Heating and cooling your home makes up about 48% of your energy bill, according to The Energy Department. Of course, these costs are determined by the climate in which you live, the construction of your house, and your family’s energy needs. That being said, having properly installed energy efficient insulation can have a large impact on your monthly bill. Before making any decisions to change what you have, though, it’s important to know how insulation works and the different types available for today’s homes.
Preventing Heat Flow
Heat flows from warm to cold spaces. In the winter, for instance, heat moves from your living space to unheated areas like your attic, garage, or basement before escaping to the outdoors. This loss of heat is backfilled by your heating system working overtime. The same is true for the warmer months, when hot air flows into your house. Because it’s cooler it causes your air conditioner to run steadily. By insulating your ceilings, walls, attic space and floors, you create a resistance to this natural heat transfer and decrease the strain on your heating and cooling systems.
The effectiveness of insulation is measured by what’s called the R-value, or its ability to resist heat transfer (R for resistance). The higher the R-value, the better. Unfortunately, many homes don’t meet the minimum R-value standard for energy efficiency set by the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).
Choosing the Right Insulation for Energy Savings
Blankets, loose-fill, foam, rigid fiber, and reflective insulation are among the various options for residential buildings. The type of insulation you choose depends on where you need it. To guide you, The Department of Energy makes these recommendations:
Space: Unfinished walls, floors and ceilings
Type of insulation: Blankets (rolls or batts). This insulation is made from mineral fibers, such as fiberglass, or rock wool. It can easily be installed by a motivated homeowner. Plus, it’s one of the least expensive types of insulation.
Space: Unfinished attic floor, odd-shaped wall cavities, or around obstructions such as pipes and wires
Type of insulation: Spray foam or foam-in-place insulation. Usually made of polyisocyanurate or polyurethane, foam insulation is flexible enough for tight or irregularly shaped spaces. It also has a high R-value for its relatively thin structure. This insulation comes in two forms, open-cell or closed-cell. Closed-cell has the greater R-value, and better resists moisture and air leakage. Open-cell is lighter and less expensive to install. However, open-cell should not be used below the ground where it risks absorbing moisture.
Space: Exterior walls, basement or crawl spaces
Type of insulation: Rigid foam insulation. Similar to the spray form, it’s made of polyisocyanurate or polyurethane and has a high R-value – up to two times greater than most other insulating materials. This foam is best for exterior sheathing and basement walls because it provides strong thermal resistance, and it reduces heat conduction through the structure of your home.
Filling in the gaps with the right insulation will go a long way in saving you money on ever-rising energy costs.