Before colder temperatures hit, develop a plan to insulate your home against cold, wet weather and high utility bills. Simply keeping doors closed when the heat is on is not all there is to energy efficiency: uninsulated walls, floors and attics; leaky windows and doors; and single-pane windows all contribute to heat loss. An insulation plan should consider all these factors.
Do You Need Insulation?
Check your attic and subfloor and exterior walls to determine whether they are adequately insulated. Most homes built prior to the 1970s energy crisis were built with less or none of the insulation that is mandatory today.
The important thing is to maintain a balance. Overinsulating your attic won't help if air is escaping through single-pane windows or doors that do not have weather stripping.
What R-value Insulation Do You Need?
Whether heat is flowing in on a hot day or out on a cold day, the R-value, or resistance to heat flow, is the standard measure for all types of insulation. The higher the R-value, the more insulating the product.
How do you find out what R-value is good for what region of the US? Check the U.S. Department of Energy or Owens Corning Web sites for the temperature zone maps and the corresponding target R-values for ceilings, walls, floors and for every nook and cranny in the house. The recommendations assume that there is only minor air leakage through doors and windows.
What to Include in Your Insulation Project
If doors and windows are not adequately sealed, then weather stripping should play a big part in your insulation strategy.
Without attic insulation, heat from the interior of the house makes its way into the attic and out the roof. Attic insulation is a good way to go for a do-it-yourselfer, too, because it's easy to install compared to walls or floors.
The second area of greatest benefit comes from replacing windows. This is because their low R-values contribute to most of a home's energy loss. Even small increases in R-value through double glazing or glass coatings can make a big improvement in your overall R-value.
For walls, choose one of several methods for injecting insulation into walls. These methods are popular because they require only small, repairable holes to get the insulation into the walls instead of removing the whole wall surface. Because specialized equipment is needed, this is probably not a do-it-yourself project - hire a contractor to have it done.
If your house has a crawl space you should insulate under the floor. To do this, tack up some netting under the floor joists to hold the insulation up and have a contractor blow some insulation past the netting and into the floor joist spaces. This saves the trouble of fitting insulation bats around all the pipes and ducts under the house.
Now the Good News: Rebates
With insulation finally in place there is just one more thing to do: apply for rebates. The Energy Star Program and some local utilities offer rebates and actually help make insulation installations affordable.