Should I Insulate My Home?
The answer is probably “yes” if you:
• Have an older home and haven’t added insulation. Only 20% of homes built before 1980 are well insulated.
• Are uncomfortably cold in the winter or hot in the summer— adding insulation creates a more uniform temperature and increases comfort.
• Build a new home, addition, or install new siding or roofing.
• Pay high energy bills.
• Are bothered by noise from outside—insulation muffles sound.
Long-Term Savings Tip
One of the most cost-effective ways to make your home more comfortable year-round is to add insulation to your attic. Adding insulation to the attic is relatively easy and very cost effective. 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 fiberglass 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, chances are you need to add insulation to the exterior walls as well. This is a more expensive measure that usually requires a contractor, but it may be worth the cost if you live in a very hot or cold climate.
You may also need to add insulation to your crawl space. Either the walls of the crawl space or the floor above the crawl space should be insulated.
How Much Insulation Does My Home Need?
For insulation recommendations tailored to your home, visit the DOE
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—R-19 to R-21.
Today, new products are on the market that provides both insulation and structural support and should be considered for new home construction or additions. Structural insulated panels, known as SIPS, and masonry products like insulating concrete forms are among these. Some homebuilders are even using an old technique borrowed from the pioneers, building walls using straw bales. Check online at www.energysavers.gov for more information on structural insulation.
Radiant barriers (in hot climates), reflective insulation, and foundation insulation should all be considered for new home construction.
Sealing Air Leaks
Warm air leaking into your home during the summer and out of your home during the winter can waste a lot of your energy dollars. One of the quickest dollar-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal, and weatherstrip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside. You can save 10% or more on your energy bill by reducing the air leaks in your home.
Tips for Finding And Sealing Air Leaks
• First, test your home for air tightness. On a windy day, hold a lit incense stick next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and other locations where there is a possible air path to the outside. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing, or weatherstripping.
Sources of Air Leaks in Your Home
Areas that leak air into and out of your home cost you lots of money.
Check the areas listed below.
Dropped ceiling Water heater and furnace flues Window frames Recessed light All ducts Electrical outlets and switches
Attic entrance Door frames Plumbing and utility access Sill plates Chimney flashing
Insulation and Sealing Air Leaks
• Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
• Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring penetrates through exterior walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets.
• Install rubber gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior walls.
• Look for dirty spots in your insulation, which often indicate holes where air leaks into and out of your house. You can seal the holes by stapling sheets of plastic over the holes and caulking the edges of the plastic.
• Install storm windows over single-pane windows or replaces them with double pane windows.
• When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed. A chimney is designed specifically for smoke to escape, so until you close it, warm air escapes—24 hours a day!
• For new construction, reduce exterior wall leaks by either installing house wrap, taping the joints of exterior sheathing, or comprehensively caulking and sealing the exterior walls.
How and Where Does the Air Escape?
• Plumbing penetrations 13%
• Windows 10%
• Floors, walls, and ceiling 31%
• Fireplace 14%
• Fans and vents 4%
• Doors 11%
• Ducts 15%
• Electric outlets 2%
Air infiltrates into and out of your home through every hole, nook, and cranny. About one-third of this air infiltrates through openings in your ceilings, walls, and floors.