSTALL DETECTORS
system. Well water should be tested for coliform bacteria and arsenic.        Do not install smoke detectors in kitchens, unfinished attics or garages
When painting, choose paints with low or zero VOCs. For more                  or within three feet of the bathroom door, as these locations occasionally
information on these issues, contact the Vermont Department of Health         experience conditions that can result in improper operation.
at or 800.464.4343.
                                                                              Do not install carbon monoxide detectors in garages, kitchens, furnace
DETECTORS                                                                     rooms, crawl spaces or unfinished attics. Avoid extremely dusty, dirty or
Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors outside each            greasy areas, or where combustion particles are produced, including
sleeping area and on every level of the house. Combination detectors for      poorly ventilated kitchens, garages and furnace rooms. Keep detectors at
both smoke and carbon monoxide are available. Detectors are more than         least 20 feet (6 meters) from the sources of combustion particles (stove,
good sense — they’re required by Vermont law (see below).                     furnace, water heater, space heater).

                                                                               Recommended Placement
     VERMONT STATUTE, TITLE 9, PART IV                                                         SUGGESTED AREAS FOR INSTALLING
     CHAPTER 77. SMOKE DETECTORS AND                                                       SMOKE ALARMS, CO ALARMS, AND COMBO UNITS
     Section. 1. 9 V.S.A.                                                                                                                       SMOKE ALARMS
                                                                                                                                                SMOKE ALARM with
     § 2882. INSTALLATION                                                                                                                       SILENCE FEATURE
     (a) A person who constructs a single-family dwelling shall install                                                                         CO ALARMS
     one or more smoke detectors and one or more carbon monoxide                                                                                BOTH or COMBINATION
                                                                                                                                                SMOKE/CO ALARMS
     detectors in the vicinity of any bedrooms in the dwelling in
                                                                                                                                        Suggested locations are based on
     accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. In a dwelling                                                                     NFPA recommendations (NFPA 72 for
                                                                                                                                        Smoke Alarms and NFPA 720 for
     provided with electrical power, the detectors shall be powered                In new construction AC and AC/DC smoke alarms MUST   Carbon Monoxide Alarms). Always
                                                                                   be interconnected to meet NFPA recommendations.      refer to national and local codes before
     by the electrical service in the building and by battery.                                                                          beginning any installation.

     (b) A single-family dwelling transferred by sale or exchange
     shall contain one or more smoke detectors and one or more
     carbon monoxide detectors powered by the electrical service in            NOTES
     the building or by battery, or by a combination of both, and
     installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
     § 2881 … Smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors must be
     approved or listed by Underwriters Laboratory or by another
     nationally recognized independent testing laboratory.
     Combination Smoke/Carbon Monoxide detectors have two
     separate alarms. A Carbon Monoxide detector is not designed to
     detect fire or any other gas. It will only indicate the presence of
     carbon monoxide gas at the sensor. Carbon Monoxide gas may
     be present in other areas. A Smoke detector will only indicate
     the presence of smoke that reaches the sensor. A Smoke
     detector is not designed to sense gas, heat or flames.

30                                                    THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                                                31
TIPS FOR HIRING A CONTRACTOR                                                  Efficiency Vermont offers specialized training to contractors and
Once you have determined what work you want to have done, you will            maintains a growing list of Vermont contractors who have received this
need to find a competent contractor. Get itemized estimates specifying        training. While we cannot guarantee their performance, we list their
the scope of work and the equipment proposed from two or three                specialties and any certifications they have. Please call, toll-free,
contractors. To find contractors, ask friends, neighbors and co-workers       888.921.5990 or visit if you are interested in
for referrals. Contact local trade organizations, such as the Homebuilders    seeing this list.
and Remodelers Association in northern or southern Vermont, for the           ASK HEATING/COOLING CONTRACTORS ABOUT:
names of members in your area.
                                                                              I Sizing your new equipment to meet the needs of your house.
Check the contractor’s references. You can determine if there have been         A bigger system isn’t always better. New heating equipment should be
complaints against a contractor through the Vermont Consumer                    sized based on the heating requirements of your house, taking into
Assistance Program at 800.649.2424 or the regional Better Business              consideration such factors as the amount of insulation it has, the type of
Bureau at 800.4.BBB.811.                                                        windows and the air leakage rate. “Manual J,” from the Air Conditioning
                                                                                Contractors of America, is the industry-standard resource used by
                                                                                contractors to properly size heating and cooling equipment.
                                                                              I Inspecting your ducts for air leaks and insulation if you have a
     I What licenses, certifications or professional memberships do             forced-air system.
       you have?                                                                It is especially important to check ducts located in an attic or crawl space
     I What does your insurance cover?                                          and have them sealed, insulated and balanced as part of any
       (Contractors should have personal liability, workers’                    heating system work.
       compensation, and property damage coverage.)
                                                                              I Boiler controls that can help reduce energy use.
     I How long have you been in business?
                                                                              I Incentives that may be available from Efficiency Vermont for
     I What kind of work do you specialize in?                                  heating/cooling equipment that replaces electric hot water
     I Will you provide a written contract?                                     and/or heat.
     I Have you done a similar job before?
     I What hours do you work?                                                  ASK QUESTIONS, REQUIRE ANSWERS
     I In what condition will the jobsite be left at the end of the             It’s important that you have a good rapport with someone who
       workday?                                                                 will be responsible for a large or lengthy job in your home. Good
     I What is included in the work scope and what is not included?             communication is essential. A reputable contractor will not be
                                                                                offended by your questions.
     I Is a permit required? Who will obtain the permit?
                                                                                Contractors should have training and certification in the area of
     I Will you be using subcontractors for any of the work?                    expertise for which you are hiring them. For heating contractors,
     I After the project is complete, will you show me the work that            ask about NATE (North American Technician Excellence), NORA
       you did?                                                                 (National Oilheat Research Alliance) and BPI (Building
     I Will you conduct any tests to determine the effectiveness of             Performance Institute) certifications. Energy auditors, insulation
       your work? Will you show me the results?                                 and air sealing companies, and general contractors may also
                                                                                have BPI or other certifications.
     I What kind of warranty do you offer and what exactly does it
     I What can I do to help make the job run more smoothly?

32                                                    THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                       33
                                                                                  I Referrals for contractors to make recommended improvements if
     ENERGY SPECIALISTS, AUDITORS AND RATERS                                        the auditor doesn’t do the work him/herself.
     A trained energy specialist can evaluate the energy efficiency of            I Whether the auditor is willing to consult with such contractors if
     your home and offer an unbiased overview of its energy-improvement             you hire them.
     potential. A specialist can help you prioritize where to spend your          I The auditor’s experience and certifications.
     energy savings dollars by offering:
                                                                                    Ask about BPI certifications and if the contractor participates in the
     I Comprehensive on-site inspection of all building components                  Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program.
     I Air-leakage tests of your home and of any furnace duct work
     I Evaluations of combustion equipment efficiency and safety                    AFTER YOU HAVE CHOSEN A CONTRACTOR
     I Estimated costs and savings of recommended improvements                      All the terms of the discussion with the contractor should be in
                                                                                    This should include:
ASK INSULATION AND AIR-SEALING                                                      • Start and completion dates
                                                                                    • Materials
I Measuring air leakage using a blower door before and after                        • Brand names and model numbers of equipment that
  air-sealing the house.                                                              will be installed
     Contractors should be able to measure and document the                         • Any warranties or promises the contractor might make.
     success of their work.
                                                                                    Also include payment arrangements in the contract
I Testing the safety of combustion appliances after                                 Some contractors request partial payment up front for larger jobs.
  air-sealing the house.                                                            This is a reasonable request, but do not make full payment until
     A chimney that drafts poorly can lead to an unhealthy indoor                   work is completed.
                                                                                    In Vermont, you have three business days to cancel or withdraw a
I Completing air-sealing before adding insulation.                                  written contract. This gives you time to make sure that you’re
     Air-sealing must be done prior to installing insulation to ensure that the     comfortable with the contractor and the work that will be done.
     insulation will perform as intended.                                           You should wait until after these three days to give any money to
                                                                                    the contractor.
I What insulation value can be achieved and with what materials.
I Approximately how much less energy you will use to heat and cool
  your home as a result of increased insulation.
I How long the evaluation will take and what it will cost.
     A comprehensive evaluation can take three hours or more, depending
     on the size of the home and the desired or required tests.
I How recommendations will be presented.
     You may wish to take notes as the auditor offers advice. If you want a
     written report outlining recommended improvements, along with costs
     and savings, there will probably be a fee involved.

34                                                        THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME                                                      35
Whether you are making home improvements, building a new home, or
buying new energy-efficient appliances, lighting or heating equipment,
Efficiency Vermont is here to help with professional advice and financial
incentives for taking recommended energy efficiency actions.
As a Vermonter, you live in one of the growing number of states in which
you can obtain the services of a certified Home Performance with
ENERGY STAR contractor. These are local professionals trained in the
latest information and techniques about energy-efficient homes and
indoor air quality who have received certification in their specialties
from the Building Performance Institute (BPI). You can have a Home
Performance contractor assess your home’s efficiency and air quality. The
contractor will conduct tests to determine the causes of and solutions to
any energy and comfort-related problems, such as air leakage, heat
distribution, ice dams, and the presence of unhealthy combustion by-
Often, contractors charge a fee for this service. Some Vermont lending
institutions offer discounted loans toward the cost of investing in
qualifying improvements made by a Home Performance with ENERGY
STAR contractor. To learn more or to find a contractor near you, call
Efficiency Vermont, toll free, at 888.921.5990 ext 2000 or visit
If you’re building a home, Efficiency Vermont can put you in touch with
architects and builders who create today’s top ENERGY STAR qualified
homes. These homes meet or exceed Vermont state building standards
for energy efficiency, indoor air quality, durability and comfort. Many
other free services are available to you, your architect and your builder,
including financial incentives for energy-efficient approaches and expert
technical support throughout the building process. For more
information, or to learn about the numerous benefits of living in an
ENERGY STAR qualified home, visit or give us a
call at the toll-free number listed.
To find a retailer near you who sells ENERGY STAR qualified products,
call us, toll-free: 888.921.5990 or visit

36                                                    THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   THE ENERGY-SMART HOME   37

                                 Hull Printing, environmentally certified by the Forest Stewardship Council Standard,
                                 donated the Mohawk paper for The Energy-Smart Home booklet and provided reduced
                                 cost printing. This booklet was printed on Mohawk Options 100% PCW, 80 lb. cover and
                                 100 lb. text, and was manufactured entirely with non-polluting, wind-generated energy,
                                 using 100% post-consumer fiber.

                                 14.25 trees preserved for    670 lbs. solid waste not      10,095,385 BTUs energy
                                 the future                   generated                     not consumed
                                 6,054 gal. waste water       1319 lbs. net greenhouse      685 lbs. air emissions not
                                 flow saved                   gases prevented               generated

                                 Environmental savings information generated by the Mohawk Environmental Calculator.

             255 South Champlain Street, Suite 7
             Burlington, Vermont 05401-4894
             toll-free 1.888.921.5990


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