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How's your insulation working?

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ January 19, 2011

According to the Department of Energy, your heating and cooling costs make up to 70 percent of your total energy bills. Energy leaks in the home can increase your bills by as much as 30 percent. These numbers make a great argument for green improvements, or at least for fixing your leaks immediately. One first step that makes incredible sense is bringing your insulation up to regional standards as soon as possible. According to Bankrate, you can complete the job for under $1,000. And if you are all about being green, then use chopped cellulose insulation. Cellulose resists fire and insect infestations better than fiberglass.

Bankrate adds that you should seal up plumbing, ductwork and any holes in your home caused by cable or satellite installations as part of the overall improvement project.

Getting Regional Insulation Codes

Fortunately, the government has made it easy to find the right levels of cost-effective insulation to reduce leakage. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has a searchable index based on zip codes that can help you narrow your insulation needs by climate. It's a combination of climate, house size, the efficiency of your heating and cooling system and your family habits that govern energy use the most.

Attic insulation reduces air flow and traps heated or cooled air in your home. Insulation can be delivered as batt, rolls, lose fill, blankets or blown-in materials. Typical blown-in insulation is made of cellulose, fiberglass, pellets or rock wool. It's a good choice for open, unfinished areas like your attic where there are exposed, odd-shaped cavities and corners.

Any blown-in or foam insulation is best left to professional contractors who have the equipment to handle the job. Rigid or batt insulation is readily available at most home improvement stores and you can take your own dimensions and install it yourself if you want to save money. Again, you need to consider your region, climate and attic space.

Another consideration when using batts or blankets is that they're sold in standard widths and you may have to modify them to fit your space. Cutting can render your insulation vulnerable to air leaks and gaps between sheets.

Recycled Insulation Materials

If you're really going green, consider using recycled insulation. Recycled manufacturers also create cellulose products, but these use recycled newspaper and you should be careful if you have sensitivity to printer's ink. Recycled insulation not only is a good alternative to fiberglass, it removes industrial waste from the dump and puts it back into good use.

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