Did you know lighting costs can account for up to 10% of your electric bill? By replacing just one of your incandescent bulbs with an energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulb--you can save $15 to $25 on your bill over the life of the bulb.
Efficient lighting also saves time and effort. For example, an average incandescent light bulb lasts only six months. But a compact fluorescent bulb can last up to six years. Imagine only having to replace that hard-to-reach bulb once every six years? The accompanying chart explains your benefits when purchasing an energy-efficient light bulb.
Trying to Choose Best Outside Door
Q: I have hollow-core doors on the front and rear entrances to my home and have thought about replacing them with stronger doors for increased security. I have read of three choices: a solid wood door, a metal door with insulation and an insulated wooden door.
I am having a difficult time trying to decide which one to choose. Metal doors with insulation cost more, but I'm wondering if the insulating value is worth the extra cost. I would appreciate any information that would help me in making a decision.
A: It is difficult to justify the expense of a new door based on energy savings alone.
If a door is to be replaced for reasons such as appearance or security, then a well-insulated and weatherstripped unit should definitely be considered. Even though the cost of an insulated door may be higher than an ordinary wooden door, there may be other advantages in choosing an insulated door.
Wood is the traditional choice for doors and is often preferred for aesthetic reasons. A solid wood door can be purchased for around $60 and is generally cheaper to install than a metal door. From an energy and comfort standpoint, wood has two liabilities: poor insulating value (low R value) and tendency to warp, shrink and expand over the course of the seasons, causing the door to pull away from its weatherstripping.
Higher R values, from R-8 to R-12, are available with doors containing foam insulation (typically polyurethane) and clad with metal, wood or fiberglass. Although wood is traditional, metal and fiberglass offer low maintenance.
Since metal and fiberglass don't absorb water, they won't warp like a wood door, and they don't require annual painting or sealing. By minimizing warpage, the potential for air leakage around the door is reduced.
Metal doors will sometimes warp temporarily when sun shines on the exterior surface, but this problem can be minimized by choosing a light-colored door to reflect the sun's light. To avoid possible condensation on metal doors, only consider those containing thermal breaks.
This type of door has an insulating material, such as vinyl, neoprene or wood, which separates the inside and outside metal surfaces preventing rapid heat loss through the metal.
Metal doors can be dented, but are strong and offer the added benefit of fire protection. A residential-grade insulated metal door can be purchased for $100 to $130 (depending on style) and may require a new door jamb, which will increase installation costs.
Upstairs, Downstairs: How to Reduce Noise
Q: We built and moved into a new home in 1988. It has a mother-in-law apartment in the basement for our parents. To lessen the noise between the two living spaces, we had fiberglass insulation placed between the floors as the contractor suggested. But it didn't seem to help. We have hardwood floors in the entry, dining room and kitchen. You can hear every word said downstairs from upstairs and vice versa.
Is there anything you can suggest to help solve our problem? Older homes with no insulation between floors don't seem to have these problems.
A: We spoke with a specialist at the Noise Remedy Office from the Port of Seattle. Since you are hearing word-for-word conversations, he believes the noise is primarily coming through your heating ducts.
Assuming you have a forced-air heating system--a remedy would be to line the ducts with a sound liner. Make sure the sound liner complies with the Uniform Building Code Standard 10-1. The 10-1 standard addresses the erosion of the material in the air.
Another option is placing carpet and carpet pads in your upstairs entry, dining room and kitchen floors. A quick test area could involve using an area rug and pad in your entryway. See if this lessens the noise. If you didn't want to carpet your hardwood floors, consider carpeting just the noisiest area.
To cut down on noise substantially, the fiberglass insulation between your floors needs to be about 10 to 12 inches thick. If your current level is not this great, consider adding more. An opportune time to do this is if you choose our last remedy of installing a suspended ceiling.
This involves installing a gypsum board ceiling mounted on resilient hangers. Also place a fiberglass blanket in the void between ceilings.
Produced by the Washington Energy Extension Service, a division of the Washington State Energy Office. Reader questions cannot be answered individually.