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Monday, March 7, 2011

Saving Money with Home Insulation A Guest Post by Eric Stevenson

According to EPA estimates, heating and air conditioning accounts for anywhere from 43% to 60% of the average monthly electricity bill – by far the largest chunk in comparison to any other appliance. Since we dedicate so much energy (and hence money) to heating and cooling our homes, it is vital to make sure that this treated air stays inside the building. One effective way to do this is through home insulation.

DOE Link
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that only 20% of homes built before 1980 have proper insulation. Cracks or gaps in walls, corners, floors, or roofs, as well as insulation that is too thin, can all allow heated or cooled air to leak out of the home. The attic is a particular culprit when it comes to wasting energy. The DOE recommends that attic insulation in all regions of the U.S. have an R-value of at least R-30, ranging up to R-60. The specific thickness of insulation you need will depend on climate and building design.

When checking or replacing old insulation, use caution – before 1980, asbestos was a popular material in insulation because of its natural resistance to heat. It was an effective insulator, but also very dangerous, since exposure to even small amounts of asbestos have been known to cause symptoms of a deadly cancer of the lining of the chest. Asbestos abatement must be done only by licensed professionals and can be expensive, but the good news is that asbestos is generally not dangerous if the materials containing it are intact. If you suspect you have asbestos insulation, do not attempt to remove it on your own – you may want to carefully add to the existing insulation rather than disturb it.

Of course, you’ll want to exercise judgment when it comes to saving money versus safety. The expense of asbestos abatement is entirely worth it when it comes to preventing cancer symptoms.

If you plan to be in your current home for many years to come, you might consider contacting a contractor who can perform a home energy assessment. This generally involves the use of thermal cameras and a “blower test” that will show (often surprising) visual evidence of your home’s insulation weak spots. When fixing your insulation problems, look into your state’s energy policies to see if there are any available funds or tax credits, since many states are trying to encourage green building practices. One contractor said that the money spent replacing and patching insulation is often offset in energy savings after three to five years.

Thank you to Eric Stevenson for his informative post.  The graphic was added for illustration purposes.

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