For a more energy-efficient home, ample insulation is key
Want a home that's more energy-efficient and saves money on heat and cooling? Upgrading your insulation is key.
The one thing that’s become clear as I stumble my way through the green renovation of Sheep Dog Hollow: Insulation is king.Skip to next paragraph
Alexandra writes about the "green" and budget-friendly renovation of a 100-year-old farmhouse in south-central Connecticut.
Green renovation: Lessons learned
Sheep Dog Hollow's green renovation is almost finished
How to determine if wind power is for you
Wind power in New England: Is it a good renovation option?
The spacemen cometh: How spray-in insulation creates a leak-free building
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Forget spending a fortune on solar power or geothermal if you’re thinking of greening up your current home. Every green expert I speak with always emphasizes the importance of dealing first and foremost with insulation in two forms: attacking air infiltration (sealing up all air leaks and drafts in a house) and increasing the amount of R-value (essentially the thickness of the blanket of insulation in the house.)
Doing so can save homeowners as much as 20 to 30 percent in their annual heating bills.
There are plenty of people who could benefit from a simple insulation upgrade. According to the site Simply Insulate, there are 46 million American homes that are “under-insulated.”
“If your home as little as 5 to 10 years old, you likely have one of the 46 million under-insulated homes in the US," according to the Harvard University School of Public Health. "Adding more insulation is easy. Plus, insulation is one of the lowest cost options for improving the energy efficiency of your home. It pays off fast and keeps paying off with better comfort and energy savings for as long as you own your home.”
At Sheep Dog Hollow, we opted to put in highly efficient spray foam insulation. It seals the house tight – think vacuum-packed house with foaming plastic. Once it’s done, we’ll be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $1,500 as well as rebates from our local electric company for upgrading the insulation. (“Upgrade” is a generous term, though. When we bought Sheep Dog Hollow, the house had no insulation at all…)
But not every homeowner can do the kind of gut renovation we did – we stripped the house down to its bare studs so the spray foam, which is cutting edge in cutting down air infiltration, will be easy to install.
But most homeowners who an insulation upgrade have to work with what they have, and in the industry, that’s called a “retrofit.” So I called our local Anchor Insulation provider to find out what those homeowners can do.