Keep Your Energy Bills Under Control
As the temperatures continue to drop, you may be feeling a draft in your home. WWJ’s Florence Walton spoke with DTE Energy Expert Larry Kaufman who offered up some simple ideas that can really help keep the warmth inside, and money and your pocket, this winter.
“Number one — if your windows aren’t locked, I would say you should lock your windows. It doesn’t cost you anything and that will make a tighter seal to keep the cold air out of the home,” Kaufman said.
“Second, when the sun’s out, you wanna keep your drapes open in the day. As soon as the sun goes down you want to close the drapes. The drapes act as an insulator,” he said.
Kaufman said other basic ideas include making sure heating vents are unobstructed and closing the vents in unused rooms.
Review this complete energy-saving checklist provided by DTE:
- Seal or replace cracked and peeling caulk around windows, doors and siding to eliminate drafts.
- Place a “draft-buster” in front of doors and windows to stop air leaks.
- Install attic and basement insulation.
- Close chimney flues and seal unused fireplaces.
And especially in the winter …
- Use plastic window sheeting on the interior of windows to make temporary double-pane windows.
- Remove or cover window air conditioning units.
- Keep drapes open during the day to capture solar heating
In the Basement:
An effective way to insulate existing basement walls is to build and insulate a stud wall inside of the concrete wall. Using a 3 1/2″ stud will allow R-11 fiberglass batts. Using 2″ furring strips nailed will allow R-10 rigid foam.
- Be sure to follow required local building codes when installing insulation.
- Install a vapor barrier (rolled plastic sheeting) on BOTH sides of the insulation – one layer between the concrete and the back side of the stud wall, and a second layer between the insulation and the heated space.
- Any significant moisture problems (water coming through the concrete) must be dealt with BEFORE installing the stud wall.
- The band joist, also known as the rim joist, is the outside perimeter around the floor joists. The band joist is an easy area to insulate because it is open and accessible. Cut short lengths of R-19 fiberglass batts and stuff between each floor joist before finishing the basement ceiling.\
In the Ceiling:
To keep the air you’ve paid to heat or cool inside your home, it’s important to have adequate insulation in your ceiling areas. It’s also important that all skylight shafts, attic access doors, bulkheads over kitchens cabinets and all upper walls that face attic areas be insulated.
It’s hard to imagine a house today having no attic insulation, but if that is the case, the likely culprit is access. If an attic has no access, generally one can be made in an acceptable manner, such as cutting an opening in the end of the house and installing a gable end vent when a new roof is installed or other interior renovations are completed that would allow an opening to be made.
How much insulation is recommended?
Due to the ‘diminishing returns’ aspect of insulation (the higher the R-value goes, the less savings there is per R added), an attic with at least 6″ of insulation – or a depth to at least 2″ over the top of the ceiling joists, is considered to be adequate. Adding another 6″ would be good, but does not save as much as the first 6″ does. If the ceiling joists are exposed, then more insulation should be added.
It’s more important, from a structural integrity standpoint, that an attic be properly ventilated than insulated. Of course, both depend on the other to function correctly. Remember these tips regarding ventilation:
- Some heat loss will occur even with the best insulated attics.
- If the heat is not ventilated, it can build up on the underside of the roof causing snowmelt. As a result, water runs down the roof to the eave, where it typically is not over a heated attic, turning colder. The water then refreezes causing an “ice-dam” which allows water to back-up under the roof shingles and cause leaks. The house can also be damaged from ice weight and falling ice.
- Moisture must also be ventilated out, otherwise it can form frost on the underside of the roof deck and rafters/trusses, leading to mold formation and structural degradation.
When installing insulation in an existing attic please follow these simple safety rules:
- Do not cover old wiring — mainly ‘knob and tube’ or wiring observed to be in poor condition.
- Do not cover certain types of light fixtures, and other heat-producing objects such as chimneys and flues.
- New wiring and fixtures designed and labeled as such can be covered with insulation. Consult local codes for specific information on clearance requirements.
In The Walls:
Houses built before about 1965 (varies with region) were built without wall insulation. If it is not obvious whether insulation exists or not, follow these easy steps:
Remove a switch or outlet cover on an exterior wall and look inside the wall. If insulation is not easily visible, carefully probe inside the wall with a wire. Be sure to turn off the power before probing outside of or through the box.
From the basement, look or probe exterior walls around plumbing and wiring penetrations of the sill plate.
It is virtually impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of concealed wall insulation. Even thermal scans can be deceptive. Therefore, the main question is: Wall Insulation or NO Wall Insulation. If there is NO wall insulation, it needs to be added. If there IS wall insulation, there’s nothing more that can be done short of a major renovation that removes one side of the wall covering.
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