Home Insulation & Energy Saving Tips

Utility Bills! We need to start thinking about them more than once a month, when the bill comes. We write the check throw it in the mail and scratch our heads wondering, "Where does it end?"

With today's technology we now know more about home insulation and how to save energy more than ever before. When it comes to our homes, the more energy efficient we are, the lower the monthly utility bills. Homes that are constructed in accordance with the latest energy codes, and utilize the latest products in energy-efficient appliances, window, doors, lighting, and heating/air conditioning equipment, are more energy efficient. Even with this knowledge, we still overlook the single most important and cost-effective energy-saving building material for a home - INSULATION. It goes unseen, and all too often, under appreciated. Without it, many of the energy-efficient products listed above would not perform as intended.

Whether buying a home, building, or remodeling, the home insulation tips that follow will help you save on heating and cooling bills and create a comfortable home no matter what the season.

What does insulation really do?

Thermal Comfort - Insulation resists the flow of heat. Heat is a form of energy (called Thermal Energy) - it always travels from hot to cold - flowing outward in the winter and inward in the summer. By reducing heat flow, a properly insulated home uses less energy.

How does insulation work?

Insulation reduces the flow or transfer of thermal energy, which travels in three ways:

Conduction - Ever grab a pot off the stove only to release it immediately because of the heated handle. This is conductive heat transfer. The handle of the pot gets hot because of the heat transferred through the metal from the burner up to the handle, and then to your hand.

Convection, Steam, and Moisture - Think of a steam iron, or your hand above a boiling pot of water, you will feel and see the steam. This is convective heat transfer.

Radiation, Electromagnetic - Best described, think of being outside on a hot sunny day and feel the sun's rays on your face. You are experiencing radiant heat transfer.

What are the types of insulation?

Fibrous Insulation - Composed of air finely divided into interstices by small fibers usually chemically or mechanically bonded and formed into boards, blankets, and hollow cylinders. Examples are, Fiberglass or mineral fiber, and refractory ceramic fiber.

Cellular Insulation - Composed of air or some other gas contained within a foam of stable small bubbles and formed into boards, blankets, or hollow cylinders. Examples are, ceramic beads, cellular glass, elastomeric foam, phenolic foam, polystyrene, polyurethane, perlite, and vermiculite.

Radiant Barriers - A reflective insulation system that reflects radiant heat energy instead of trying to absorb it. Examples are, Foil batts, and aluminum paint.

Reflective Coatings - Insulating ceramics (much like the ceramics used on the space shuttle to protect it from heat) blended into paints for roofs, walls, or anything that can be painted.

What is "R" Value?

Insulation is identified and labeled by R-Value. "R" stands for resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the more heat it can resist. A major misunderstanding is that R-Value is the only factor we need to concern ourselves with in regard to insulation. NOT TRUE!! Radiant heat is not concerned with R-Values. R-Values only relate to the transfer of heat by means of conduction. For a more thorough explanation and a map of the different zones and required R-Values, I invite you to review the U.S. Department of Energy Insulation Fact Sheet, at www.eere.energy.gov/consumerinfo/energy_savings/ or www.eereic@ee.doe.gov

What are some energy saving tips?

  • -Install gaskets behind electrical cover plates.
  • -Install glass doors on fireplaces.
  • -Caulk windows and door trim.
  • -Install weather stripping on doors and windows. (Check your old weather stripping by using this simple test. Insert a dollar bill into the opening and close the door or window. You should have to tug a bit to remove it. If it slides out easily you should replace the weather stripping.)
  • -Install storm windows or sheets of window plastic to a standard window (approximately R-1 Value). This alone will improve its R-Value by 100%, reduce heat loss, and improve comfort.
  • -Check your ductwork for air leaks. Repair any leaking joints with mechanical fasteners, then seal any remaining leaks with water-soluble mastic and embedded fiberglass mesh. Never use duct tape because it degrades, cracks, and looses its bond with age. (O.K. for a quick temporary stoppage of air leaks, go ahead, you will anyway.) If a joint has to be accessible for future maintenance, use pressure, or heat sensitive aluminum foil tape.
  • -Wrap ducts with duct wrap insulation of R-6 with a vapor retarder facing on the outer side. (If you live in the Deep South or Southern California, you can use R-4 Insulation).


Take the time to look around your home and improve on these seemingly small but important energy saving issues.