The Priorities of Insulating
LESLIE: Sean in California finds The Money Pit on KSRO. What’s going on in your house?
SEAN: Well, I have some questions about insulating my home.
TOM: OK, how can we help?
SEAN: Well, I’m interested … I’ve been hearing all these theories about wrapping your water heater and caulking the windows and doors and changing energy efficient bulbs to help drive down your utility costs. I’m just wondering what really makes a difference. What would you guys recommend as a starting point?
TOM: Well, all those things that you mentioned will, collectively, make a difference. But what would we tackle as the biggest things first? The first thing I would tackle would be the attic insulation. Making sure that you have enough attic insulation is very, very critical and that probably gives you amongst the highest return on investment. Generally, you’re going to want 10 to 15 inches of insulation in your attic and that needs to be balanced with proper ventilation so that that insulation doesn’t get moist or damp because, if it does, it won’t insulate properly.
You mentioned electric water heater. Sure, putting on an inexpensive fiberglass jacket around the water heater – definitely a good thing to do; very low cost of installation; easy to do. Make sure that you leave access to get to the coils, which is behind those two metal plates that are on the front of the water heater so that you can get that.
The other thing – energy efficient light bulbs. No reason not to do those. Buy the … buy the …
LESLIE: Compact fluorescents.
TOM: Compact fluorescents. Exactly. To get 60 watts of light out of a compact fluorescent, you only need to use 15 watts of electricity. So it’s a pretty good return on investment.
LESLIE: And Sean, I would also think about, especially as your weather changes – I know, out where you are, you know, things get a little bit cooler in the evenings and you can lose a lot of energy whether you’re heating or you’re cooling, depending on whatever weather situation you’re facing – is to make sure you caulk all around the outside of your windows; wherever the windows meet the siding. Do that same thing for around door frames. Anything where you might get an energy leak because all of those combined equal to a three-foot square hole in the side of your house. So make sure you take care of all of those situations where you’re losing any energy outside.
TOM: You know, Sean, a good place to start is to have an energy audit done. And most utility companies will do energy audits for free or for a very low fee. Because this way, you can have an energy expert come in and take a look at your house soup to nuts, floorboards to shingles, and give you sort of a priority list of what things you should be tackling first, second, third. And then, you can kind of plan these improvements based on your budget, your time and your desire to reduce those energy costs.
Sean, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.