The Most Common Energy Efficiency Update
The most common update to an existing home is air sealing and insulation. So, what is is air sealing? Imagine this….
It’s winter and you’re on top of a mountain in Colorado, and it’s windy. But you’ve come prepared wearing a big ole North Face puffy coat! But the coat does not have a zipper. Will you be as warm as if the coat was able to zip up? No. You see, the puffy is the insulation and the zipper is the air sealing. Homes need both to be efficient and maintain comfort, just like your jacket.
The vast majority of homes built prior to 2006 could use some air sealing and added insulation. Heck, in my very green hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado, the homes built before 1994 were not even required by building code to have proper insulation levels.
So, where are the top places to increase air sealing and insulation?
Attic Space. Every can light, ceiling fan, and drywall seam is an opportunity for air leakage. Given that hot air moves to cold, attic insulation is commonly the easiest way to increase homeowner comfort and save money by keeping the heating and cooling in longer. This space is typically very easily accessed and quickly completed.
Crawlspace/Basement (unfinished). If your crawlspace is still dirt you will notice a HUGE difference immediately upon completing some upgrades. The dirt should be covered with a vapor barrier (which also helps air quality and moisture control) and the insulation will go on the foundation wall, not the ground or the underside of the floors (will cause mold). Discuss types and options with the providers in your area, but I’m a fan of spray foam for the foundation. For unfinished basements, the focus is on sealing and insulating the Rim Joists. Here is a great DIY link for more info on that: http://bit.ly/RimJoistInsulate
Walls. This requires a “drill and fill” approach or removing the siding from the exterior and adding insulation that way. Adding insulation in the walls is a bigger, messier project than the first two and typically has a very low ROI. We see this more when the goal is related to increasing comfort in a hot/cold space in the home. Pro Tip: this project is best timed right before painting the int/ext of the home.
Fenestration Systems. That’s a fancy term for doors and windows. Improperly sealed doors and windows will leak air into the home like a sieve. The good news is that the air coming into the home through leaky windows is fresh outdoor air, versus the less healthy air that leaks through the attic and crawlspace. A little caulk on windows goes a long way, just like weatherstripping for doors. We recommend starting with the attic and crawlspace before spending the money for doors and windows, as they are more expensive with less potential for savings.
Zip up the air leakage on your home and come back to see what your next steps are on your Renewablue® Roadmap. While spending money on improvements you can only feel (not see) is not always the most fun, feel great about making the commitment because air sealing and insulation are projects that need be done only once.
Get started on your roadmap today with an energy audit:James Mitchell Energy Efficiency, Green Education, News