By Doug Anderson
It’s October and here comes the cold weather and the high winter energy bills. I am in the middle of raking leaves and cleaning the gutters at my house and wanted to remind my fellow homeowners about other important projects to do in the fall to help keep your home comfortable and improve energy bills before the really cold weather hits. If you have not looked into your attic for a few years, then consider putting this near the top of your to-do list: check out what the insulation on your attic floor looks like.
There are two basic problems to look for: Air leaks and low levels of insulation. Why are these important? Holes that lead from your home up into your attic allow air to rise out the top of your house in the winter, wasting heat and energy. When it is cold outside, warm air in your house rises just like hot air in a hot air balloon. Sealing the leaks in the attic floor holds the warm air in, reduces cold drafts in the lower part of your house, and saves energy. Next, good levels of insulation prevent heat loss directly through the ceiling of your house into your attic.
Sealing air leaks and adding insulation in the attic is something I did a few years ago that really helped my energy bills and improved the comfort of my home, not to mention lowered my carbon foot print. Finding air leaks in your attic can be tricky, unless you know what to look for. ENERGY STAR has a Sealing and Insulating DIY Guide to help you available for free.
You also need to check how much attic insulation you have. Get a tape measure or yardstick and measure the depth of the insulation on your attic floor. Some home improvement stores actually give away cardboard rulers you can use in the insulation aisle. See the ENERGY STAR website or the side of an insulation bag or roll for details on how much insulation you should have for your part of the country.
The next question to ask is “should I fix this myself or hire a contractor?” If you do decide to do-it-yourself, you can save up to one-half to one-third in contractor costs. However, hiring a contractor is a great way to complete this project. Professionals have special tools to help spot problems you might miss, materials to seal holes quickly and completely, and equipment to install the insulation in a fraction of the time it would take you.
Again, to learn more about this project, to to www.energystar.gov under the home improvement topic “Air Seal and Insulate.”
About the author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 11 years. He works on issues related to energy efficient residential windows and insulation products.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.