Spring comes around in March and Earth Day follows in April, and while some of us are spring cleaning, others are looking at ways to save energy and helping to protect the environment. According to the Department of Energy, many Americans are leaching up to 30% of their heated or cooled air through leaks, cracks or poor insulation.
While you can hire a professional to perform a complete home energy audit, homeowners can conquer this important task themselves by following some simple guidelines, especially when it comes to checking and/or adding additional attic insulation if necessary.
With the advent of multiple consumer-friendly home improvement stores and “big box” chains, this job is easier than ever. It also comes complete with plenty of affordable supplies that were once available only to contractors and building professionals.
Knowing whether or not your attic is properly insulated is one of many ways to save money on power and reduce utility bills, in addition to lowering thermostats and shutting off items when not in use. So here are some tips on how to check your home’s insulation that can help to curb these rising energy costs.
Install the Right-Sized Insulation
If you have an older home, chances are the insulation installed at that time was less that what is recommended today. Levels and depths of insulation are also varied according to your location, with those in colder climates requiring more and warmer areas needing less.
While a rating of R25 was once considered the “norm” in the industry, levels as high as R60 are recommended for much colder environments like Minnesota or Michigan. EnergyStar has a convenient chart you can use as a reference for both your geographic location and the various areas of your home that require protection.
There’s more to appropriate attic insulation than the traditional pink rolls, blown or foam types of coverage. When you’re checking the insulation, look underneath for a vapor barrier, which could be tar paper, plastic sheeting or Kraft paper attached to styrofoam batting.
This barrier helps to reduce moisture that can decrease the effectiveness of the insulation. It also helps to discourage unnecessary structural damage from mold and mildew. If this barrier isn’t present or is in poor condition, consider applying any of these choices. Another, easier option may be applying vapor-barrier paint to interior ceilings.
Batten Down the Hatches
The opening to an attic can sometimes be the culprit as a source of unnecessary leakage and seepage. The hatch, doorway or any other type of opening, should also be insulated, close tightly and have adequate weather stripping installed.
Look for other possible locations for potential leaks such as pipes, vents, ductwork, chimneys or other shared spaces.
Wall Insulation and Home Energy Auditing
Checking wall insulation is a whole different ball game and is often a task best left to professionals and can become costly very quickly. But while you’re looking for air leaks and insufficiencies upstairs, don’t forget about the rest of your home. You don’t have to tear down walls to check for adequate insulation there, but take some time to look for other sources of leaks around your home.
Check doorways, windows and the garage for other possible sources of escaping energy. A little bit of inexpensive caulking and weather stripping can go a long way towards reducing energy bills and conserving resources. Read “Home Energy Audits: Measure Your Energy costs and Add Up the Savings” from the December 2011 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for more information.
This MOTHER EARTH NEWS guest post was provided by Uma Campbell, a green-loving yoga instructor and freelance writer. She currently lives in Southern California where she enjoys writing about natural living, health, and home design. Find Uma on her blog and Twitter.
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