Investing in insulation and other energy conservation methods could save homeowners money and make this winter a little more toasty.
When it is cold out, you put on a jacket. The jacket keeps your warm body heat right where it belongs – near your body. When it comes to a home, office, or any other building, the exact same concepts apply. When it’s cold out, put on a jacket for your building through additional insulation, quality caulking, weatherstripping, improved duct-work, and multi-paned low-e windows. These are but a few of the techniques available to savvy homeowners and building managers looking to save a little green while maintaining acceptable standards of comfort.
Building Clothing – Insulation
Insulation is a big deal. It’s the primary thermal barrier between the frosty cold winter weather (as well as the scorching summer heat) and you and your family. Since heat flows primarily from warm areas to cooler areas, disrupting or blocking that flow of thermal energy altogether is the best strategy for maintaining equilibrium inside a home. Heating and cooling are responsible for between 50 and 70 percent of a home’s energy expenditures. One of the primary causes is inadequate insulation. In fact, nearly all homes built before, and even during the 1980’s, are considered woefully under insulated. For older homes, investing in new or additional insulation could drastically reduce heating bills while greatly increasing occupant comfort.
According to McKinsey & Company, the most cost effective energy efficiency measure a consumer can take is to insulate and air seal a home. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that by air sealing and installing insulation, a homeowner could easily save up to 20 percent of heating and cooling costs, or slash total energy costs by 10 percent. With the average family spending about 650 dollars a year to heat and cool, investing in a little extra cellulose and batting can pay off extremely quickly.
Insulation is most cost effective in areas that experience wide temperature variation between seasons or even between night and day. For example, in the Central Texas Hill Country temperatures may vary throughout the day by as much as 20 degrees fahrenheit. Temperature variations between season can be as stark as in excess of 110 degrees fahrenheit during the height of summer compared below freezing in January and February. Obviously, no homeowner or family would tolerate such extreme thermal fluctuations within their homes. That’s what walls are for. Insulation just makes those walls that much more effective.
A Hat For Your House – Attic & Roof
According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, Investing in additional insulation in the attic is one of the easiest things a homeowner can do to immediately reduce energy costs. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it requires relatively little labor. As much as 45 percent of a home’s heat loss occurs through the roof via the attic space. With that in mind, focusing on sealing up everything above your head makes quite a lot of sense. Since heat rises, a smart homeowner knows that capping their homes with insulation could save money in the long run. Think of it as a warm hat for your house.
Socks and Shoes – Foundation Insulation
A little known but equally important area of concern is the loss of heat through the floor and foundation. While this may seem somewhat counterintuitive at first, understand that concrete, even as thick as 8 inches, typically has a lower R-value than a simple double-pane window. Heat readily conducts through the concrete. Furthermore, for houses with basements, the top half of a foundation acts as a wick drawing indoor heat out into the cold. This can be a vexing problem in cooler climates that can be solved with both exterior and interior insulation. Not only will foundation insulation keep rooms warmer, it will also reduce moisture problems, insect infestation, and radon infiltration. Like the socks and shoes on your feet, investing in insulation for a home’s foundation will help block thermal conduction and keep the home’s interior spaces warm and toasty.
The point of a house is to provide shelter, to afford comfort, and to accommodate the lives of the people within. Things like insulation ensure that walls are more than just a series of two-by-fours nailed together and covered with drywall. To maximize efficiency, homes need to be dressed from head to toe, from attic to foundation. Most people would not go out in the dead of winter without some form of protection – a coat, a scarf, gloves, boots, etc. Yet most people literally leave their homes shivering in the cold in the equivalent of a t-shirt. With heating costs expected to rise, perhaps it is time for us to invest in some winter clothing for our homes.
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