Having a well-insulated home is not only a great way to live toward a greener ideal, but to also save yourself some money on heating and cooling bills.
Increasing the thermal insulation in an existing home doesn’t have to be difficult, and the financial payoff can be substantial in the long run.
This article presents what options you have when improving home insulation, including some small and big changes you can make, as well as how to determine the cost effectiveness of your insulation upgrade.
Why is Insulation Important?
Heat is constantly in movement moving from a warmer to a cooler area, i.e. escaping from within your warm house to the cold outside. Through hot and cool seasons, a significant amount of energy can be transferred through exterior walls, rather than staying in your home to keep you warm or cool.
This heat flow can be reduced with insulation in your walls, giving your home a higher heat flow resistance (also referred to as an R-value). A better R-value means less air is being lost to the outdoors, and the more you save on your energy consumption (and energy bills!).
Consider the following:
Most houses are woefully under insulated
Nearly every home is built with some form of insulation in its exterior walls, but it may not be enough to properly reduce energy loss from your home. The minimum levels of insulation called for in many local building codes aren’t anywhere close to what the U.S. Dept. of Energy recommends for comfort and energy savings today.
For example, many attics have just 6 in. or so of insulation –about R-19. Current recommendations for attic insulation in northern parts of the U.S. are R-49 to R-60.
According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, buildings account for 40% of global energy consumption. Clearly, the potential for energy savings through better insulation is huge.
Reducing air leakage and increasing insulation levels results in major energy savings
By sealing air leaks in a typical older house and upgrading insulation levels in the attic and basement (the two most accessible areas for adding insulation), it’s possible to cut heating and cooling costs by 30% or more.
The environmental impact of these savings is significant: fewer carbon emissions from furnaces, boilers and electrical power plants that burn fossil fuels.