3 areas to insulate that will save you money on energy bills
Updated: Mar 1, 2019
Do you cringe each month when your utility bills arrive?
The annual energy cost for a typical single family home in the U.S. is more than $2,000, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. If you can think of a thousand things you’d rather spend your hard-earned money on than electricity and natural gas, the solution to saving on energy costs is easier than you think.
While you might assume the numerous electronic gadgets you own drive your high utility bills, the real cost culprits are your furnace and air conditioner. Space heating and cooling account for 42 percent of home energy costs — double what the typical home spends running its electronics and small appliances.
What’s truly unfortunate is much of the money spent on heating and cooling homes is wasted, as heat leaks out of your home in winter and comes in during the summer. The reason? About 90 percent of U.S. homes are under-insulated, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association.
Ending your suffering from high energy bills can be as easy as tackling a few, simple, do-it-yourself insulation projects. Key areas to insulate are your home’s attic, basement, crawl space and garage. Read on for tips on insulating these spaces to improve your home’s energy efficiency and comfort, while putting money back in your pocket.
As heat rises and many attics are un-insulated or poorly insulated, the attic is a good place to start for making your home more cozy and cost-effective. Insulating your attic is “a DIY project you can tackle in a weekend, and the savings you'll get add up every year," said Tom Silva, general contractor for the popular “This Old House” TV show.
Many contractors and homeowners use loose-fill insulation or fiberglass batts in attics. Although these materials are easy to work with, it is difficult to ensure they do not leave gaps through which heat can escape. And, since they are designed to fit between the joists in the attic floor, they leave the joists un-insulated, which provides many places for heat to transfer from the home into the attic.
An alternative that is also easy to work with, and that provides continuous insulation, is rigid foam panels. Among the rigid foams, expanded polystyrene (EPS) provides the highest insulating power per dollar. EPS panels are simple to cut to size, without creating mess, are recyclable and can be installed throughout your home. One of the EPS brands available at home improvement stores is Insulfoam R-Tech insulation.
2. Basement and crawl space
In addition to insulating your attic, it’s important to make sure the bottom part of your home is energy-efficient. For most of the U.S. other than the hot Gulf Coast region, “it’s cost-effective and wise to install basement wall insulation,” wrote Martin Holladay on his “Musings of an Energy Nerd” blog. As in the attic, rigid foam insulation boards can readily be cut to size and installed on basement walls. While insulation can be applied to the inside or outside of a basement wall, for existing homes it is typically much easier to install it on the inside wall. This avoids having to move dirt away from the foundation and back-fill once the insulation is in place.
While you’re insulating your basement, be sure to also insulate any crawlspaces, including both the walls and ceiling of these areas.
3. Garage door
“Garage doors notoriously are un-insulated,” said David Stassi, field technical support manager at Insulfoam. “Fortunately, readily available DIY insulation kits allow homeowners to insulate their garage door in less than an hour, for less than $100.” Even a beginning DIYer can do the job, as you simply cut the insulation panels to size with a knife and straightedge, and flex the panels into place between the garage door’s horizontal rails. The panels remain firmly in place without messy glues or awkward tape.
For step-by-step instructions on installing garage door insulation or EPS insulation in basements, crawl spaces and attics, visit the Insulfoam YouTube channel.
With a few simple DIY insulation projects, you can save hundreds of dollars every year. Instead of spending too much on heating and cooling, you’ll have extra money for fun things like eating dinner out or taking a well-deserved vacation.