Your home is your palace, but even palaces need upgrades. With energy costs rising and environmental concerns spreading, it's a good idea to cut back on the energy you use at home. One of the more effective ways to do this is to install insulation. A well-insulated house, sealed against air leaks, can be heated and cooled much more efficiently than the typical drafty home. Update your home now and enjoy your lowered energy bill.
Wall and Floor Insulation
Insulating the exterior walls of your house can help maintain an even indoor temperature, making you more comfortable and reducing heating and cooling costs. You can add loose-fill or sprayed-foam insulation to existing walls without an extensive remodel. If you're building a new home, consider building insulation into the walls for ultimate energy efficiency. You can also use advanced framing techniques to maximize your insulation's effectiveness in newly built walls. (See References 1)
If you have an unheated space like a garage or basement, insulate the floor above it to help protect against heat loss. (See References 2) When you insulate a wall, floor or ceiling, be sure to seal it thoroughly against air and moisture.
Attics and Basements
Attics are one of the easiest places in the house to insulate. Loose-fill or batt insulation can be piped directly into your attic, preventing heat loss from the main floor of the house. (See References 3) On the other hand, basements can be problematic to insulate. You stand to save hundreds per year on your energy bill with an insulated basement, but installation can be costly and you run a risk of insect infestation and moisture problems. Before you decide to insulate your basement, consult with a local contractor about specific concerns in your area. (See References 4)
Insulating your home is very important, but Energy Star recommends you also seal any air leaks throughout your house. Inspect your house for drafts around windows and doors, and check the attic, basement and crawlspaces for places that can be sealed. Also inspect air ducts: The typical house loses up to 20 percent of its heated and cooled air through leaks in ductwork. (See References 5)
Types of Insulation
Blanket or batt insulation comes in rolls that you can work with yourself, in sizes that are suited to standard stud and joist spacing. Batt insulation can also be made from natural fibers such as recycled cotton. Foam board or rigid foam insulation is also fairly easy to work with, but must be covered with sheetrock for fire safety. Loose-fill insulation can be blown or poured into large spaces, providing even and effective fill at low cost. Wool loose-fill insulation is available as a natural alternative. Reflective system insulation consists of foiled paper, film, bubble wrap or cardboard, and can be an effective do-it-yourself option to stop downward heat flow. Sprayed foam expands to fill irregular spaces. There are other types of insulation for just about any use; talk to a contractor about which is best for your needs. (See References 6)
As of April 2011, taxpayers can receive a credit equal to 10 percent of the cost of installing insulation, up to $500 (see Resources 1). Tax incentives like these will help lower your overall costs, allowing your new insulation to pay for itself faster. Check into current federal and state incentives while pricing your options.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that insulating your whole house can save you 11 to 12 percent of your energy bill overall every year, while cutting your heating and cooling costs by 19 to 20 percent (see Resources 2). By comparing the cost of installing insulation against the amount of money you stand to save each year, you can estimate the length of your insulation's payback period.
An award-winning blogger, Jessica Blue has been promoting sustainability, natural health and a do-it-yourself attitude since graduating University of California, Berkeley in 2000. Her work, seen in a wide variety of publications, advocates an environmentally-responsible and healthy lifestyle.