Although it’s easy to think of big things when you’re looking for places to cut energy costs, like replacement windows, the first steps to take involve insulating your home to save money.
The payback period for tightening a leaky ceiling can be as short as a month. Adding insulation might take a few heating or cooling seasons to pay off but the wait is relatively brief. The estimated payback for sealing and upgrading insulation is three years. The first step is to stop the air leaks and stop losing heat. Knowing exactly where to insulate in your home is key to saving you money.
Potential Air leaks in the attic
Choose the right air sealant for the job
When sealing an attic there are many different types of sealants to choose from, and using them all in one way or another is a great idea. Caulk is a good choice for areas requiring a precision application. When gaps around pipes or wires need filling, use expanding urethane foam. When sealing leaks that come under the code heading of draft-blocking or fire-stopping, check your local code requirements. In some areas, local fire codes supersede the International Building Code.
Tune up existing insulation
After all the leaks have been sealed, it’s time to save money by tackling your home's insulation. The two types of insulation that are found in older attics are fiberglass batts and loose fill cellulose. For batt insulation to perform at its rated level it must be installed snug to the ceiling surface and to the edges of the framing. Tune up your home's insulation by tightening end joints and filling any voids with new pieces. If you’re increasing the amount of insulation with new batts, bring the level of the older batts flush with the top of the joists and install a new layer of unfaced batts running perpendicular to the joists. If upgrading with loose-fill insulation keep it from falling into eave soffits and maintain channels for roof ventilation by installing a layer of blocking made from rigid insulation in the rafter bays over exterior-wall plates.
Blowing insulation is a two-person job
Blown-in loose fill cellulose or fiberglass insulation isn’t as common as batt insulation but both are installed quickly and completely cover the ceiling. Loose-fill insulation can be blown over any existing insulation that’s been tuned up first. Comparisons in the R-value between the two are similar and both types of insulation are installed using the same basic technique. Cellulose is generally more available and over the first year tends to settle more than fiberglass insulation.
With either home installation, a two-person crew is the absolute minimum. One person handles the hose and the other feeds the blowing machine. The most critical job is at the machine where the steady rate of insulation flow is controlled by the operator. At the other end of the hose, it’s best to start at the farthest point and work back to the attic access.
Improving your home's energy efficiency by adding insulation to save money will not only help you stay warm and comfortable, you can reduce energy use and lower your heating bills by as much as 20 percent.