Home Insulation and Better Energy Efficiency
Heating and cooling are by far the largest energy expenditures in any building – estimates on the percentage of the average electricity bill dedicated to maintaining air temperature range from 43 to 60 percent. Ensuring that your home is well-insulated will not only help keep you comfortable, but also save you money. The U.S. Department of Energy offers tips and guidelines for maintaining energy efficiency with proper insulation.
Older Houses, Insulation and Energy Efficiency
According to the Department of Energy, only 20% of homes built before 1980 are properly insulated. The DoE recommends checking the insulation in the attic, ceilings, walls, floors, and crawl spaces, but use caution – many homes built before 1980 made extensive use of asbestos in insulating and other building materials.
Fibers of this thread-like mineral can lodge in the lungs, causing asbestosis or certain types of cancer. Symptoms of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest, are particularly severe and may take between 20 and 50 years to become apparent after exposure.
The good news is that, as long as the insulation remains intact and undamaged, the risk is low. However, if you suspect your insulation contains asbestos and needs to be replaced, contact a licensed abatement team to remove it.
Nowadays, insulation is typically made of other heat-resistant fibers such as fiberglass, rock wool, or cellulose. It is especially important in the attic, where significant amounts of hot or cold air can be lost. The DoE suggests that attic insulation have an R-value (a measure of thermal resistance) of between R-30 and R-60. The exact number depends on other factors such as climate, building design, and budget, but generally anything less than R-30 is worth replacing or supplementing. If the house is still too cold or too hot, you may need to add insulation in the exterior walls, crawl space, or basement.
Newer Houses, Insulation and Energy Efficiency
Newer homes can be insulated from the inside (with blown-in or batting cavity insulation, like in older homes) as well as from the outside (with insulative sheathing). Insulative sheathing, especially in colder climates, can significantly reduce the amount of heat lost through the wood frame of a home or other building. Another option is the use of structural insulated panels, which do as their name suggests – they both support the building and offer insulation. Additionally, if you are in the process of constructing a new home, consider alternative energy sources like solar panels, which tend to be easier to accommodate in a new structure, rather than retrofitting an older building.
Once your home, whether old or new, has been properly insulated, be sure that you are taking full advantage of it – though it may sound obvious, a well-insulated wall is of no use if the window is open. Other home repairs, such as replacing leaky windows or sealing cracks with caulk or weatherstripping, will augment the energy efficiency of your home. But be sure to keep your health and safety in mind – asbestos can be found in many different construction materials, and mesothelioma symptoms are no joke. If you have any doubts about the safety of your insulation or your ability to properly renovate it or install it, do not hesitate to call a professional contractor.
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This has been a guest post by a freelance writer, exclusively provided to Easy Ways to Go Green. About the writer: Krista Peterson is a 23-year old student from Orlando who is currently working on her bachelors at the University of Central Florida. She is an aspiring writer with a passion for environmental issues.
(Photo Via: Heating Oil)