Winter’s here: Don’t hibernate, INSULATE!

by ‐ Tags: green living

With winter upon us, many people are turning the heat on and UP. Heat is a great creature comfort but huge utility bills are a drag. You don't have to live in Buffalo or Minneapolis to recognize the burden of increased gas, oil, propane and electric usage on your budget - our friends in sunny Florida even feel the this financial pain in the heart of winter. Want to save heat and money this year? Knowing the proper amount of insulation for your neck of the woods is the first step.

Did you know that the least efficient buildings can increase winter utility costs by a factor of SIX? In fact, the least inefficient buildings can use up to eight times more in gas, five times more electricity and four times more oil than the most efficient ones.

True, if you have an inefficient heating system or faulty equipment your building is not being warmed evenly and this can drive up your bill every month. However, one of the most important factors in a building's heating efficiency has nothing to do with the heating unit: it's the insulation.

Older homes, especially ones built before the 1950s, have no insulation at all. Efficiency didn't really become a focus until the 1970s, with many homes being built with minimal to no insulation. So chances are, if you live in an older home that hasn't had its insulation updated recently, you can likely boost your efficiency just by making sure your insulation is up to date.

Proper insulation can also prevent headaches like ice dams, mold and moisture problems, and poor indoor air quality.

While assessing your current level of insulation is something you should hire a contractor to do, figuring out how much you should install is something you can easily do yourself. So how much insulation do you need? It depends on where you live.

Using recommendations from the U.S. Department of Energy and the International Energy Conservation Code, ENERGY STAR® has created a map for you to figure that out.

Recommended Levels of Insulation

Each zone on this map has a different recommended R-value (a measure of heat resistance). The higher the number associated with each zone, the higher the recommended R-value for the insulation needed.

Insulation table

Clearly, northern states require more insulation, but the fact still remains that many U.S. homes have no insulation at all, regardless of location.

Finding out if you have the proper amount of insulation is the first step among many to making sure your building is as efficient as possible. Another important consideration involves evaluating the efficiency of your windows and HVAC system.

Taking steps to improve your building's efficiency today will not only reduce your environmental footprint, but will also help cut your utility costs for years to come. So don't crawl into a cave for a long, cold winter's nap. Insulate today!

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