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Information for Renters

76 Expert Q&A


A. Yes. We recommend the following insulation specifications to ensure high efficiency and low operating costs:
1. Use at least R-8 insulation on ducts in the attic and R-6 on ducts in the crawl space. If construction design permits, install ducts inside the conditioned area.
2. Seal all joints with duct mastic, duct mastic tape or the equivalent.
3. Install R-30 to R-38 attic insulation on as much of the system as possible.
4. Select mechanical equipment with a minimum Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of 13.0.
5. Insulate heater closet and caulk all seams to avoid drawing air in from the attic or unconditioned areas.


A. Yes. A programmable thermostat automatically adjusts your home’s temperature to your schedule, so you’re comfortable when at home and saving energy while away or sleeping. A programmable thermostat could be a good idea if you’re away from home on a regular basis, or want to automatically lower your energy use at night.

It saves energy while you’re away or asleep, and then brings your home’s temperature back to whatever level you desire by the time you return or wake up in the morning.

If you’re heating and cooling your home with an energy-efficient heat pump, a programmable thermostat will help you get maximum energy efficiency. Ask your heating and cooling dealer to install a programmable thermostat, and make sure it’s the type specially designed for your heat pump.


A. Unless you are a qualified heating and cooling system professional, we do not recommend it. To ensure efficient operation and adherence to regulations, your duct system should be designed and installed by an accredited technician using industry-recognized procedures.


A. Yes, they do. Just as electronic equipment can be damaged by large voltage surges, so can refrigerators.


A. Yes. Waste-heat recovery devices, sometimes called hot gas reclaim systems, take heat where it is unwanted—from your air conditioner’s or heat pump’s outdoor heat rejection coil—and move it where it is needed, to your hot water tank. In so doing, these devices can decrease water heating costs substantially while also lowering air conditioning costs. It may sound too good to be true, but it works well, particularly in hot climates. In areas that have high cooling loads and a long cooling season, enough heat may be reclaimed to meet the home’s entire hot water requirements during the summer months.

With a heat recovery device, your air conditioner operates more efficiently because it does not have to work as hard exchanging its waste heat, and the heat deposited in the water heater is essentially free. With the heat recovery device in place, a typical house air conditioner or heat pump produces about 25 gallons of water per hour heated to 130°F. Since heat can be reclaimed only while the air conditioner is operating, the storage tank must have supplemental heating capabilities for when the air conditioner is not on. Even when it does not meet the entire demand, reclaimed heat contributes some heat that would otherwise have to be supplied by the water heater.

Heat recovery devices can be installed during construction or retrofitted to existing water heater storage tanks. Most are enclosed in metal cases and mounted either on a wall outside near the air conditioner condenser or inside near the water heater.

Ask your service technician or your utility representative about the availability and performance of heat recovery devices in your area.


A. Most customers discover that electric cooking is less expensive. The gas bill for cooking goes to $0 when you use electric equipment, and the overall energy bill stays the same or goes down because of a reduced load on air-conditioning units.


A. The correct way to protect electrical devices against surges is by making sure you use a properly designed surge protector that provides protection for the electrical conductors plugged into it. A computer with a network connection must have a surge protector designed to protect the electrical connection as well as the telephone circuit and network cable. Be sure to match the surge protector to the job you’re asking it to do.


A. To stay comfortable, there must be some moisture in the air; however, excess moisture can cause problems. Moisture originates both inside and outside the home. The problems it creates can be controlled by minimizing the amount of moisture produced inside the home, reducing the amount of moisture entering structural cavities like walls or attics—either from inside or outside of the home—and ventilating moisture-producing areas such a kitchens, baths and laundries. Reducing the amount of moisture produced in the home is the first defense against moisture problems. This entails locating the major sources of moisture and where possible, decreasing their intensity. An average family of four produces 18 to 20 pints of moisture a day performing routine household activities. Just breathing produces between 8 and 12 pints in 24 hours, cooking adds another 5, showering another half pint per shower, and watering plants adds about the same amount of moisture to the air as is poured on the plants.

Limiting non-essential moisture producing activities will reduce the amount of humidity in the home. If the home has humidifiers, they can be reduced in output or turned off, and the number of indoor plants can be reduced.

Minimizing the amount of moisture entering structural cavities means separating them from both inside and outside moisture sources. Vapor barriers should create a moisture tight seal around the home’s interior. Bare earth floors of cellars or crawl spaces should be covered with a sheet of .4 mil or thicker polyethylene. Overlap the sheets and secure them in place with a brick or sand. Basement floors and walls that get damp may need a waterproofing treatment. A dehumidifier may be used in these areas. Good attic and crawl space ventilation is essential to keep moisture from accumulating in these areas. Some well-intentioned home owners seal attic and crawl space vents thinking they are reducing heat loss through these openings. While some heat loss may be prevented, considerable damage can result from the trapped moisture. In well-insulated homes, there should not be much heat to be saved in these areas anyway.

Ventilate moisture producing areas when moisture producing activities are performed. Kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans should be run during cooking or showering, and exhaust vents, including those for clothes dryers, should be vented outdoors and not into attics or other unconditioned areas.


A. An early indication of high humidity levels in your home is condensation on windows. Because they are usually the coldest surface exposed to room air, they fog up first. By taking action to reduce condensation on windows, you should be able to avoid condensation problems from occurring inside the walls. Occasional condensation or frost on windows is normal. Frequent occurrences, or periods of prolonged duration, are warnings that inside humidity conditions may be causing condensation inside wall cavities.

A musty odor or buildup of mold in the house is another sign of high humidity levels.

Inexpensive color-change relative humidity indicators can also reveal high moisture levels. These should be installed near the thermostat.

On a positive note, a certain amount of humidity in the home can help prevent dry throats and make people generally feel more comfortable because less moisture evaporates from the body thereby reducing the cooling effect. Also, higher humidity levels results in less static electricity and improved furniture maintenance as wood moisture is maintained reducing cracking and shrinkage.


A. Each CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulb, on average, contains 4 mg of mercury. If a CFL should break in your home, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides cleanup guidelines that can be performed by the general public.


Review the Cleanup Guidelines.


76 Expert Q&A