Identifying drafts and ensuring you home has proper levels of insulation are two ways to reduce your home heating expenses. Weatherization incentive programs sponsored by the government could also save you thousands of dollars when you make insulation upgrades.
✔ Identify your drafts – According to the US Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your home energy use. Finding the sources of your drafts is the first step in addressing them. Simple things such as a candle or incense can help you determine the source. If the source is a crack in a wall or around the baseboards, seal these. If the draft is coming from a door or a window, read the ‘Doors & Windows” section of this guide for suggestions.
✔ Use ‘draft snakes’ – If you have a drafty door, use a draft snake to stop the flow of air. These can be purchased at a DIY store, or made from an old bath towel.
✔ Inspect and Increase your insulation – Increasing your insulation is one of the best ways to save on your home heating expenses. You will want to inspect the level of insulation you have in your walls, your attic, around your ducts and in your basement.
The federal government will reimburse you for 30% of the cost (up to $1500) for highly efficient insulation. Additionally, low-income households can qualify for an average of $6500 worth of weatherization improvements to their homes through government programs administered by each state. To find the government incentives for your region, read the “Rebates, Tax Credits & Financing” section of this guide.
As a rule, if you can see your ceiling joists in your attic, you probably do not have enough insulation. Regardless of the region you live, you need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic.
✔ Be aware of the different types of insulation – Insulation comes in many different forms. The form of insulation best suited to each home depends on the local climate, space limitations, budget concerns, and the preferred installation method. The US Department of Energy (DOE) separates insulation into the following form categories:
- Blankets – Batts or rolls of fiberglass or rockwool. Cotton fiber batts are also available in some areas. Blankets work well for do-it-yourself projects when space is relatively free from interior obstructions.
- Loose-fill or Spray-applied – Usually blown in or sprayed-in-place with professional equipment, available substances include rockwool, loose fiberglass, cellulose, or polyurethane foam.
- Rigid insulation – Any among several types of condensed foam board. This type of insulation is best suited for maximizing R-value with minimal thickness.
- Reflective barriers – Foil-faced materials designed to be particularly effective in preventing heat transfer by way of radiation.
✔ Choose the most appropriate insulation material – Insulation is made from a variety of different materials. These are the most common materials on the market today.
- Cellulose – Cellulose insulation is made primarily from recycled paper. About 75% of the material used to make cellulose insulation is post-consumer waste paper, giving it the highest average recycled content of all insulation types.
- Cotton – Cotton insulation is made mostly of cotton. Cotton is a natural, renewable resource. If possible, try to source organic cotton. Cotton insulation will usually be treated with a small amount of boron which acts as a flame retardant. Cotton insulation has a similar R-value to cellulose for a similar thickness of insulation.
- Fiberglass – Fiberglass insulation is made of silica sand and recycled glass. These are both abundant resources. Producing fiberglass insulation requires melting the materials in a fossil fuel–burning furnace.
- Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) – Foam insulations have greater environmental impacts than other types of insulation. This is due to extraction, refining and the transport of raw materials such as natural gas and petroleum. Ozone-depleting compounds in are also used in its manufacture.
- Mineral Wool (Rock Wool or Slag Wool) – Mineral wool is an eco-friendly material. It doesn’t require flame retardants, it is made from abundant materials, it is moisture resistant, and 75%–90% recycled content.