January is a month dedicated to taking action by following through on resolutions to eat better, exercise more, save more, and spend more time with our loved ones. Happy to help you with at least one of those resolutions is a little DIY project that could mean big things for your bottom line: How to Insulate Your Home for Winter. (Bonus - make it a family project and use it as a time to spend together ... two birds, one stone!)
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, unless your home was specifically built for energy efficiency, you can most likely reduce your energy bills by adding more insulation. Many older homes have less insulation than homes built today, but adding insulation to a newer home can pay for itself within just a few years. Insulation inhibits heat flow through the building envelope of your home, ultimately saving money, improving comfort, and even helping to prevent water damage caused by frozen pipes.
How to Insulate your Home for Winter:
Start by inspecting and evaluating your current insulation. Check the attic, walls, and floors adjacent to an unheated space, like a garage or a basement. The structural elements are usually exposed in these areas, which makes it easy to see what type of insulation you have and to measure its thickness. (Tip - if you live in a newer house, you can probably get this information from the builder; if you live in an older house, you'll have to inspect the insulation.)
Inspect the exterior walls by using an electrical outlet:
- Turn off the power to the outlet.
- Remove the outlet cover and shine a flashlight into the crack around the outlet box. You should be able to see if there is insulation in the wall.
- Pull out a small amount of insulation (if needed) to help determine the type of insulation.
- Check outlets on all floors as well as old and new parts of your house. Just because you find insulation in one wall doesn't mean that it's everywhere in the house.
Inspect and measure the thickness of any insulation in unfinished basement ceilings and walls, or above crawlspaces. If the crawlspace isn't ventilated, it may have insulation in the perimeter wall. If your house is relatively new, it may have insulation outside the basement or foundation walls. If so, the insulation in these spaces won't be visible.
How to Insulate your Home for Winter:
Follow Energy Star's Insulation Installation tips.
For the attic:
- If you have any type of insulation between the rafters, install a second layer over and perpendicular to the first. This will help cover the tops of the joists and reduce heat loss or gain through the frame.
- When laying down additional insulation, work from the perimeter toward the attic opening.
- Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents.
- Keep all insulation at least 3 inches away from "can" lights, unless they are rated IC (insulated ceiling).
- If you are using loose fill insulation, use sheet metal to create barriers around the openings.
- If using fiberglass, wire mesh can be used to create a barrier.
For the basement/crawlspace:
- Seal any gaps or cracks in basement walls, ceilings, or floors.
- It is best to seal up the top and bottom of the inside of the rim joist cavity. This is especially important at areas such as bay windows that hang off the foundation.
- Use caulk for any gaps or cracks ¼-inch or less and spray foam for anything larger. It is also very important to seal any holes for wires, pipes or other service areas that may lead to other floors of your home.
- Insert and secure all insulation between holes in rim joists. If using batts, cut the insulation to fit and place against the rim joist. If using rigid foam insulation, foam around the edges to hold the insulation in place.
- After installing the rigid foam insulation or fitting batts into rim joists, seal any remaining holes and cracks to make your basement airtight.
Another great way to improve your home's energy efficiency is air duct cleaning. Research by the U.S. EPA has demonstrated that HVAC system cleaning may allow systems to run more efficiently by removing debris from sensitive mechanical components. Clean, efficient systems are less likely to break down, have a longer life span, and generally operate more effectively than dirty systems.
AdvantaClean to schedule a duct cleaning
The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) advises cleaning of air ducts every 4-7 years.
More info? For information on how to keep your home healthy and winter ready, read one of our other posts: Winterizing Your Home: Tips for Preventing Winter Water Damage.