Insulation Persuasion

By Chelle Cordero

June 19, 2009 5 min read


Save money and the environment with a simple step

Chelle Cordero

Creators News Service

Comfort, economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are all terrific reasons to make sure that your home is properly insulated this year. The steps you take now for the fall and winter months will serve you year round.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling account for 50 to 70 percent of the energy used in the average American home. Inadequate insulation and air leakage are the leading causes of energy waste in most homes. That drafty crawlspace, attic or basement can be one of the biggest culprits behind a high utility bill.

Sealing your home around windows, doors, pipes, wires and vents and making sure there is an ideal amount of insulation in attics, crawlspaces, basements and walls is vital to saving energy in your home, according Maria Vargas, spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Many air leaks are easy to feel in the more common living areas. Since heat tends to rise, attics often provide escape routes. Making sure your attic floors are adequately insulated will keep the heat in and, in turn, save on those energy costs as well as the earth.

"Imagine what a difference we can make if owners of our nation's nearly 80 million under-insulated homes realize they can easily decrease their carbon footprint by properly insulating," said Frank O'Brien-Bernini, chief sustainability officer at Owens Corning, makers of insulation products for both commercial and residential properties. "Our best source of energy is energy we don't use in the first place."

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends attics have up to an R-value of 60. The R-value refers to how resistant it is to heat loss -- thicker insulation is usually more effective.

To meet these standards, your attic should have at least 19 inches of fiberglass batt, or roll, insulation or 22 inches of blown insulation. If you can see the wood beams, or joists, in your attic, you definitely don't have enough insulation.

For more information, a step-by-step guide to adding insulation to your attic is available at

Other steps you can take to keep your home operating more energy efficiently during the cold winter months is to vacuum air vents, change air filters regularly and lubricate the blower motor according to manufacturer directions. You should also have your furnace serviced professionally once a year.

Inspect and repair weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows and replace as needed. Be sure you check garage doors and other entry routes into your home as well. Don't forget to insulate around air ducts and hot water pipes.

Some types of insulation are better for specific uses than others so be sure to read the manufacturer's labels and installation directions. Batt or roll insulation is flexible, often made of fiberglass or rockwool. It is easy for a do-it-yourself weekend job.

Blown-in loose-fill insulation includes cellulose, fiberglass or rockwool in the form of loose fibers or fiber pellets and is good for walls and irregular spaces. The fill must be blown in with high-powered pressure equipment and usually requires professional installation. Professionals can apply polyisocyanurate and polyurethane foam insulation using special equipment.

Rigid insulation is made from fibrous materials or plastic foams and is produced in board-like forms and molded pipe coverings. Reflective insulation systems are made from aluminum foils with a variety of backings like craft paper, plastic film, polyethylene bubbles or cardboard. Radiant and vapor barriers will help keep cool moist air from entering your home.

In addition to the substantial savings on your utility bill, both the U.S. and Canadian governments are currently offering generous tax credits for certain energy-efficient home improvement products.

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