Winter is here! Temperatures have reached record lows as successive arctic waves continue to sweep across the country, including the south. Now is the time that people pay the most attention to the uncomfortable, energy-wasting impacts of poor insulation and drafty, poorly sealed homes.
Along with questions about different types of insulation come several misconceptions that hold homeowners back from realizing energy savings improvements in comfort. Among the greatest miscommunications are the following:
- Not Just for Winter. Most homeowners think of insulation and air sealing as a thick warm winter jacket with tightly pulled sleeve cuffs and collars for their home – buffering the heated air inside against the cold weather outside. Like a winter jacket, they pack it away in the mental closet when the weather warms up and forget about it until autumn. But insulation and air sealing serve equally important roles in the summer by keeping warm temperatures outside. Homeowners should imagine their home as a large, tightly sealed cooler in hot weather, keeping the contents of the interior cool and comfortable.
- Not Just For New Builds. In new construction, building codes require minimum levels of insulation in walls, ceilings and floors. Increasingly, mandated requirements for air tightness are also being applied. If you have a new home, chances are that your thermal envelope, and perhaps your air barrier, at least meet minimum standards. Old homes, on the other hand, are typically very deficient in insulation values and are extremely drafty. Houses built when there were no codes or less demanding ones for insulation, and no attention whatsoever given to air barriers, often bleed heat and conditioned air like a sieve. Upgrading these deficiencies represents a huge opportunity for increased energy efficiency and comfort.
- It’s Not Just What You Install, It’s How It’s Installed. Choose your insulation contractor with care! A given insulation’s actual performance depends not only on what R value is installed, but how well it is installed. Likewise, attention to air sealing details during framing and other rough stages of construction is critical to a building’s air tightness. Ask your contractor if he and his insulation installer are BPI certified, or have experience with meeting the requirements of ENERGY STAR Homes. As with any quality product, the end result depends as much on the skill of the builder as it does on the materials used.