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 Solar Home Efficiency - The Building Envelope 
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Post Solar Home Efficiency - The Building Envelope
by: Kriss Bergethon

With global warming and skyrocketing energy costs on every-one's minds, homeowners are considering a solar power kit or solar panel system for their home. Energy efficiency and solar power go hand in hand. Like solar energy, there are now tax credits for improving the energy efficiency of your home (check out for more on this).

There are several things you can do in conjunction with solar panels to create an extremely efficient, comfortable home. This article will teach you about the energy efficiency of your "building envelope", which is a fancy way of saying everything that separates your home from the elements: windows, doors, walls, and insulation.


Windows are one of the most important components of your home. Not only do they let in light and scenery, but they can let out your precious interior air and let in exterior air. Double and triple pane windows have gained in popularity in the past few years as their costs have come down. These gaps between the window panes are often filled with argon gas, which transmits heat less than normal air. They are also coated with a glaze that allows less solar energy to pass through, which is why they are called "low-e" for low emitting.

If you can't afford new windows, you can still improve your existing windows' performance. There are coatings that tint your windows that will allow less sun and heat in. You can caulk around your windows to fill gaps where air can enter and escape. These caulks even come in a wide variety of colors to match your existing paint. Window treatments are a great way to save energy too. A set of adjustable blinds can retain heat on the winter nights, let in the warm sun on cold winter days, and block the scorching sun on hot days. True energy conservationists find themselves opening, closing, and adjusting window coverings throughout the day to adjust or maintain the indoor air temperature.


Your Dad probably yelled at you for letting out the "bought air" when you were a kid didn't he? Well, what if that precious are air is escaping even when the door is closed? For less than $20 you can weather strip an exterior door and prevent leakage. And new, heavily insulated, weather-stripped doors are more affordable than ever, especially with the housing slowdown.

And don't forget about your interior doors. If you are closing off interior doors to seldom-used rooms (which you should be) be mindful that air can be leaking under and around these doors. A well placed blanket or a "door shoe" (which attaches to the bottom of the door) will prevent this leakage. Also check that the door is properly hung and level in the doorway as this may also cause large gaps between the door and the jamb.


For most folks, the insulation embedded in their walls is pretty much there to stay. But with new kinds of blown and pumped insulation, you can still improve your wall's efficiency. Some of these materials are made of recycled plastic bottles, newspaper, and even blue jeans. Some insulation companies specialize in cutting small holes in your walls, pumping in insulation, and then covering the holes so that you never knew they were there.

Walls are just as likely to leak as windows and doors. Caulking and sealing around outlets, switches, and corners can prevent this leakage. The most avid energy savers even hire an energy rater with an infrared camera to catch leaks.

Roof and Ceilings

You probably know that heat rises. This means that the most important place to have insulated is your ceiling and roof. If you have an attic, this may be the easiest place to add an extra layer of insulation. You should have a minimum of R-50, which is a measure of insulation, the higher number the better. And don't forget to seal leaky areas where the walls meet the ceiling.

Ask your accountant about federal and local tax incentives for energy efficiency, solar power, and renewable energy. For more information on solar power and solar panels, check out our website.

About The Author
Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar expert from Colorado.

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Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:21 am
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