There are many benefits of home insulation. Insulating your home will add to your comfort, create a healthier home environment, reduce your energy bills and have a positive environmental impact.
Increased insulation reduces conductive heat losses and gains resulting in warmer interior surfaces in the winter and cooler interior surfaces in the summer. Approximately 40 percent of our physical comfort in homes is due to radiant heat exchange between our bodies and the surrounding interior surfaces. Increased insulation reduces this radiant heat exchange and minimizes temperature differences between rooms, thus maintaining a more consistent level of comfort throughout a house.
Based on recent trends for improved efficiency, building envelopes with increased insulation levels are expected to become industry practice. Since it is both difficult and costly to increase insulation after a house is built, it is best to increase insulation levels during the original construction. ENERGY STAR labeled homes are constructed to exceed minimum building code requirements and are, therefore, expected to be less vulnerable to obsolescence.
Increased Construction Quality
Building codes establish the legal minimum construction standards. ENERGY STAR labeled homes are constructed to significantly exceed these codes. The result is better quality construction. This is particularly true in cases where special care is taken during installation to insure no gaps or voids are left in the insulation.
Improved Indoor Air Quality
When insulation levels are increased and materials properly installed, there are fewer gaps and voids through which unconditioned air can leak into a house. This helps avoid dirt, dust, and other impurities that can negatively affect indoor air quality. A tight building envelope is a critical component to ensure good indoor air quality.
Lower Utility Bills
More than 40 percent of the energy consumed in a typical household goes to heating and cooling. Increased insulation reduces this energy consumption which results in lower utility bills.
Improved Resale Position
Increased insulation levels can provide the many impressive benefits listed above resulting in a more comfortable, higher quality home with better indoor air quality and lower utility bills. These benefits can translate into a higher resale value.
In the winter, heat moves directly from all heated living spaces to the outdoors and to adjacent unheated attics, garages and basements wherever there is a difference in temperature. During the summer, heat moves from outdoors to the houses interior. To maintain comfort, the heat lost in winter must be replaced by your heating system and the heat gained in summer must be removed by your air conditioner. Insulating ceilings, walls and floors decreases the heating or cooling needed by providing an effective resistance to the flow of heat.
Reflective insulation works by reducing the amount of energy that travels in the form of radiation. Some forms of reflective insulation also divide a space up into small regions to reduce air movement, or convection, but not to the same extent as Fiberglass Batts, Fiberglass Loosefill and Sprayfoam Insulation.
An example of how heat flows.
Step 1: Start with the right Insulation Contractor
Not all contractors are the same. Some concentrate on kitchens, some on bathrooms. Some concentrate on home energy upgrades - - focusing on ways to make your home comfortable, energy efficient and healthy. Look for companies that employ workers who carry the national Home Energy Professional Certifications such as Reichel Insulation. A home performance contractor will have a certified auditor either on staff or under contract to evaluate your home.
Step 2: Get a Thorough Home Energy Audit
A home performance evaluation, or home energy audit, requires specialized equipment and trained individuals - - called energy auditors -- to operate that equipment. Energy auditors who carry a Home Energy Professional Certification have met the required professional and educational prerequisites and are certified to the highest standard in the industry, proving they are qualified to conduct a home performance evaluation.
The most important piece of equipment an energy auditor operates is called a blower door, which is used to determine where air is leaking out of your home. If you followed the auditor around while the blower door is running, you might be surprised at what you'd find. Air leaking through face plates on switches and outlets, and escaping around doors, windows, pipes, and under sinks . . . and all of these places add up. Put them all together and you could have a space the size of a bathroom window -- maybe even bigger -- that's constantly open. The blower door test is a good way to learn why your house isn't comfortable.
In addition to the blower door test, certified energy auditors use tools -- such as gas leak detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, kill-a-watt meters and lead-safe testing kits -- to give your home a thorough evaluation.
Be sure to ask if your auditor is certified and what equipment will be used for the evaluation. If your auditor is just going to walk through your house and estimate what work needs to be done, you don't have an experienced home performance contractor. Ask if you can follow along with the auditor during the evaluation -- most will welcome the chance to teach you about your home.
Step 3: Ask the Right Questions
While all homes are different and need to be evaluated based on their own unique characteristics, most dwellings can benefit from similar types of improvements. Before your home energy audit begins, be sure to ask your home energy upgrade contractor about the following things. Some of the upgrades you could do yourself, like replacing a refrigerator or installing a programmable thermostat, provided you know those are significant sources of energy loss.
- Air Sealing
- Reset Water Heater Thermostat
- Programmable Thermostat for Heating System
- Attic and Wall Insulation
- Replace Refrigerator
- Water Heaters and Furnaces
Remember that space in your house that's the size of a bathroom window and constantly open? Using the reading from the blower door, an auditor can figure out just how much air is moving through that gap at any given time. This is usually the biggest source of energy loss in a home, and sealing those gaps is one of the quickest ways to make your home more comfortable and efficient. Reducing air flow can pay off in as little as five years. It is also the baseline by which all other energy efficiency upgrades are measured (the absolute energy savings will vary by your climate).
Most water heaters heat water to a set temperature and then hold it there. This means that all day and night, the water heater cycles on and off, just maintaining that set temperature. Lowering the setting a few degrees can often save half as much energy as air sealing would. And chances are turning down the temperature won't even be noticeable.
It seems obvious but just like the water heater maintains a set temperature even when it isn't being used, a thermostat does the same thing for the entire house. Just letting it cool off (or warm up) when there isn't anyone awake can save energy and money as well. Without sacrificing comfort, it can also be close to half of what air sealing would save you. This change usually pays for itself in about three years.
The greater the difference between the indoor and the outdoor temperatures, the more energy it will take to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. Adding insulation between the indoors and the outdoors reduces that energy demand. Depending on where you live, the savings from insulating your walls and the attic could be almost double the savings of air sealing. This procedure also pays back in 3 1/2 to 12 years.
Much like a water heater, a refrigerator holds a set temperature that is very different from the air outside of it. It makes sense that a better sealed, better insulated refrigerator with better mechanical systems would save more energy. Depending on your previous model, a new energy star refrigerator can save up to $150 per year. One way to test the seal on your refrigerator is to close a dollar bill in the door. If the bill drops when you close the door, you may want to consider fixing the seal or getting a new one. Depending on the refrigerator and the savings, this can pay for itself in 10 years - well under the average lifespan of the appliance.
The savings from water heaters and furnaces depend a lot on where the house is and what the fuel is. Generally, natural gas is going to be much cheaper than electricity, provided it's available. The newer high efficiency gas furnaces will often be worth installing, even if the gas furnace in your home is relatively new. Depending on if you live in a cold climate or a warmer one, a new high efficiency furnace will rival or exceed air sealing for its potential savings. In warmer areas, a high efficiency heat pump may replace a gas furnace as the best choice for the home.
Step 4: Enjoy!
In the end, your home is as unique as you are. It will take a certified home energy professional to evaluate your home and your family's specific needs. It will also take a certified specialist to make those upgrades to your home such as Reichel Insulation. It's not rocket science, but it is building science. Ask for certified home energy professionals because they have the ability to educate you on all of the cost-saving alternatives for your home. Then, you can begin living comfortably.