Energy Saving Tips for Your Wicker Park Home in Chicago

This article is being written because utility costs in the season ahead will effect all of us.  The Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago is typical of many of the neighborhoods in Chicago.  There are newer homes mixed in with older homes and they are all great homes for whomever lives in them.

The following is for informational use only and is not intended as a “How to Guide”.  Gremillion Mechanical always recommends that if there is a problem with any complex appliance in your home to call a professional service technician trained in the repair of that equipment.  Remember to always “stay in your comfort zone” when trying to perform any task related to your furnace and if you feel unsafe, call for professional help!

Homes that have been built within the past 15 – 20 years are likely fairly energy efficient, this article will concentrate on the homes that are built before the 1970′s.  The older the home, the more likely it is to be in need of some help when it comes to heating & cooling the residence efficiently.

Typical Chicago style bungalow

The real issue in most of these older homes is the amount of air infiltration into the home.  Have you been sitting in your lounge chair and every once in a while you feel a cold draft coming from behind you.  You moved your chair away from the window and you still get a draft every so often.  Drafts can be a tricky thing to resolve in a home because it’s so easy for air to move through any crack in the exterior envelope of any structure.  Once the cold air infiltrates the home it tends to say on the floor, maybe even moving from the second floor to the first down the stairs.

Some air from outside must be allowed into the home to serve as combustion air for your furnace (unless you have a furnace that brings in it’s own outside air), gas dryer, bathroom exhaust fan, hot water heater and so on.  The air you take into you home from outside, if under your control is very useful and I will talk more about that later.  For now lets think about stopping unwanted air from entering your home to start with.

Unwanted air infiltrates into a homes from everywhere you look.  You can caulk around the window and door trim to reduce the amount of air that gets in, but there is so much more you can do yourself.  You can raise the insulation value in your attic by adding easy to install blanket insulation.  You can seal up holes from the attic, basement, crawlspace, electrical outlets and more with spray foam insulation.  You can cover unused fireplaces.  The more you look, the more you can find to do but don’t get carried away.  Remember that you need to allow some air in from outside for the reasons mentioned earlier in this article.

Another way to stop drafts from around windows is a window insulation kit sold in your local hardware store.  These kits use a heat sensitive sheet of plastic that conforms to your window trim.  These work well to stop air from coming in through older windows.  You can also install window treatments or curtains that create an air barrier between the window and the interior space.  Air spaces make very good insulators and is the basis for many different insulating materials.

Trying to stop air from coming in through exterior doors is easily done by installing a screen/storm door.  There are plenty of choices to choose from and all do about the same thing.  All create an air barrier by stopping direct exposure of the door to the elements then sealing the frame to minimize air infiltration.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a good seal around your exterior doors.

This image shows just how poorly some homes are insulated, air is coming in around the door and the bottom plate of the exterior walls.  By careful and thorough examination of any structure, air infiltration can be minimized.  Looking at this image tells trained technicians where the leaks are.  There have been instances of thermal images reveling unknown water damage, insect infestations, electrical problems and other issues to the building owner so they can stop any further damage from occurring.  There are specialized firms that provide home energy audits that include a complete thermal scan of the structure.  Only you can decide if you have the money for this service, but you still have to perform the improvements to minimize the effect of what the images revel.  This technology is great but you can get similar results by using any thermometer and record readings from several locations to get a profile of just where and how bad the leaks are.  Prices of infrared thermometers aren’t out of reach for the Chicago homeowner and range from around forty bucks for a basic model to a couple hundred for a pretty good one..

This next method is not an energy savings tip but is intended as a residential comfort fix.  This method of stopping air infiltration is by introducing outside air into your home on purpose.  This is not a job for your typical homeowner to perform and Gremillion Mechanical suggests that you hire professionals that have mechanical engineering experts to calculate the amount necessary for your home.  The idea behind introducing outside air into your homes mechanical system takes a page from commercial applications.  By adding outside air into your furnace and not allowing the same amount of air back outside through the duct system, you generate slightly positive pressure within the home as compared to outside.  This forces air pressure on the interior walls and thus doesn’t allow the outside air to enter your home.  Again, this sounds like a simple idea, but is difficult in practice so please hire a professional mechanical contractor for this method of stopping air infiltration.

One of the added benefits of the positive pressure method is fresh, outside air is introduced into your home and replaces stale air trapped in your home.  This can help in reduction of allergy filled days and nights caused by any number of allergens in the home.  This is not a fix for people with bad allergies that need special equipment to clean the air circulated in their home.

Large public building have to adhere to strict codes that dictate how much outside air must be introduced based on maximum occupancy of the ventilated space.  The air that is brought in also makes up for the air that is exhausted by vent hoods, bathroom fans and so on.  These are engineering issues that require expert knowledge in mechanical ventilation and building codes.  The reason I’ve talked about large buildings is that you’ll notice a properly ventilated building form one that is not by not noticing the air in the building.  You’ll smell stale air in a building when not properly ventilated and won’t in a building that is.

To sum it up, if you want to save money on utility bills this winter, try some of the helpful tips in this article or ask the sales associate at your local home improvement store for help and save yourself money!

Chicago Heating Repair
3526 S. Paulina St. ChicagoIL60609 USA 
 • 773-234-4575

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