City of Alexandria, VA
Page updated Jul 27, 2012 9:35 AM
Insulation: Great Stuff for Energy Savings
When it comes to home improvements, many of us wait until the improvement is absolutely necessary. For example, a broken window during the chilly winter months demands a Saturday morning repair. But the small leak where the back door doesn’t quite meet the frame? Well, you’re probably hoping to get to that at some point, along with the drafty window in the family room and the weather stripping the puppy tore up along the sliding door.
Consider that 43% of a typical utility bill goes to heating and cooling and 90% of the waste of that energy is from compromises in the buildings structure and poor insulation. If you had a hole the size of a football through your wall, you would probably patch it immediately. But could all the little leaks in your home total the same surface area as a large hole? If hot and cold air can get through these cracks, you bet water can too. And critters! One of the quickest dollar-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal, and weatherstrip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside.
But perhaps we’re forgetting one of the biggest leaks yet: your attic. These leaks are so significant—and common—that you can receive a tax credit of 10% of the cost (up to $500) on insulation and roofing improvements that meet ENERGY STAR requirements. Though these tax breaks do not include the cost of installation, adding insulation is relatively easy and very cost effective. We recommend referencing “A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Sealing and Insulating with Energy Star” before tackling this project on your own. This booklet can be accessed online here. More details on tax credits can be found on ENERGY STAR’s website.
Not sure if you need to make repairs? Alexandria falls in climate zone 4 of the U.S. Department of Energy’s chart of recommended R-values. R-values reflect an insulation’s resistance to heat flow; the higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation. Attics of new wood-framed homes in zone 4 should have insulation levels between R38-R60. Further explanation of these values and how much insulation you need to protect your home can be found in the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Energy Saver’s Booklet.” Visit www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/ to order this booklet online or to download the PDF.
If you don’t need to make major repairs, insulating foam sealants such as GREAT STUFFTM can stop air leaks easily and permanently for less than $5 a can. These products work on all kinds of surfaces including wood, metal, glass, and most plastics. Greatstuff.dow.com has helpful and entertaining videos on how to use their products. Additionally, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allows a tax credit for using GREAT STUFFTM to improve the insulation of your home.
So, whether you’d like to fill in a few holes or make larger insulation repairs, why not begin reaping the benefits of reduced energy bills, increased comfort levels, and tax breaks?