High energy bills are usually never associated with crawl spaces. Most of the advice on how to lower your energy bill revolves around checking appliances, switching to more energy-efficient light bulbs, and turning devices off if they’re not being used. While these are all excellent ways of keeping energy bills low, there’s one thing homeowners tend to miss when it comes to solving the energy efficiency problem—the crawl space.
Then again, a crawl space is something most homeowners neglect whether they’re dealing with high energy bills or not. If you’ve done everything you can to lower your energy bills but nothing seems to work, take a look at the problem signs that indicate that it’s time to encapsulate your crawl space.
Why Your Crawl Space Is Causing High Energy Bills
Crawl spaces aren’t meant to take in water or humidity. The reason they are constructed the way they are has to do with old beliefs about humid spaces, outdated building laws, and a lack of care from construction crews. Because they aren’t built to stop water damage, they damage homes in multiple ways. These poorly built crawl spaces go on to cause high energy bills.
- The Stack Effect
The stack effect refers to the way air flows around a building. Hot air is lighter than cold air, so due to air buoyancy, it rises to the top of a house as the dense, cold air flows down. Hot air is always traveling to meet with cold air, so there’s very little that can be done to stop this exchange unless a strong insulation barrier is able to block airflow.
When you have a ventilated crawl space, warm air from the outside makes its way through and rises into your home. During the summer, this hot air raises the overall temperature of your home and forces you to run your AC longer than you normally would. An AC uses up a lot of energy, and if you have it running for most of the day, it will raise your energy bill.
In the winter, the reverse happens. The warm air in your home escapes through the ventilated crawl space. Because there’s so much heat loss in your home, you have to run the HVAC at a higher temperature, which also raises the electricity bill.
The only way to ensure that your home is safe from the stack effect is by sealing it off and waterproofing it. Encapsulating it with a vapor barrier and upgrading the insulation material will make sure that there’s no opportunity for air to flow in or out of the crawl space.
- High Humidity or Water
A large portion of the air you breathe in your home comes from the crawl space. If the crawl space air is cold, your home will be cold. If the crawl space air is warm, your home will be warm as well. The same thing happens with humidity. The humidity that exists in your crawl space increases the overall humidity levels of your home.
Because your home is humid, you might try to use certain solutions that you think will help with the humidity, but in reality, will raise your energy bill. When trying to get rid of humidity in a household, homeowners will try to use appliances like ACs, ventilation fans, and dehumidifiers.
The problem with using these appliances is that they don’t target the root of the problem. As long as the crawl space remains open and poorly insulated, the humid air will continue to invade your home. You’ll find yourself running these appliances for long periods of time over the course of many days just to get fresh, dry air flowing through your home. Unfortunately, this results in an extremely high energy bill.
Crawl Space Problems That Cause High Energy Bills
Crawl space problems don’t always manifest themselves in the same way. It’s important to take a thorough look inside your crawl space to see the signs. Crawl spaces are incredibly uncomfortable to stay in for long, so understanding what to look for will make things easier for you. When checking your crawl space for problems, you should look for:
- Wood Rot
If you find rotting wood in your crawl space, you shouldn’t be surprised that your energy bills are so high. Wood rot is the result of wood absorbing moisture and harboring fungi. The fungi slowly eat away at the wood and damage its structure. Wood rot indicates that moisture is somehow getting into your crawl space. If this is the case, the air in your crawl space is causing high energy bills.
You need to watch for unusual stains in the wood, as well as any spores. White foam, square patterns, and a surface that is breaking off all indicate wood rot. You can also touch the wood to check if it’s soft, which is a symptom of soft rot.
- High Crawl Space Humidity
Crawl space humidity is so normalized that homeowners don’t raise an eyebrow at it. However, high humidity in a crawl space is never good, as it slowly deteriorates your foundation and causes high energy bills as well. Your crawl space is most likely ventilated, so humid air can get through, not just water. The constant humidity invading your home overworks your AC as it tries to cool down the room, resulting in heavy energy consumption.
You should be wary of excessive humidity during the summer. In Grand Junction, Colorado, the least humid month of the year is June, so high humidity levels at this time mean a big problem and an even bigger energy bill.
Condensation is when water vapor becomes liquid. Basically, it’s the opposite of evaporation. Condensation spells a lot of trouble for your crawl space because it means that there’s a lot of water vapor in the air. Condensation occurs when the temperature reaches its dew point, which is the temperature needed for water vapor to liquify.
It’s very easy for the water vapor in a crawl space to hit its dew point because of the AC vents. These vents tend to run cold, and when the humid crawl space air meets the cooler vent, condensation occurs. These water droplets in your crawl space are not harmless and should not be ignored. They indicate a humidity problem, and their existence can create a standing water problem if things go on for too long.
- Wet or Destroyed Insulation
Crawl spaces aren’t given a lot of thought by construction crews. Because of this, not only are they made with poor waterproofing solutions, they are made with cheap insulation, too. The cheapest, most common insulation material is fiberglass, which has incredible absorbent abilities. It absorbs the heat in space, but it also absorbs the moisture.
Wet insulation is comparable to standing water in terms of how bad it is. The insulation is holding on to all that moisture and keeping it in the crawl space. Moisture also destroys insulation materials like fiberglass because the weight of the moisture causes the batt to sag. A humid, destroyed insulation makes it easier for the stack effect to destabilize your home’s temperature and raise your energy bill.
- Crawl Space Water
As a homeowner in Grand Junction, you might think you’ll never have to worry about water in your crawl space. Even though it doesn’t rain much in western Colorado, it doesn’t mean water cannot find its way into a crawl space. Homeowners should be wary of crawl space water in the early spring, which is when the snow begins to melt. The water can very easily make it into your crawl space, especially if you have a negative yard grade.
Broken pipes and poor yard drainage can also cause crawl space water, so just because you live in a very dry area doesn’t mean your crawl space can go unsupervised. If you do see it, it is something you need to take care of as soon as possible. It instantly increases the dampness of the crawl space and there are many things in there that retain moisture once becoming saturated with water.
Getting rid of the water itself is not enough to lower your energy bills. Once the crawl space has been met with standing water, there’s a good chance the remaining humidity will affect the energy usage in your home.
Efflorescence is a type of stain that can appear on concrete after it has been saturated with water. As the water dries up and rises to the surface, it brings the salts and minerals in the concrete with it. The salts sit on the surface of the concrete and form a dusty, white stain.
In concrete that is over a year old, efflorescence cannot occur unless the concrete has come in contact with water. Crawl space humidity can sometimes be a tricky thing, especially in dry climates. But if you’re dealing with high energy bills, even if you don’t see any signs of moisture anywhere in your crawl space, the existence of efflorescence says otherwise.
Mold can be found in any place where sunlight doesn’t shine and there’s a considerable amount of dampness. When checking your crawl space, you need to check your concrete, wood, and insulation for mold. Certain types of insulation, like fiberglass, don’t harbor any mold because it isn’t made of any organic material. If you have another insulation type with absorbent properties, it is most likely moldy. Mold and fungal growth on concrete often look like black spots on the surface, though they can also be green in color.
Mold needs moisture to survive, so a healthy community of it growing in your crawl space means you’ve found the source of your high energy bills. If you take the necessary steps to waterproof your crawl space, not only will the mold infestation vanish, but your energy bill will also go back to normal.
Crawl spaces are built with vents because it was believed that it would help with airflow and prevent humidity. Even though we know better now, crawl spaces are still built with vents. These vents allow water to get into the crawl space and increase the humidity levels. They also allow air to flow through and change the temperature of both your crawl space and your home overall.
Because of the stack effect, any air that comes in through your crawl space will rise up toward your home. Your AC and HVAC systems will constantly have to work harder to cool your home against the invading crawl space air, so they use up more energy. Spotting and then closing these vents is one good way to stop the stack effect from raising your energy bills.
High Energy Bills
If you’re going to choose new insulation for your crawl space, you need to go with something appropriate. There are different insulation materials to choose from, but not all of them work well for crawl spaces. The three most popular insulation materials used are fiberglass, cellulose, and foam. Each is made of a different insulation, and each has its own properties.
R-value is something you should consider when deciding on the material. The R-value indicates how well the material can insulate a space. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation material. Across Colorado, different R-values are required because of the varying climate across the state. Grand Junction, with its hot summers and short winters, needs an R-value of 25-30 for crawl spaces.
- Fiberglass and Cellulose
Fiberglass is one of the most common insulation materials used in the country. It’s made of plastic that’s been reinforced with small glass particles. It keeps the heat trapped in a space by absorbing it. The problem is that it not only absorbs heat, but it also absorbs moisture. Once it absorbs moisture, it keeps your crawl space humid and also begins to break apart as the moisture weighs it down.
Cellulose is better, but it still falls for all the same shortcomings as fiberglass. Part of it is made of paper, so it’s incredibly absorbent and retains water. Fiberglass has an R-value of 2.2 to 2.8 per inch and cellulose has 3.1 to 3.8. Neither of these materials has the necessary properties to fit your crawl space.
- Foam and Polystyrene
Polyurethane foam insulation is the superior insulation material in comparison to fiberglass and cellulose. It typically has an R-value of 6.3 per inch and is not absorbent. However, is it enough for a crawl space in Grand Junction? Turns out, there’s an even better option.
Polystyrene has the most potential of any of the previously mentioned materials. It has an R-value of 3.6 to 4, but it can increase if mixed with other materials. For example, our ExTremeBloc™ Crawl Space Insulation has a polystyrene core. It’s embedded with graphite particles that help reflect heat. Overall, it has an R-value of 11 per inch, making it the best insulation material for a crawl space.
If how high your energy bills are is tied to the health of your crawl space, is there anything you can do about it? Making sure that your crawl space is in inadequate condition is the first step to having a lower energy bill. You’ll have to consult a foundation repair expert to inspect the extent of the damage and see what your options are.
High energy bills and damaged crawl spaces go hand in hand. If you want to make sure no air can go in and out of your crawl space, you need to think about repairing it first. Cracks in the foundation can allow large quantities of moisture and air into space. If you had a basement, it would be easier to spot these cracks, but crawl spaces are so small, it can be difficult to move around in them for a proper inspection unless you’re a professional.
Repairing a crawl space involves clearing out all the mold growth from the wood and concrete. Any wood that has rotten beyond its limits should be replaced. Crawl space stabilizers can be installed to provide the floor with better support. If the damage is severe and there’s settling, helical piers can be installed to set the foundation right.
Once repairs are done, the real issue can be addressed. All crawl spaces should be waterproof in order to protect foundations from damage and protect homeowners from mold, high humidity, and high energy bills. When waterproofing a crawl space, the entire area can be encapsulated and closed off with the use of vapor barriers.
To make sure no humidity is left in the space, an industrial-grade dehumidifier can be installed. Then a sump pump can pump out any water that gets into the crawl space as well as the surrounding area when it rains. It’s especially effective if it’s connected to any outdoor drainage system.
If your concern is your high energy bills, you might raise an eyebrow at the suggestion to install new appliances, especially ones that run automatically in your crawl space. How much energy do sump pumps and dehumidifiers consume? Won’t they raise your energy bill?
- Sump Pumps, Dehumidifiers, and Energy Efficiency
Sump pumps and dehumidifiers will lower your energy bills despite being two new appliances using up energy in your home. The reason for this is because they lower the humidity in your crawl space, making it so that humidity cannot mess with your home’s indoor climate. Another reason is that these two appliances do not run the entire day. Sump pumps only pump out water after it has collected a specific amount of it and dehumidifiers can be turned on and off at will.
Grand Junction has a dry, arid climate, so the sump pump won’t run frequently. As for the dehumidifier, as long as you get a quality one that exceeds the ENERGY STAR® efficiency requirements, your energy bills will not increase. A powerful, reliable dehumidifier that fits that bill would be our FRWC dehumidifier.
- Why You Still Need Them
Hearing how energy-efficient sump pumps and dehumidifiers can be might answer one question, but it can bring up another. Are these two appliances really necessary if they won’t even be used that much? While it is true that a place like Grand Junction, Colorado, has well-drained soil that doesn’t cause the typical problems associated with crawl space humidity, it doesn’t mean that sump pumps and dehumidifiers aren’t useful. A vapor barrier alone isn’t enough to ensure a perfectly dry crawl space.
The winters in Grand Junction, Colorado, may be short and dry, but there’s still snowfall every year. In the spring, when the snow begins to melt, there is an excess of moisture in the soil around the crawl space. There’s also no guarantee that the pipes and ductwork in your crawl space won’t break and leak after encapsulation.
Call Foundation Repair of Western Colorado for Crawl Space Encapsulation and Waterproofing
If you’re getting high energy bills that have you running for the hills, we can do something about that. Since 2005, Foundation Repair of Western Colorado has been running in Grand Junction and bringing homeowners the most reliable foundation repair service in Colorado.
Call us or use the contact form on our website to schedule a free inspection with one of our experts. We’ll provide a written estimate of the costs as well as a timeline and all the solutions that best suit your home.