LESLIE: Michael in Arizona is seeking to cut summer electric bill. How can we help you today?
MICHAEL: I bought a little ranch here in Arizona. And during the winter months, my electric bill runs about $60 a month.
MICHAEL: And during the summertime, it goes up to about $300 a month.
TOM: (inaudible) It would be nice if it stayed at that level all summer long, wouldn’t it?
MICHAEL: Oh, yeah. The house was built with a swamp cooler and there was just a single vent. They had swapped it out for a heat pump with cooling capability.
MICHAEL: And the problem is they put ducting in but it’s all on the roof.
MICHAEL: So, everything that the air conditioner is cooling, it goes through 20 or 30 feet of plenum that is exposed to all that sunshine and sunlight and all that desert heat, right there on the roof.
MICHAEL: And I was wondering if there was an economical way that I could insulate those plenums so that I could hopefully cut $100 a month out of my electric bill.
TOM: Well, are the air-conditioning ducts on the roof that are exposed – are they insulated now?
MICHAEL: No, they’re not. They just had a coating, like an elastomeric or something put on them.
TOM: That’s nuts. That’s completely nuts. Yeah. Well, they didn’t put the right type of ducting in. Because, you know, having ducts run on the exterior of a building or across the roof is not unusual. I mean it’s unusual on a residence but it’s not so unusual in commercial establishments, and it might help cut summer electric bill.
TOM: But there are types of duct insulation that are designed to go around, in that scenario. And usually, it has a type of foil face that has a low-E capability. In other words, it reflects the UV radiation off. And usually, it’s a couple of layers.
There’s a product called Reflectix that I’m familiar with, that makes reflective insulation and radiant-barrier products and could help cut summer electric bill. That’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about. So there are products out that can be used to insulate those existing ducts. It’s just that you weren’t – they weren’t installed. And that was pretty much malpractice, as far as I’m concerned, because there’s no way you’re going to be able to compensate for the loss of that air conditioning traveling through those scorching-hot ducts. It’s just kind of silly for them even to think that’s a possibility.
So, insulating those ducts with the proper material is one thing you could do. And that’s probably going to be the least expensive way to go. Because the other option is if you wanted to run it through the building, you don’t have to use full-size ducts.
There’s a type of system that’s called a “high efficiency, low volume.” They run through ducts that are about 3 inches in diameter. And it’s different than the large, typical ducts where the air moves slowly. This air moves very quickly through these smaller tubes. But because they’re less than the width of a 2×4, you can run them through a lot of places. But that kind of requires a complete system replacement. So I think just getting the right kind of insulation on those ducts is going to be the shortest distance between you and a lower electric bill.
MICHAEL: Okay. Yeah, I’ve seen that kind of material. As a matter of fact, I’ve got some of it. I actually made a solar oven for the backyard where I can cook in a crock pot all day long in this heat.
MICHAEL: I can put a roast in there in the morning and by the time that 4:00, 5:00 in the afternoon rolls around, it’s stew.
TOM: Yeah. Well, then you want to manage the sun. In this case, you want to keep the sun out and away from those ducts. So, I think take a look at Reflectix, just as a place to start to cut summer electric bill. And that’s ReflectixInc.com – t-i-x-I-n-c – ReflectixInc.com. You’ll get a sense as to what we’re talking about. And I’m sure there are other manufacturers; I just happen to know about that one. But you need to find the right type of duct insulation to get those ducts wrapped, quickly, before the summer sun really heats – sets in. Okay?
MICHAEL: Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
MICHAEL: Alrighty. Thank you.