Insulating your home is an important item to review each fall to ensure your home is operating at the most optimal efficiency. Most of us think improving the efficiency of our home is expensive. However, often it’s the least expensive insulating options missing that yield incredible benefits. It is common for us to walk into million-dollar-plus homes with the best siding, windows, and doors, but they are missing many of the basics. Most often, it is an inadequate depth of blown-in insulation in the attic.
This is such a common inefficiency we see in Kansas City homes! Here are the 5 most cost-effective insulating items that produce the greatest “bang for your buck” in energy savings.
Let’s start with the attic insulation. The Department of Energy recommends an attic insulation depth of 15 to 25 inches for the Kansas City area. R-Value is a rating of insulation quality. So, the depth of 15-inches is an R-38 rating. The higher the number the greater the number of insulation benefits. At FreshStart, we provide insulation services at all depth levels requested by the homeowner. However, our customers see the greatest benefits from the higher R-60+ rating that 20 to 25 inches of blown-in insulation provide. Therefore, we recommend the higher end of the Department of Energy’s recommended range.
Standard building practices over the last 30 years have used on average only 10 to 12 inches of attic insulation. So the majority of homes in the metro area do not even have the minimum recommendation of 15 inches / R-39 rating. We can simply add any additional depth needed on top of existing insulation that is in good condition. Adding an additional 10 to 15 inches is very inexpensive. Yet, the cost savings are notable. Utility savings pay for the insulation install in six months or less! One of the primary ways in the winter to know that an attic has insufficient insulation is that the snow will quickly melt from the roof, caused by heat escaping from the home through the attic. Having greater attic insulation helps tremendously with temperature differences between floors.
Frequently homes in our area experience a 5 to 10 degrees difference between lower and upper levels. These temperature variances reduce dramatically with sufficient attic insulation. This will cause the house to feel more even and comfortable. Inferior insulation in your attic causes major heat loss through the roof, accounting for 40% of your home’s energy loss and costing you thousands each year in unnecessary heat loss. This heat loss can also cause other issues like ice damming, roof leaks, and even mold damage.
Attic fans are a common item in our area. However, in the last several years, new energy efficiency studies have shown that attic fans actually cost more than not having one at all. Yes, attic fans will provide cost savings. However, the energy efficiency lost during the winter months quickly outweighs any benefits, due to the the lack of insulating factor that causes too much warm air to escape to the attic through the attic fan access point. We highly recommend removing or insulating over existing attic fans. In addition, the attic access panel is an important item to insulate in addition to the blow-in insulation. At Fresh Start we provide our clients with a custom elevated barrier and insulated access panel to create R40+ insulating factor directly above and around the attic access panel.
We recommend giving attention to your HVAC vents by sealing all accessible vent joints, especially around the base of the air handler unit. Using a specialized vent tape, place one continuous strip around the joint and press firmly to create a strong seal. The joint from the air handler to the vent is the most important to seal thoroughly. A common item we see in our metro area is vents in crawl spaces not insulated and exposed to the outside temperatures. We highly recommend wrapping all exposed vents in crawl spaces.
Your HVAC vents are the “life” of your home, literally. Most air contamination comes through the HVAC vents. Dust and debris frequently clog the vents. Even vents of 30+-year-old houses have construction debris in the line. Dust and debris in your vents restrict airflow and cause your system to have to work harder, not to mention what you are breathing! A simple vent cleaning can do wonders to “clear the pipes”, so to speak, and create an increase in airflow, which improves the overall efficiency of your home. We recommend vent cleaning services that use negative pressure to thoroughly clean the vents and not just stir things up. The benefits of vent cleaning can last up to 10 years if maintained properly.
With so many of our homes in this area having basements, insulating your home rim joist is a simple and expensive solution to insulating your home even more. The rim joist is the area between the foundation wall and the exterior framing. This gap creates an opportunity for airflow to enter the home. A simple insulation process seals this gap and creates a more efficient basement.
Ventilated crawl spaces are best because they help eliminate moisture and produce air flow during hot and humid months. Ventilated crawl spaces need insulation on the sub-floor between the floor joists by securing and covering with a vapor barrier to prevent mold damage. Non-ventilated crawl spaces need insulation throughout the entire crawl space. Be sure to include a vapor barrier on the ground and insulate the walls surrounding the crawl space. If you have any questions about insulating your home or taking care of maintenance items this fall, please don’t hesitate to give us a call! Our insulation and mold professionals would be happy to help!