There’s a good chance that high heating bills are here to stay. As the prices of natural gas and heating oil go up, homeowners will find themselves paying more and more to heat their homes in the winter. Fortunately, you can offset some of the price increases by beefing up your home insulation. In fact, most homeowners can save 30 percent or more on home heating costs by making a few inexpensive home improvements!
Older homes are often most in need of an insulation upgrade. But don’t assume that, because you have a newer home, it’s as well-insulated as possible. Many homes built after 1980 have inadequate insulation because local building codes aren’t up-to-date with US Department of Energy recommendations. Also, occasionally home-builders do scrimp on “little” things like insulation to lower costs and increase profits.
Here are some relatively simple and inexpensive steps you can take to lower your heating bills this winter:
1. Increase attic insulation.
Your attic is a big source of home heat loss and is one of the easiest places to get in to. If your attic does not have at least 12 inches of insulation you can lay paperless rolls of insulation on top of existing insulation, including cellulose or vermiculate. These types of insulation tend to “compact” over time, reducing their effectiveness.
By the way, a well-insulated attic is always cold. If you see icicles dangling from the eaves of your home it means that warm air in the attic is melting snow and the water runoff is re-freezing (which can also cause significant damage to your roof!). Get in there and insulate until the air is very cold.
2. Use weather-stripping around windows and doors.
Lots of heat is lost through the spaces around windows and doors. Modern weather-stripping materials are inexpensive and very effective at minimizing the loss of warm air (and money). Most do-it-yourselfers can install weather-stripping pretty easily Just make sure to do it in temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, always apply weather-stripping to clean, dry surfaces to maximize effectiveness and ensure that it lasts for a long time.
3. Use expansion foam for small spaces.
Expansion foam insulation works great for filling small openings that allow heat to escape. Some examples include the spaces behind electric switch plates on exterior walls, openings where plumbing pipes enter the house, and the small openings that are used to run electricity, cable, and internet lines into your home. All together these little spaces add up to a lot of heat loss and a little bit of inexpensive expansion foam can save you a lot of money on your heating bill.
4. Don’t forget the basement.
Home basements and crawlspaces often have many little openings that let heat escape. This is especially true if they are unfinished. Use paper-faced insulation on exposed ceiling joists and stuff small pieces of insulation into open crevices at the juncture of basement walls and the ceiling. Also, you might want to pump some expansion foam insulation into any small openings around the foundation, which are usually no more than an inch or two wide.
5. Use window curtains and blinds.
One of the simplest ways to reduce heat loss through windows is to use curtains and blinds. They can be closed at night to trap cold air and opened during the day to allow sunlight to naturally warm the house. Remember that the thicker the curtain, the more effective it will be at insulating your house.
As you can see, none of the home insulation steps above are too difficult or too expensive to accomplish. But they will save you a ton of money over the years. Take advantage of them and you just might find this year’s heating bills to be lower than expected!