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How to Reduce Utility Costs with Insulation

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Jerry in South Carolina is on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you today?

    JERRY: I live in a 20-year-old brick house and I’m very interested in reducing my utility costs.

    LESLIE: OK.

    JERRY: And I was thinking of either two things: one would be blowing in more insulation in the attic, over the insulation that’s there or installing a foil, thermal barrier, if you will – it’s like a carpet – over the existing, blown-in insulation in the attic. Also, another question is, you mentioned ventilating the attic as being very important and I was wondering what you would recommend to increase the ventilation in my attic.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now with your attic, Jerry, you’re absolutely right. Insulation and ventilation, they really work hand-in-hand and if you don’t properly ventilate your attic, you’re really going to see an inefficiency with the insulation that you already have in there.

    Now, you have blown-in currently, correct?

    JERRY: Yes. And I do have a fan in there. It works off a motor but I think I need more; more ventilation.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, what you really want, ideally, when it comes to ventilation is you want a continuous ridge vent and a continuous soffit vent. This way, the air comes in and goes out and sort of circulates and keeps everything working properly. So, Tom is really anti the attic fan or the venting fans because they really don’t do anything. The continuous ridge vent, continuous soffit vent are truly what keeps that air moving.

    Now, with blown-in insulation, you want 18 to 22 inches of blown-in in your attic so if you see a lot of sagging or areas that it’s just compressed and condensed and not really working, you really do need to add more. And if you sort of put that hat on your head, really address the attic of your house, that will help really control the amount of energy that’s escaping.

    TOM: Now, Jerry, when you add the insulation, you want to make sure that you pull it back from the overhang. You don’t want it to block the soffits, so make sure that as you add it, you leave enough space so that air can get in the soffit vents and up over top the insulation.

    And there’s a device called an insulation baffle, which essentially is designed to push down that insulation where the roof rafter meets the outside wall.

    JERRY: OK. Now, what do you think about this thermal barrier thing?

    TOM: I think the jury’s out on the data and so I’m not going to recommend a radiant barrier when I know that you have such a straightforward attic that just needs insulation. That’s going to make a big difference.

    JERRY: OK. Don’t go to that expense of weighing that stuff out, huh?

    TOM: No, I would – not when you have – not when you need more insulation. I would add more insulation first.

    JERRY: Is there any government tax credits for doing this?

    TOM: Well, it’s not as good as it used to be. There was a tax credit program available that ended last year. There’s still a tax credit for insulating your house but it’s not quite as much.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, the 2011 federal tax credit, it expires December 31 of ’11, obviously, and it’s 10 percent of the cost, up to $500. Or some of the energy-efficiency projects that you could be doing in your home might have specific amounts sort of assigned to that project, ranging from like $50 to $300. So just go to EnergyStar.gov and look for the 2011 tax credits.

    And when you’re there, you’ll see sort of all of the areas, like stoves, heating ventilation, insulation. And once you sort of click through, you’ll find out exactly how to apply, so you’ll see really what you need; what you need to save for your accountant at the end of the year when you file. But it is still up for grabs; you just sort of have to look for what you need.

    JERRY: Well, listen, I appreciate you two. You’ve got a great show. I really enjoy it.

    TOM: Well, thank you, Jerry and good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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