Did you know that heating and cooling of the average home takes up almost 70% of the total energy used in a typical American home (lighting and appliances use the remaining 30%)? So while it makes sense to turn off lights, your greatest energy savings will come from minimizing the costs of heating and cooling your home. The primary cause of energy loss in many homes is the lack of insulation. Older homes weren't built with what we now consider sufficient insulation, and even newer homes that match building codes can often benefit from more insulation.
The Benefits of Insulation
In addition to saving you money, insulation has the added benefits of making your home more comfortable by maintaining a uniform temperature throughout the house, and it acts as a sound barrier by reducing noises transmitted in the home. Depending on how much insulation you have in your home to start with, adding a thick blanket of insulation could cut your energy bills enough to actually pay for itself in one or two years. After that it's a bonus. You get the comfort as well as the energy and cost savings from the insulation while you're in the house, and increased property value when you decide to sell your home.
Where to Insulate and How Much Is Insulation is Needed?
Roofs (actually attics) and walls are the prime candidates for adding insulation. Having proper insulation and blocking air leaks will help to keep warm air inside during the winter while keeping hot air out in the summer.
An insulation value of R-40 or even a little higher in a ceiling is generally considered ideal. R-value is a measure of thermal resistance, or how well a particular material blocks heat transfer. So, the R-value of your home's insulation will depend on what the insulation is actually made from, as well as its thickness.
Materials Used to Insulate Roofs
Common types of insulation used in attics are fiberglass or rock wool batts as well as blown cellulose or fiberglass insulation. Cellulose has an R-value of about 3.5 per inch while the R-value of fiberglass is about 2.5 to 3.0 per inch. For do-it-yourselfers, fiberglass batts have the advantages of being easy to install and don't require any special tools. Blown insulation requires special equipment and many homeowners like to leave it to an insulation contractor to install.
The good news is no matter what kind of insulation you choose, both you and the environment will end up winning.