5 (Fairly) Simple DIY Projects to Save Energy

by Erik North on June 17, 2013

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I like simple projects because, hey, simple. It’s like whipping up a nice tortellini and pesto dish versus tackling a full blown chicken mole (and for the non-culinarily inclined, check out this epic you-gotta-be-kidding-me recipe for Rick Bayless’ Oaxacan Chicken Mole).

They’re both satisfying but one is liable to make the average home chef a little stabby. Home projects can be like that but don’t need to be. More complicated projects may have some great benefits but where are the simple tortellini-type projects that I can knock out in a few hours? The projects should be straightforward with a great payback…so what are some examples?

Note: I’ve included links to articles elsewhere on the site where I’ve written about the topic before.

Insulate and Seal Sill Plate – The sill plate and band joist are those wooden numbers that sit atop your foundation wall. They’re only a couple of inches thick, making it one of the weakest points in the thermal envelope. The sills are rarely insulated and almost never sealed. Why is this a big deal? Besides the radiant heat loss, hot water heating systems can use radiant floor or baseboard heating units whose pipes run next to the sills.

The problem is easily solved with foam insulation blocks or closed cell spray foam. Insulating the sills will slow radiant heat loss and help keep the hot water pipes a bit warmer.

Sealing Top of Chimney FramesA lot of houses in New England have chimneys framed in the interior and not on one of the gable ends. These wooden frames are spaced away from the chimney and (here’s the kicker) open at the top. That opening allows gobs of conditioned interior air to escape. The solution? Seal the cap! Using light gauge aluminum and high temp silicon caulk, seal the top of the chimney framing to stop that conditioned air from escaping.

Block The SoffitsIn most attics, at the end of every eave is a vented soffit. These guys let air into your attic, ostensibly up the attic slope and out the peak vents. In reality, the air goes just about anywhere. And if wind blows horizontally through the soffits…well, that’s not so good. What to do? Seal the soffits! Not sealed shut but rather installing a rough cut foam block between the trusses and over the wall’s top plate. The top edge rests against the proper vent and the whole shebang is sealed with foam sealant. Easy as pie!

Insulate Hot Water PipesNot much detail is needed here. If your hot water pipes are uninsulated, insulate them especially if you have a baseboard hot water distribution system. Do some research, pick out pipe insulation then immediately find some that is one inch thicker than you had planned.

Block Cantilevered OverhangsA cantilevered overhang are those where the edge of the second floor juts out over the first floor by two feet like Bruce Campbell’s chin. Those overhangs tend to leak unconditioned air like crazy. How to fix them? Pull down the underside sheathing and rough fit a foam block between the floor joists over the first floor wall top plate. Seal around it with foam sealant and re-insulate the overhang. Replace the underside sheathing and go have a beer. These DIY projects are tiring to write about and you have to do them.

Improving your home can be overwhelming, particularly if you’re not familiar with home construction. But a few tools and a weekend can address some issues in the home.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark June 18, 2013 at 6:56 am

Great diy project you have suggested in this post for saving energy, there are many thing which can help how owner to save energy, like use of LED lights etc, insulation is really one of them, it helps to keep home warm in winter and cool in summer.

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John June 22, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Dude. You forgot the top plates! I saved 20% after doing mine DIY with ~10 tubes of silicone caulk. I recommend folks to get a good caulk gun, maybe powered.

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