Ask TOH | Home Energy Savings

In this special episode, the crew demonstrates several ways to save energy at home. First, general contractor Tom Silva helps a homeowner select and install energy-efficient “replacement” windows. Up in the loft, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows host Kevin O'Connor a few ways to reduce the energy needed for heating water. Then, Kevin and an energy auditor visit a home and discuss how to improve the heating and air conditioning system and reduce electrical consumption.

Installing replacement windows

Tom helped a homeowner select and install new energy-efficient replacement windows. After measuring the openings, Tom took the homeowner to a local home center, where he showed her a replacement window with double panes of insulated glass and high-quality weather stripping. They placed an order for two windows and Tom came back several weeks later to help her with the installation. Tom first removed the “stop beads” and removed the old sash units and the old storm windows. He then caulked around the perimeter of the opening and tilted the new window units into place. After checking to make sure they were centered and plumb, Tom added shims and screwed the windows in place. He then reinstalled the old stop-beads, caulked around the perimeter of the windows outside, and the installation was complete.

Where to find it?

Tom installed new replacement windows manufactured by:

Andersen Corporation (model# 400 series “Woodwright”)
100 Fourth Avenue North
Bayport, MN 55003-1096
(800) 426-4261

Anderson replacement windows are available at:

The Home Depot

Heating water more efficiency

Richard showed Kevin a few ways to save energy while making domestic hot water. For gas and electric water heaters, Richard recommended adjusting the thermostat to 125-degrees. Next, he recommended wrapping all the hot water pipes in a house with pipe insulation. Richard also recommended using a water-saving showerhead to reduce the amount of hot water being used. Finally, Richard showed an alternative to a traditional storage tank-type water heater: an “instantaneous” unit that only heats water as it's needed.

Where to find it?

Pipe insulation and water-saving showerheads are available at your local hardware store or home center.

The instantaneous water heater Richard showed was manufactured by:
103 International Drive
Peachtree City, GA 30269
(800) 621-9419

Home energy audit

Kevin and energy auditor Paul Scheckel visited a home to see what could be done to make it more energy efficient. In the basement, Paul inspected the ductwork of a forced-air heating and cooling system and determined that the ducts needed insulation. Paul also said that the seams in the supply and return ducts can leak air, causing even greater energy-loss. To find out where the leaks were occurring, Paul connected a “duct-blaster” that pressurized the ductwork and a gauge showed severe air leakage in the ducts. Paul then blew smoke into the ducts so he could see exactly where the leaks were. When the smoke cleared, Paul applied a duct sealant over any unsealed seams to prevent future air loss. For other duct connections, Paul recommended sealing them using a foil-faced duct tape. Finally, Paul recommended using R-6 foil-faced insulation around the ducts.

Upstairs, Paul gave some tips on saving electricity. He recommended replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL's), which use less energy. Paul also connected a meter to an old refrigerator to measure its energy consumption and determined that a new refrigerator could save nearly $150 per year on electricity costs. Paul then showed how to save money by disconnecting electronic components like computers and televisions when they are not in use. He demonstrated that, even when they are “off,” many appliances have a “phantom load” and continue to consume electricity.

Where to find it?

Paul Scheckel has over fifteen years experience as an energy efficiency specialist. He has visited thousands of homes educating people about energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and renewable energy options. His book, The Home Energy Diet, contains thorough research and many energy-saving suggestions. For more information or to purchase the book, please visit his website:

Paul used a portable meter to measure the electrical usage of the refrigerator and the “phantom load” of the entertainment system. It is manufactured by Watts Up meters (

In the loft, Kevin showed a device that connects to a residential electrical meter and displays how much electricity the entire house is using. It also displays the cost of the electrical usage in real-time. It is manufactured by:

BlueLine Innnovations PowerCost Monitor
1st Floor ICON Bldg
187 Kenmount Rd.
St. John's, NL A1B 3P9

Additional technical assistance for this segment was provided by Air Purchases, Inc (

Have a question you'd like answered?
Submit your question to the Ask TOH Team.

TV Listings

Find TV Listing for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.

Ask TOH TV Partners