Reduce your energy costs with these insulation tips
The insulation of your home, along with the sealing of air leaks and drafts, can help you save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs each year. According to Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that savings can translate to reduce the average annual residential energy bill by 10 percent.
If you’re ready to start saving, as well as contribute to nationwide efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it could be time to have a energy auditing or insulation company inspect your house to make sure it is adequately insulated and sealed.
The fundamental purpose of insulation is to help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Though insulation is often most associated with the attic, it also is important to make sure your walls, crawl spaces and basement are properly insulated. Since insulation can deteriorate, have it checked periodically to make sure it remains efficient.
Sealing air leaks around windows, doors and other openings should also be performed in conjunction with the installation of new insulation.
Before choosing an insulation company to discuss the best solutions for your home, take a look at some key differences among the most common types of insulation:
- Fiberglass (both batt and blown-in forms): For use in unfinished walls, including the foundations, floors and ceiling
- Rigid foam board: Made of polystyrene, this product has a high insulating value despite being relatively thin. It's also appropriate for unfinished walls, floors and ceilings
- Spray foam: This product, made of various materials including polyurethane, cementitious and phenolic, is often used in enclosed existing walls, unfinished attic floors or open wall cavities
- Rigid fibrous: Made of fiberglass or mineral wool, this product is used in ducts or other areas requiring insulation that can handle high temperatures
- Loose-fill: Made of fiberglass, cellulose or mineral wool, this is appropriate for existing walls, unfinished attic floors and difficult-to-reach areas
It's also important to consider the R factor: The performance of insulation or its ability to resist heat flow is determined by what is called an R-value. A higher R-value translates into more insulating power. There are various R-value recommendations for walls, attics, basements and crawlspaces as well as for geographic locations. EnergyStar's recommended insulation level for most attics is R-38 (or about 12 to 15 inches, depending on the insulation type). In colder climates, insulating up to R-49 may be recommended.
If you decide you would like to add or update your insulation, talk to a professional about your current R-levels and what would be optimal for your house based on your climate and region.