Energy Tip Question-Are Your Pigeons Warm On Your Roof?

Earlier this week we had a nice brisk morning and I was running a little early to my 8am sales call. I decided to drive around the neighborhood I was in to check out some of the homes roofs near my appointment. Why in the world would I want to look at a roof at 7:30am? Well, believe it or not you can tell a lot about the insulation of an attic, ventilation of an attic, air leaks and possibly discover some other issues within a home by checking out a roofs frost patterns.

The frost pattern or frost on a roof is different than the snow on a roof, so this little bit of advice won’t do you much good with the snow on a roof. You see the air inside your attic is considered outside of your building envelope, or outside of your home, therefore the temperature in your attic should be at or close to the same temperature as the outdoor air temperature. This is only true, however, if your attic is properly insulated, vented and sealed off from your living space below. So in the early morning hours before the sun is out you should see no difference in the frost pattern across the roof. Once the sun hits the roof it is hard to see the trouble area since the frost will melt quickly.

There were a few homes in this neighborhood with some major issues. The biggest issue that I found was with the two story home to the right in my photo. As you can see, there are two large sections of frost on the shingles, but no frost at all towards the top of the roof line. This home has the same layout, or design, as the other two homes in the photo, so in reality they should all have a fully frosted roof. I am guessing that on the upper home, with the issues, the two sections with frost have rolled insulation in an attic or ceiling space and the bare spots are probably blown in insulation above a ceiling. This troubled home probably has several air leaks from the second floor into the attic such as can lights, bathroom exhaust, vent pipes and may have leaky ductwork in the attic as well. Whatever the case may be they are spending a lot each year to not only heat their home but also to heat their roof.  

So the next time you look out your window, before the sun comes out and see frost on the ground, slip on your warm slippers and check out your roof to see what you may discover. You may find that just doing a little insulating or sealing can help save you some big bucks and keep your home more comfortable year round. Hey, don’t worry about the pigeons; they can go to your neighbor’s roof to stay warm.

Thanks and have a great Holiday Season!

James Gallet 

Where Does Your Money Go?

Did you know that your furnace and air conditioner accounts for up to 60% of your home’s utility bills? Did you also know that if you equipment is dirty or slightly running a little rough it could be costing you additional money each month? Each heating season you need to have your furnace professionally cleaned by a licensed service company.

There are a few things that you as a homeowner can do to help with your system such as replacing you air filter at least every other month, visually inspecting the burner flame (it should be blue in color, yellow is bad) and also keeping items clear from the front and sides of the furnace. However a professional company will dis-assemble the furnace and clean it properly, inspect the heat exchanger, inspect the flue piping and fittings, test the ignition, ensure proper burning, inspect the electrical components, test all the equipment safeties and perform a carbon monoxide test.
I would say that utility savings is probably the second best reason to have your furnace cleaned and inspected every year, the first reason is safety. Each year over 500 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning, many which could have been prevented with a furnace clean and tune.
Here are some additional Safety Tips for you from the US Department of Fire Safety. 
• Never discard hot ashes inside or near the home. Place them in a metal container outside and well away from the house.
• Never use a range or an oven as a supplemental heating device. Not only is it a safety hazard, it can be a source of potentially toxic fumes.
• If you use an electric heater, be sure not to overload the circuit. Only use extension cords which have the necessary rating to carry the amp load. TIP: Choose an extension cord the same size or larger than the appliance electrical cord.
•Aviod using electrical space heaters in bathrooms, or other areas where they may come in contact with water.
•Frozen water pipes? Never try to thaw them with a blow torch or other open flame, (otherwise the pipe could conduct the heat and ignite the wall structure inside the wall space). Use hot water or a UL labeled device such as a hand held dryer for thawing.
•If windows are used as emergency exits in your home, practice using them in the event fire should strike. Be sure that all the windows open easily. Home escape ladders are recommended.
•If there is a fire hydrant near your home you can assist the fire department by keeping the hydrant clear of snow so in the event it is needed, it can be located.
•Be sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm, and be sure to check and clean it on a monthly basis.
•Plan and practice a home escape plan with your family.
•Contact your local fire department for advice if you have a question on Home Fire Safety.