When people think of insulation, they generally think of the fluffy stuff that goes in their walls or attic, but there are a lot of other tricks you can use to maintain the temperature of your home without burning extra energy. Home insulation is now green insulation.
Home Insulation and Energy Conservation Will Save You Money
Over the lifetime of a home, losses and inefficiencies add up to thousands of dollars that could have been saved with a small investment upfront or minor upgrades along the way. We’ll show you how to conserve energy in your home and how to make your home more efficient, both now and in the future. Every repair job is a chance to also reduce recurring costs and lower your carbon footprint.
In this article we’ll explore some of those options.
Home energy conservation techniques
Standard Insulation Materials
If you are building new, then insulation is something that you want to think about. Upgrading insulation after the drywall is up gets expensive quite quickly, so it’s important to do what you can from the beginning.
The standard 2×4 construction of most homes matches itself well to fiberglass wool insulation that is rated for R13, and this meets code in most locations. Meanwhile, you can actually get better insulation by going other routes.
If you are fine with sticking to R13, there are eco-friendly options available that are nearly identical to fiberglass at a glance, but safer for the environment in both production and use. Cellulose is quickly replacing fiberglass in modern homes.
Even if you are simply upgrading the insulation in your roof, cellulose can be used. It is cost-effective, less itchy, and a solid alternative to standard insulating materials.
Taking this all one step further is foam. Whether spray foam or pre-cut panels, foam provides more insulation in the same space than any kind of batting material, giving an R rating of R5 for every inch of material.
A standard 2×4 provides 3.5 inches of space, though the recommended foam sheet is 3 inches to allow wiggle room. In this configuration, all the walls in a new construction house can be rated to R15, or even more if using six-inch studs. It also works in attics, crawlspaces, and basements, and it will never get waterlogged, even if you have a leak somewhere.
Energy Efficient Windows
Think of windows and sliding glass doors as holes in your insulation. While it’s great to have wide open views, windows are terribly inefficient as insulators.
Modern windows come in all different configurations for energy saving, and they are a relatively easy way to plug these holes. Double or even triple pane glass can dramatically increase the insulation value of a home by getting tighter insulation where heat leaks out the fastest.
Window upgrades can seem expensive, but when you dig into the finances, they are actually quite affordable, much more so than replacing wall insulation. The best part is that most windows are made to order, so you can get the exact size that you want, an any opening or decorative features you like, without spending too much more.
A good contractor can probably change all the exterior windows in most average sized homes in a day, making the process nearly seem-less as well. Window upgrades are one of those solutions that just make sense for most people wanting to upgrade the insulation on their home.
If you are considering changing the look of your house, or just preparing to repair worn-out siding, then you can also take advantage of the situation by adding some underlayment to the outside of your house.
Dense foam matting comes in various sizes from 1/4” to 1/2” thick, and can boost the insulation value of your house quite dramatically for a very low cost, especially if the insurance company is footing most of the bill.
While this solution probably isn’t the best for everyone, if you are even thinking about doing anything with the siding on your house, then you should ask your contractor about the cost of adding another shell of insulation at the same time. A small addition can pay for itself in energy savings.
The same applies when repairing a storm-damaged roof.
Use Empty Rooms and Extra Stuff for Insulation
Did you know that most of the heat-holding ability of a household comes directly from the weight of the material inside it?
In short, the more stuff you have, the more thermal mass is available to maintain the temperature. If you have a little prepper stash of food and water buckets, it’s best to keep them somewhere they can absorb heat and radiate it to the rest of the house, such as near a vent or water heater.
Close off rooms that you aren’t using. Keeping the doors shut on your closets reduces the amount of airspace that you need to heat or cool, and that converts itself to savings on your energy bill.
Inspect and Clean Your Vents and Radiators
You know that little vacuum attachment that you never use, the one with the soft bristles around a large opening? It’s perfect for cleaning up your HVAC system.
The soft bristles are gentle on the delicate metal fins of radiators, and removing dust and grid will provide better airflow and allow your heater and AC to work more efficiently. Just be extra cautious not to apply any pressure and bend the fins.
You should also clean up the vents in your house to get the dust and dirt off, and change all of your filters at least once a year. A better option is to inspect these every three months and change them out as necessary. Clean duct work adds tons of value to efficiency and saves you money in the long run.
Turn Off Your Air Conditioner
If you are away from home for long amounts of time, you might want to throttle down your AC or heater (depending on the time of year) when you are away from home. There is little sense in constantly running your climate control system at full capacity if you don’t need to.
You can also use timers to click everything back on an hour before you get home from work.
Check for Drafts
Typically, people will know they have a draft somewhere, but don’t know how to find it. It couldn’t be more simple.
Light a candle and walk along all walls, checking around corners and particularly around windows and doors. These are hot spots for air leaks. If you see the flame start flickering, it means air is moving, and can clue you into holes in your wall that need to be plugged.
By simply removing the trim around a window or door, you can gain access to the open spaces around it and plug them with spray foam yourself. You can ask your contractor to help you if the situation looks more complicated or you don’t have the right tools to put your trim back up.
Drafts can make a well-insulated house prone to wasting a lot of energy, so always check for them.
Home Insulation: final thoughts
The options for upping the energy efficiency of your insulation are nearly endless, with both expensive and cheap solutions. Simple modifications like plugging air leaks can still have a dramatic effect on energy savings, and some solutions can be added while making other repairs.
Don’t think about upgrading everything all at once, but rather develop a mindset for continually increasing your houses efficiency. Need better insulation now? Change the windows. Got a leaky pipe that requires ripping open an exterior wall? Might as well put some better insulation in there before you close everything back up.
Do regular checks to ensure that your HVAC system is running the best it can by keeping every component clean of dirt and blockages, and the benefits will come regardless of your house’s R-factor.
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