Lower Energy Bills by Adding Insulation to Your Home, Part I

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Cold weather giving you chills…inside your house? Most older homes are not properly insulated which leaves homeowners with high energy bills used for heating and cooling. Not only will adding insulation to your home make you more comfortable, but it will also lower those utility bills!

Added insulation from the roof down to its foundation will help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Adding loose-fill or spray foam insulation will result in minimal disturbance to finished areas of your home. Blown-in cellulose (recycled newsprint) and soy-based spray foam are two eco-friendly insulation options.  Another benefit, cellulose can be applied right over existing insulation.

The first step is to evaluate what parts of your home need added insulation, what type of insulation is already present, and the R-Value of the existing insulation. A qualified home energy auditor can make this an easy task if you are unsure about doing it yourself. Typically, houses in warm-weather states should have an R-38 insulation in the attic, whereas houses in cold climates should have R-49. Blown-in cellulose provides R-3.5 per inch, and soy-based spray foam insulation provides an R-value of 5.5 per inch. Energy Star’s website offers a Home Energy Yardstick to measure your homes energy efficiency.

An energy auditor will also help you locate any air infiltrating cracks or openings that need to be sealed between your home and the outside, and even between living spaces and the attic and foundation. Caulking and weatherstripping are used to accomplish this before you begin insulating. Be sure to also consider proper ventilation as your home becomes more air-tight.

A good place to start is the attic since it is one of the easiest places in the house to insulate. (Be aware that if you have vermiculite insulation, it may contain asbestos and is best left undisturbed).

  • Seal all attic-to-home air leaks, such as gaps and holes around the chimney and tops of interior walls. Seal ducts in homes with forced air heating and cooling systems with duct sealant, or mastic.
  • Install blocking (metal flashing) to maintain fire-safety clearance requirements (usually 3 inches) for heat-producing equipment found in an attic, such as flues, chimneys, exhaust fans, and light housings/fixtures unless the light fixtures are IC (insulation contact) rated.
  • Add rafter vents to ensure that soffit vents are clear and there is a channel for outside air to move into the attic at the soffits and out through the gable or ridge vent to allow for attic ventilation.
  • Check the attic ceiling for water stains or marks. They indicate roof leaks or lack of ventilation. Make repairs before you insulate. Wet insulation is ineffective and can damage your home.
  • Seal small gaps around the attic access door and add an attic door insulation kit.
  • Insulate and air seal any knee walls—partial vertical walls with attic space directly behind them.
  • Apply insulation between joists, studs, and rafters.

photo courtesy of cellulose.com

Tag(s): Energy, Greening the Home, Money Saving, Recycling

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