When we think of cutting our utility bills, we typically look for ways to use less and cut back on the little extras. That certainly works, but how about taking a closer look at the energy we waste, often unnoticed.
A number of areas in your home can allow heated or cooled air to easily escape outdoors if you’re not careful. Our parents may have said, “Close the door! I am not heating the outside!” and we laughed, but let’s face it: paying to heat or cool the air, then letting it leave the house is a huge waste of money. The best and most cost-efficient way to stop the leaks is to first find the source. So, where are the leaks and what do we do about them once they’re found?
Ask the Experts
The first step is to call in a professional to perform an energy assessment on your home (your local power company may even offer this inspection free of charge, so check there first). This assessment provides information on the biggest offenders in your home’s energy system and will suggest ways to remedy each situation.
Professionals performing the assessment will use some pretty interesting equipment – including infrared cameras, surface thermometers, blower doors and furnace efficiency meters. The goal is to detect the sources of energy loss in your home, and fix them to save money on your heating and cooling bills over time. When the professional finds the sources that are leaking, the first defense recommended is usually added insulation.
Target the Insulation
Areas of your home where insulation is usually lacking include:
- The attic
- The door leading to the attic and the knee walls
- The ducts running through any non-insulated spaces
- Plug and light switches on exterior walls
- Ineffective windows
- Cathedral ceilings
- Floors over garages
- The basement
This list may seem overwhelming, but a professional energy assessment will help you narrow down the areas you need to target to get the greatest results.
Some insulation jobs are great for the do-it-yourselfer interested in saving money. Explore YouTube, HGTV and the DIY channels to get some ideas of what you can and should not do.
Additionally, be sure to take into consideration your own region and the requirements for insulation. Each area of the country has different suggested R-values for walls and ceilings; specifically in the [insert, suggested R-values are set at [Insert your own region’s requirements here].
Installing insulation can be one of the easier jobs for the home improvement newbie, and the rewards are huge. An afternoon spent crawling around the rafters of your attic can net you some big savings on your next utility bill. With a little know-how and some help, the ambitious homeowner can tackle these insulating jobs with success.
The Smallest Improvements Help
Even the least talented homeowner can do a few home improvements that will add up to considerable savings over time. For instance, an often-missed area for air leaks is around electrical outlets. Buy ready-cut foam insulating gaskets and, with just a screwdriver, you can stop the air leak that occurs around the outlets.
Easy-to-use spray foam is also perfect for the do-it-yourselfer who wants to tackle the air loss around dryer vents, plumbing and other places the outdoors meets the indoors. Follow simple instructions, and within minutes you will have a trouble spot sealed tight. And don’t forget that simple caulking around the windows can stop some serious leaks and save some serious money. This process is easy to learn, and with just a few practice runs, you’ll be caulking like a pro in no time.
Not every home insulation project has to be a huge renovation. Yes, replacing old windows and doors may be desirable at some point, but once you know where the house is leaking air, you can start with the simplest things – and then hire a contractor to tackle the more difficult jobs – and the results of your efforts will save energy and pay off nicely toward your bottom line.