Reduce Heating & Cooling Costs by Adding Insulation

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As we battle energy bills that are always increasing in a day and age when money is already tight for most of us, it makes sense to turn to insulation as a means of cutting back on heating and cooling expenses. There is only so much the thermostat alone can accomplish regardless of the settings you choose which makes beefing up your insulation a logical step. Since you are paying to produce heated or chilled air depending on the season, you want to retain it in your home for as long as possible, and insulation can help.

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The first place to assess your insulation situation is in the attic. If you enter your attic and are easily able to see the floor joists, chances are you need more insulation. This will depend on the climate where you live, of course, but it is a good general rule to go by that joists should be covered. It is with what (R-38 versus R-49) and how deep (12"-15") that is governed by your regional climate. If you are uncertain as these values, more information can be found here.

In order to figure out if you need more insulation, the first step is to find out how much you currently have. To do this, take a ruler, yard stick, tape measurer, etc. and slip it down to the point where your insulation starts, taking note of the depth reflected on the measuring tool. Be very careful while doing this, however, so you do not place a foot in a location where it might break through into the room below.

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When you have arrived at a measurement as to how much insulation you need and compared it with how much you have, all you have to do is make up the difference. You can do this by installing more insulation over the insulation already in place using sprayed foam, rigid foam, cotton/wool, cellulose, or fiberglass. The two most commonly used types of insulation are cellulose (paper based insulation made from recycled newspaper that is treated to resist fire and can be applied via blower) and fiberglass (comes in rolls or batts of different thicknesses and widths making it easy to install between joists in attics or studs in walls; it can also be sprayed by a professional). Add enough of the insulation of your choice to bring your levels up to snuff and enjoy the fruits of your labor in terms of reduced heating and cooling costs.

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A few things to remember when installing insulation are:
  • Always wear protective gear in the form of safety glasses, gloves, long sleeves, dust masks, etc. when handling insulation because coming into contact with it can result in itching, burning, and inflammation of skin and airways.
  • When installing rolls or batts on top of existing insulation, be sure it is faceless. You do not want paper or foil facing between layers.
  • Do not cover recessed lights unless they are rated for contact with insulation; build a housing to protect lights if necessary.
  • Remember that insulation works best in a fluffed up state, so avoid compressing it.
Even though adding more insulation to your home is another expense, it is one that will pay for itself over a short period of time. As your heating and cooling costs drop, the return on investment for added insulation will become evident in your bank account. Putting yourself out financially is only temporary as the savings will continue long after the insulation is paid for, as will the comfortable heat and cooling inside of your home.

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