One of the most rewarding energy conservation efforts, in terms of savings and comfort, is home insulation. But, despite the rewards, over 90 % of American homes are inadequately insulated.
While the ideal time to insulate a house is during construction, insulation can be added to existing homes in several ways. It will cost the homeowner nothing in the long run because of substantial savings in heating and air-conditioning costs.
Because of the variables (particularly energy costs, house type, location, and exposure), a homeowner cannot predict the precise savings for a given house or how long the payback period is for the insulation work. A good installation, however, generally pays for itself within four years. See window insulation for more information.
The reductions in heating and cooling costs thereafter are pure savings. The bonus is a draft-free house in winter, a cooler house in summer, and a quieter home the year around.
Two types of insulation:
• Bats (four to eight-foot lengths) and blankets (rolls): Placed between wall studs and roof rafters.
• Loose fill: Blown in between roof rafters and into hollow walls through holes bored from the outside.
Total insulation of an existing one-family house (exterior walls, floors, and attic) should cost $1,500 to $3,500. Variables: House size, design, and the type of material used.
Tax credit: 15% of the cost of all energy conservation efforts, including insulation. The maximum total credit: $300.
Financing: Favorable terms for financing insulation work and other energy conservation expenses are generally available through utility companies and from banks.
Places To Insulate
Ceilings with cold spaces above them (for example, the attic or the roof).
Exterior walls and walls between heated and unheated areas.
Floors over unheated or outside spaces. Walls of a finished basement or of a basement that is heated.
Above ground part of foundation or basement wall.
Window Treatments That Save Energy
The most successful window coverings are light-efficient, energy-saving, and decorative.
Some of the options:
White, tightly woven shades, which run on tracks that are permanently affixed to the window. They block out and reflect the heat of the sun. Yet they permit sufficient daylight to minimize any additional lighting requirements.
Venetian blinds along with tightly woven draperies provide good alternatives to shades, although they are more difficult than shades to keep clean.
Reflective film coating on window glass reflects 80% of the sun's heat. Coating can cut air conditioning costs by as much as 50 %. In winter, insulating film reflects radiant energy back into the room rather than allowing it to escape through the glass. That cuts the heating bill slightly.
Thermal-lined draperies and window blankets are coming back in the form of gauzy sheers, draperies, and valances. These "period styles" reduce heat loss.
Insulate, But Don't Suffocate
Recently, there has been an emphasis on improvement of building insulation to save energy and money.
But insulation can be too good. When a building is airtight, chances are that moisture can build up within walls and in attics and roof spaces, causing structural members to rot and, in some cases, to collapse.
Adequate ventilation is required in all buildings. In addition to allowing moisture to escape, it prevents carbon dioxide buildup, eliminates odors, dilutes toxic gases, reduces stuffiness, and maintains comfortable temperatures in warm weather.
In Dortmund, Germany, a 30-year-old man died of carbon dioxide poisoning in an apartment that he had made airtight by adding wall insulation and weather stripping to windows and doors. All outside air had been shut out.
Because of tighter construction, the amount of humidity in a new house is usually higher than in an older house.
Most attempts to avoid moisture buildup indoors have been ineffective. Use of vapor barriers, siding, or soffit vents, and ventilation of a building's outer walls have disadvantages. Water vapor can pass through the wall and ceiling insulation and condense within the insulation material itself. That reduces its insulation value and could freeze within the walls in winter.
How can you insulate your home adequately and still avoid moisture buildup? Ventilation from the inside to the outside through the use of mechanical exhaust fans has proved effective and requires that only a moderate amount of air be exhausted.
For all practical purposes, an exhaust rate of 20 cubic feet per minute for each 1,000 cubic feet of space is needed. Thus, for a home of 2,000 square feet floor area and an eight-foot ceiling (16,000 cubic feet), use an exhaust fan with about 320 cubic feet per minute minimum rating. Such a fan could be used as an exhaust in the kitchen, the bathroom, the laundry room, and wherever else moisture accumulates.
Usage: Depends on the size of the family.
The larger the family, the more often the fan would be on.
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