insulation

Rule Your Attic by Hiring a Contractor

This is the second installment of blogs related to ENERGY STAR’s “Rule Your Attic!” outreach campaign encouraging homeowners to properly insulate their attics to reduce energy use, decrease utility bills, and increase comfort this heating season.

By Doug Anderson

If you know you have low insulation levels in your attic (see my first “Rule Your Attic!” blog about measuring attic insulation levels) but are just not interested in making improvements yourself, now is the time to call a contractor to properly seal air leaks and add insulation to your attic BEFORE the high heating bills come. Insulation contractors have all the equipment and experience to do the job right the first time. Let them do the dirty work. Your job is to find a good contractor to help you “Rule Your Attic!”

Shop Around – Selecting a Contractor

As with any home improvement project, you want to make sure you’re getting a good price and that the work will be done right. Here’s how:

Check with your electric utility or State Energy Office to see if they offer incentives for improvements or have pre-screened program contractors. (See energystar.gov/dime or www.dsireusa.org for lists of incentives.)

  • Get several estimates from contractors (know the square footage of your attic).
  • Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured in your state.
  • Ask if the crew chief is certified to do insulation work.
  • Ask how the contractor will keep your house clean during the work.
  • Make sure the contractor understands you want attic holes and gaps sealed before any insulation is added. If they do not agree to “seal before insulating,” call another contractor!

You may find local pre-screened, trained, and certified contractors available through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. These programs are run by local utilities or State Energy Offices and are a great place to start looking for contractors to help you with your project.

Make Sure the Job’s Done Right – What to Look For

When hiring a contractor, make sure that you clearly understand the work they’ll be doing. Don’t hesitate to ask questions before the contractor starts, and stay involved throughout the process! Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Contractors should seal air leaks in the attic floor before adding insulation. It’s much easier to seal first to ensure you get the full performance out of your insulation.
  • If you have air ducts in the attic, make sure contractors do not step on or damage them.
  • Burying any ducts on the floor in insulation is okay to do – it can even improve efficiency. Just make sure the ducts are well sealed first.
  • Unless your old insulation is wet, moldy, smelly, or contains animal waste, contractors can just add new insulation on top. It is usually not necessary to remove existing insulation.
  • Most contractors use blown-in, loose fill insulation for attic floors, which is quick and easy to install with the right equipment. Typical materials include fiberglass or cellulose – both contain some recycled content (glass or ground up paper) and are inexpensive and safe. If traditional insulation rolls are used for the attic floor instead, be sure that it is “unfaced” (no foil or paper backing needed) so moisture does not get trapped.
  • Any project estimate should also include installing insulation baffles (rafter vents). This ensures that as you add insulation, soffit vents (which allow outside air to enter the attic) are not blocked and your attic has proper air flow.

attic

 

Make sure your contractor seals attic air leaks before adding insulation.

  • If you have older recessed light fixtures (can lights) that stick up into the attic floor, the contractor should cover and seal them before installing insulation using specially designed covers that are available at most home improvement stores.
  • Contractors should also seal the chase (hole) in the attic around the plumbing vent pipe.
  • It’s also important to weather strip and insulate the attic hatch or door. There are several off-the-shelf products available for standard-sized openings.
  • EPA recommends having a professional contractor conduct combustion safety testing before and after any air sealing as this might affect the drafting of any combustion (oil or gas) appliances in the house.

Document the Contractor’s Work

Finally, tell the contractor that you expect documentation at the end of the job to show how much insulation has been added and what the new insulation R-value is for your attic. When it’s done, take a picture and compare it to the pictures you took earlier to see the improvement. Post your before and after pictures on ENERGY STAR’s “Rule Your Attic!” Pinterest board. Then, you can sit back and enjoy the cooler weather knowing your home is more comfortable and energy efficient.

For more information on deciding to DIY or hire a contractor, watch the second video in our “Rule Your Attic!” video series.

attic2

 

Adding “blown” attic insulation

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including sealing and insulation products and energy-efficient residential windows.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Rule Your Attic and Save Energy and Money This Winter

This is the first installment of blogs related to ENERGY STAR’s “Rule Your Attic!” outreach campaign encouraging homeowners to insulate their attics to reduce energy use, decrease utility bills, and increase comfort this heating season.

By Doug Anderson

Homeowners throughout the U.S. are starting to wake up to frost on the grass and furnaces or boilers running full blast. Cold weather is here! Now is the time to do a quick, simple check of your attic insulation levels to save money on energy bills and be more comfortable this winter. We call checking your attic insulation level: RULE YOUR ATTIC!

Don’t waste your hard earned money, just check your insulation level today to know if you have a problem or not. It only takes a few minutes. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Grab a tape measure or ruler and a flashlight. (You can also bring your cell phone)
  2. Carefully climb up your attic stairs or ladder and raise the attic hatch or door.
  3. Reach out and stick the ruler into the insulation and measure the depth in inches. Jot down the number or take a picture with your cell phone to record the number.

Now, check your results. For commonly used blown (loose-fill) fiberglass, mineral wool or cellulose insulation (assuming an R-value of about R-3 per inch):

  1. If you live in a Northern State and have less than 16-18 inches of insulation you are below the recommended levels.
  2. If you live in a Southern State and have less than 12-14 inches of insulation you are below the recommended levels.

 

insulation map

 

In the map above, zones 4-8 are considered Northern, zones 2-3 are Southern.

Now, if your levels are good, relax and have a cup of hot cider. If you are below the recommended levels, don’t sweat it. It’s not too late to make an improvement and lower your annual energy bills by up to 10% by sealing air leaks and adding insulation to your home.

From now through November 26, post a picture or short video of your attic floor insulation using the hashtag #RuleYourAttic and include @ENERGYSTAR in your post. ENERGY STAR experts will then provide feedback on how to improve your attic insulation. For more information visit www.energystar.gov/ruleyourattic. To learn how to measure your attic insulation level watch our short video. If you haven’t already followed us, check out the ENERGY STAR Twitter page.

Now, the next question is: should you do it yourself or hire a contractor? We have helpful information whatever you decide to do.

rule your attic

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including sealing and insulation products and energy-efficient residential windows.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Insulation is Cool – Literally!

I’ve written a few times over the 18 months about our home renovation and how we went as green as we could afford. The last time, I was sitting in my dining room during our crazy-snowy winter.

Almost six months later, we’ve just gone through one of the worst heat waves I can remember. And that led to a massive thunderstorm cell that did quite a bit of damage to the DC area. It hit us about 3:30 on Sunday. We were sort of on the southern edge of it, but looking to the north was impressive and ominous.

Just before the skies opened, our power went out. Not that big a deal at the time – we just sat on the porch and watched the storm roar along. But when it didn’t come back on, I started worrying about our fridge and our AC. I get hot very easily.

4158_1157385457836_13237331As the hours wore on, though, I was again reminded of the benefits of our approach to insulation. Since we had the walls off while renovating, we blew in foam to air seal the house, then put fiberglass on top. We also put in double-paned windows with special coatings to reduce direct heating from the sun (I really appreciated the info I got on the Energy Star Web site about all of this). Our porch also keeps the sun off the ground floor windows in the front.

The result? The house doesn’t heat up or cool down very quickly. So although we had no AC during high temperatures, we were pretty comfortable inside. As for the fridge, we just kept the door shut (unlike during Hurricane Isabel, when we ran a very long extension cord across the street to our neighbors’ outdoor outlet).

Have you made any green building choices that later made themselves felt?

If you’re thinking about renovating, check out EPA’s info on green building!

About the author: Jeffrey Levy is EPA’s Director of Web Communications.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Going Green Can Be Easy and Even Put Some Green Back in Your Wallet!

image of graphic on Green Building WebsiteThis past year while on special assignment to assist the EPA Green Building Program, I had the opportunity to create the EPA Green Homes website.  This website provides pages of useful, practical information and advice for the homeowner or apartment dweller to live a greener, more energy efficient life at home.

While I was developing the website, my wife and I decided to implement as many of the recommendations as possible to see if we could live greener, and after six months the results are in!

  • We are using 35% less electricity,
  • We are using a bit less water,
  • We are recycling 75% of all our household waste,
  • Most storm water runoff stays on our property during each rainfall,
  • We are gradually eliminating our ½ acre of lawn (and all the work that goes with it) and turning it into a garden of native plants by re-naturalizing our yard.
  • We purchased 100% Green Power (renewable electricity) from Dominion Power through their new program.
  • And, we’ve done all this with minimal expense and are saving almost $550 a year on energy bills!

Our energy audit indicated that our 10 inches (R-25) of fiberglass insulation in the attic is far below Energy Star’s currently recommended insulation depth (R49-R60) for the Northern Virginia.  So we hired a contractor to blow in another 12 inches of fiberglass insulation to give us a total of about R-55.  The house already feels more comfortable and it will be fun to see how much we save on our natural gas heating bill.  On top of this, the Federal and Virginia State governments want to give us 50% off the cost of the insulation in tax credits and rebates!!!

So how can you lose?  Going Green really can pay off!

I encourage you to visit the website and challenge yourself to do as much as you can to go green.

EPA’s new Green Homes website is at- www.epa.gov/greenhomes

About the author: Bill Swietlik has worked in EPA’s Office of Water in Washington DC since 1988.  For the past year Bill was on a special assignment to the EPA Green Building Program creating a Green Homes website.  In this blog he shares his experience of greening his home.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.