Insulation in your home provides resistance to heat flow and lowers your heating and cooling costs. Properly insulating your home not only reduces heating and cooling costs, but also improves comfort.
Saving energy is on everyone’s mind, from global companies installing lighting timers to individuals taking faster showers. Even small steps can help save on your utility bills and contribute to using fewer natural resources.
Whatever energy your home needs, there are highly effective ways to improve thermal insulation and reduce energy use.
Conscious of the amount of energy you consume to keep your home at a comfortable temperature? You know gas and electricity are valuable resources, and you would like to reduce their use, however you feel you could never achieve the ideal temperature inside.
Improving the thermal insulation performance of your windows can help prevent heat escaping and cold air seeping in, which in turn will prevent the heating and air conditioning from overworking.
You may have already adopted measures to reduce energy consumption and save on electricity and gas bills. These could include Installing an energy-efficient thermostat. But to make a more significant change, the thermal insulation of your house is one way to improve energy efficiency.
You can do this by choosing different materials for your home’s exterior. But installing windows with more energy efficient glass can be a particularly effective way to reduce energy consumption.
How Insulation Works
To understand how insulation works it helps to understand heat flow, which involves three basic mechanisms — conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction is the way heat moves through materials, such as when a spoon placed in a hot cup of coffee conducts heat through its handle to your hand.
Convection is the way heat circulates through liquids and gasses, and is why lighter, warmer air rises, and cooler, denser air sinks in your home. Radiant heat travels in a straight line and heats anything solid in its path that absorbs its energy.
Regardless of the mechanism, heat flows from warmer to cooler areas until there is no longer a temperature difference. In your home, this means that in winter, heat flows directly from all heated living spaces to adjacent unheated attics, garages, basements, and especially to the outdoors.
Heat flow can also move indirectly through interior ceilings, walls, and floors–wherever there is a difference in temperature. During the cooling season, heat flows from the outdoors to the interior of a house.
To maintain comfort, the heat lost in the winter must be replaced by your heating system and the heat gained in the summer must be removed by your cooling system. Properly insulating your home will decrease this heat flow by providing an effective resistance to the flow of heat.
To choose the best insulation for your home from the many types of insulation on the market, you’ll need to know where you want or need to install the insulation, and what R-value you want the installation to achieve.
Other considerations may include indoor air quality impacts, life cycle costs, recycled content, embodied carbon, and ease of installation, especially if you plan to do the installation yourself. Some insulation strategies require professional installation, while homeowners can easily handle others.
Insulating Walls, Floors and Attics
The outer shell, or envelope, of your home is the barrier that prevents the temperatures of the inside and outside air from equalizing. The better insulated the walls, floors and roof are, the less energy your heating and cooling systems have to use to warm or cool the air in your home.
Sealing Air Leaks
Even walls with good insulation can let warm or cool air escape through cracks and gaps around windows and doors. Drafty homes require more power to heat and cool than tight homes, so save energy by caulking and weather-stripping to stop air leaks.
In older homes, it’s virtually impossible to seal the house too tightly; in most cases, because of the construction methods used, there will still be enough fresh air to maintain good ventilation after sealing the biggest leaks.
In homes with central heating and air-conditioning units that force air through a duct system, leaking ducts may lower efficiency by up to 20 percent. Seal and insulate all of the ducts in your house to let the warm and cool air get where it’s supposed to go as efficiently as possible. Good insulation is even more important when the ducts travel through unfinished areas like attics or basements.
While most insulation reduces heat transfer by physically blocking it, reflective insulation, also called a radiant barrier, is installed on the attic floor, where it reflects the heat radiated into the attic by a hot roof and prevents it from entering the living space below. While reflective insulation has some value in lowering heating bills, its main purpose is to keep the house cool in hot climates.