Battling The Rise in Heating Costs With Better Insulation
Ready or not, the U.S. Department of Energy indicates that home heating fuel prices could rise as much as 21% this winter. Heating a home with natural gas could cost an average of about $1,200 this winter, up from $1,000 last year, according to projections by the department’s Energy Information Administration.
The cost for homes using heating oil will see the biggest increase and costs are expected to rise to about $1,480 from $1,220 last year. The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, puts this year’s heating expense for homes heating with oil even higher, with the average family paying $1,834 for the season, up 28 percent or $402 from last year.
Homeowners have long been aware that adding insulation makes sense. Actually, it makes “dollars and cents” – in the form of energy savings – which is why today, more so than ever, growing numbers are turning to increased levels of insulation and better heating systems thanks to many commercial heating services to offset the soaring cost of heating one’s home.
Beyond the drive to combat escalating energy bills resulting from the skyrocketing price of oil, there are also incentives – in the form of various tax benefits – and the “something” one can do to help the environment (as adding extra insulation also reduces the energy required to maintain a comfortable living space and lowers emissions generated by burning fossil fuels).
Here’s how to turn a simple weekend project into months and years of optimum comfort and substantial savings as easy as 1 – 2 – 3.
The very first step is to take a look at the existing insulation up in your attic. In the simplest of terms, if your attic floor is insulated but the wood beams (ceiling joists) are still visible, you probably don’t have enough. Even if you can’t see the ceiling joists, that’s still no guarantee you have enough insulation. The best thing to do is measure the thickness of the material in the attic.
Three to six inches of insulation represents an R-value of between R-9 and R-19.
That may have been adequate 20 or 30 years ago (when oil was $5 or $10 a barrel), but today R-values should range between R-25 and R-49 (8 to 15.5 inches) – depending upon climate – for maximum energy efficiency and comfort.
R-Value is a measure of how well an insulation product resists the flow of heat or cold through it and the higher the number the better the insulating properties. So, the “goal” is to increase the R-value of the existing insulation up in your attic.
How much will you need? The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends ranges of R-values based on local heating and cooling costs and climate conditions in different areas of the nation. You can find a map and R-value recommendation chart by visiting the website http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/tips-insulation
Once you’ve established how much insulation you’ll need, all that’s remains are a few simple tools and the better part of a day to begin saving money.
Here’s a list of basic tools you’ll want to have on hand:
- Lightweight, squeeze-type stapler
- Straightedge or 2 x 4 (for scoring and/or cutting)
- Tape measure
- Utility knife
- Portable work light
- Pole or rake (to push insulation into tight spots)
- Work gloves
- Loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt
- Safety glasses
- Dust respirator mask
And here are a few installation tips to keep in mind:
- Use boards or sheets of plywood for sitting, kneeling and for cutting insulation.
- Begin installing at the outer edge of the attic and work toward the center.
- If spaces between your joists are already filled, lay the new insulation in long runs perpendicular to the joists (crosswise). Use leftover pieces to fill small spaces.
- If joist cavities are not completely filled, fill them first with the appropriate thickness of insulation. Then continue as directed above.
- Un-faced fiberglass insulation will not burn, but can cause heat-producing devices to overheat, which can be a fire hazard. Leave at least three inches between insulation and recessed lighting, metal chimneys, gas water heater flues and/or other heat-producing devices. Only recessed lighting fixtures rated “I.C.” are designed for direct contact with insulation.
- Areas around masonry chimneys, however, may be stuffed with small pieces of un-faced insulation.
“Old Man Winter” is just around the corner. Fortunately for you, so is your local home-improvement center. This season, it’s easy to keep him outdoors where he belongs.
For more home improvement tips and information search our website at www.onthehouse.com or call our listener hotline 24/7 at 1-800-737-2474.
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