Tips for Saving Energy with Home Insulation

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Saving energy and therefore money with energy efficient insulation in the home is one of the fastest and most cost effective ways to use a whole house approach to save energy and money.

A good insulating system includes a combination of products and construction techniques that protect a home from hot and cold outside temperatures, protect against air leaks, and control moisture.

Here are some clues that your house may need more insulation:

    • You have an older home and haven’t added insulation. Only 20% of homes built before 1980 are well insulated.
    • You are uncomfortably cold in the winter or hot in the summer.
    • You pay high energy bills.
  • You are bothered by noise from outside.

First, check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces to see if it meets the levels recommended for your area. Insulation is measured in R-values. The higher the R-value, the better your walls and roof will resist the transfer of heat.

The Department of Energy recommends ranges of R-values based on local heating and cooling costs and climate conditions. For these insulation recommendations, visit the Zip Code Insulation Calculator.

Saving Energy With Home Insulation In the Attic

One of the most cost-effective ways to make your home more comfortable year-round is to add insulation to your attic. To find out if you have enough attic insulation, measure the thickness of the insulation. If it is less than R-22 (7 inches of fiber glass or rock wool or 6 inches of cellulose), you could probably benefit by adding more. Most U.S. homes should have between R-22 and R-49 insulation in the attic.

If your attic has enough insulation and your home still feels drafty and cold in the winter or too warm in the summer, you probably need to add insulation to the exterior walls. This more expensive measure usually requires a contractor, but it may be worth the cost if you live in a very hot or cold climate.

Types of Home Insulation for Saving Energy

Although insulation can be made from a variety of materials, it usually comes in four types:

  • Rolls and batts (or blankets) are flexible products made from mineral fibers, such as fiberglass and rock wool. They are available in widths suited to standard spacing of wall studs and attic or floor joists. 2×4 walls can hold R-13 or R-15 batts; 2×6 walls can have R-19 or R-21 products.
  • Loose-fill insulation is usually made of fiberglass, rock wool, or cellulose and comes in shreds, granules, or nodules. These small particles are blown into spaces using special pneumatic equipment. The blown-in material conforms readily to building cavities and attics. Therefore, loose-fill insulation is well suited for places where it is difficult to install other types of insulation.
  • Rigid foam insulation is typically more expensive than fiber insulation. But it’s effective in buildings with space limitations and where higher R-values are needed.
  • Foam-in-place insulation can be blown into walls and reduces air leakage.


Saving Energy With Home Insulation In New Construction

For new construction or home additions, R-11 to R-28 insulation is recommended for exterior walls depending on location. To meet this recommendation, most homes and additions constructed with 2 in. x 4 in. walls require a combination of wall cavity insulation, such as batts and insulating sheathing or rigid foam boards. If you live in an area with an insulation recommendation that is greater than R-20, you may want to consider building with 2 in. x 6 in. framing instead of 2 in. x 4 in. framing to allow room for thicker wall cavity insulation.

With new home construction or additions, consider using new products that provide both insulation for saving energy and structural support:

    • Structural insulated panels (SIPS) are panels made from a thick layer of foam (polystyrene or polyurethane) sandwiched between two layers of Oriented Strand Board, plywood, or fiber-cement.
    • Insulating concrete forms – Four inches of ASTM C 578 polystyrene foam insulation, combined with a five inch concrete wall a typical ICF system.
  • Radiant barriers (or reflective insulation) reflect radiant heat energy instead of trying to absorb it.

Additional Home Insulation Tips for Saving Energy

    • Consider factors such as your climate, building design, and budget when selecting insulation R-values for your home.
    • Use higher density insulation, such as rigid foam boards, in cathedral ceilings and on exterior walls.
    • Ventilation plays a large role in providing moisture control and reducing summer cooling bills. Attic vents can be installed along the entire ceiling cavity to help ensure proper airflow from the soffit to the attic to make a home more comfortable and energy efficient.
  • Recessed light fixtures can be a major source of heat loss, but you need to be careful how close you place insulation next to a fixture unless it is marked IC—designed for direct insulation contact. Check your local building codes for recommendations.

Saving energy by sealing air leaks is both great for the planet & the pocket!.

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Updated: November 11, 2012 — 2:24 am

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