What’s in Your Attic? Learn How to Save Energy and Money

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If you’re still wondering why your house is so cold this winter, it may be a good idea to see what kind of insulation you have in your attic.  First you need to determine what the correct amount of insulation is for your geographical area.  Next, you need to head on up to the attic to find out if your insulation is adequate or not.  If you live in an older home, chances are, it is not up to par, and you’re letting the money you spend on heating and cooling your home basically “fly out the window”!  Even newer homes are only insulated enough to meet building codes, so by adding more insulation, you’ll maximize your home’s energy efficiency.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has a nifty website that features a zip code finder that calculates how much insulation you need in your home.  Simply enter whether your home is new or existing; your fuel type; and the first three digits of your zip code.  It will then show you the recommended R-values for the level of insulation in your home’s attic, walls, floors, and basement/crawlspace walls.

Once you’ve determined what the appropriate level of insulation should be, it’s time to compare that to what you have in your attic.

  • If you see loose fibers that are light-weight and yellow, pink or white, it’s probably fiberglass, which has an R-value of 2.5 per inch.
  • If you see loose fibers that are dense gray or near white (possibly with black specs), it’s probably rock wool, which has an R-value of 2.8 per inch.
  • If you see loose fibers that have small gray flat pieces or fibers (from newsprint), it’s probably cellulose, which has an R-value of 3.7 per inch.
  • If you see light-weight granules, it’s probably vermiculite or perlite, which has an R-value of 2.7 per inch.
  • If you see yellow, pink or white batts, it’s probably fiberglass batts, which have an R-value of 3.2 per inch.

To calculate the total R-value of the insulation in your attic, simply multiply the R-value (from the examples above) by the depth of the insulation that you see.  Compare that to what the DOE recommends for your area, and you’ll determine whether or not you have to make a shopping trip.

Eco-friendly options that a handy do-it-yourself homeowner can install, include:  recycled denim insulation, which has an R-value of 3.4-3.7 per inch; and cellulose insulation, which has a high recycled content and an R-value of 3.4 per inch.  Both are treated with non-hazardous flame retardants as well.

Be sure to first caulk and seal any areas where you see light penetrating through the attic before insulating.  If light is entering the space, so is outside air.  Low-VOC caulks and sealants are now readily available at green building stores, some hardware stores and online.

It’s also a good idea to add an insulative attic door cover to prevent hot air from entering your living spaces in the summer, and cold air from entering your living spaces in the winter.

Proper ventilation in your attic is also key.  Learn more at the Department of Energy’s website.

photo courtesy of doityourself.com

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

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