High Energy Bills? Tips On Insulating Your Home To Save Big
Even brand-new homes need more insulation
This article discusses insulating newer homes which already have insulated walls and attics. A separate article
will discuss insulating older homes which have little or no insulation.
There are many places where insulating and sealing air leaks gets overlooked or ignored when a new home is built.
The good news is that it is fairly easy and inexpensive to fix these problems. In most cases, you'll save enough energy in
one year to pay for the cost of adding insulation and sealing air leaks.
Where to insulate and seal . . .
- Ribbon plate around base of home
- Pipes leading to outdoor faucets
- Pipes leading to air conditioner
- Electric and other service entries
- Clothes Dryer exhaust vent
- Electrical outlets in perimeter walls
- Scuttle hole leading to attic
- Window and door weatherstripping
- Basement windows and doors
Safety Tip . . . When working around fiberglass or blown in insulation, wear long sleeve shirt and trousers, gloves,
and protective full eye goggles.
Ribbon plate around base of home
This is the wooden board attached to the floor joists. If you have a basement, or crawl space, it sits on top of the
concrete wall. It is normally only 2" wide and is seldom insulated or sealed to prevent air leaks. Even on a bright, sunny day
you may not be able to see light where the leaks exist.
First, you will need to clean the dust and dirt off of the top of the concrete wall and anywhere where you are going
to caulk. The best way to know you have sealed all leaks is to caulk every joint where the ribbon plate sits on the
concrete, where it meets the flooring, and each floor joist [now the ceiling when in the basement]. Use a good amount of bead so
it will flow into cracks.
While caulking the ribbon plate, look for pipes leading to outdoor faucets, pipes leading to the air
conditioner, electric, other service entries, and the clothes dryer
vent. Be sure to caulk these inside and on the outside of
your home, too. If you have large openings to fill, use plumber's putty [you can buy it at any hardware store and it's
cheap]. The trick is to take a "gob" and roll it up into a snake-like configuration that is bigger than the opening. Push it in
place firmly. It will seal the crack well, it's waterproof, and it's cheaper than caulking.
After caulking, attach 4" or 6" of insulation to the ribbon plate. Probably one or two rolls of fiberglass insulation will do
all four sides. In places where it is difficult to staple, or if you're using insulation without the vapor barrier, you can drive
in small nails and attach two wires, criss-crossed, to hold it in place use two nails at the top and bottom of the joist
on each side, wrap the wire around the nail on the top on one side and the bottom on the other side.
If you decide to insulate the floor [ceiling of your basement] you can wrap the insulation at each end of the floor joist
to cover the ribbon plate. Normally, the "vapor barrier" should face the "living space" and would make it difficult to staple
the insulation to the bottom of the floor joists. Normally, this doesn't create a problem but if you are concerned, you can use
a utility knife to cut a small slit in the vapor barrier [the backing used for stapling] every foot or so.
Electrical outlets in perimeter walls leak air. Most hardware stores sell gaskets designed to fit under the cover plate
for duplex outlets and light switches. For safety, turn off the breaker or fuse before removing the cover plate. If there
are cracks around the outlet box and the wall, you can use caulking or plumbers putty to seal them.
The Scuttle hole leading to attic often leaks and is not insulated. You can use door or window weatherstripping
material to make a good seal around the opening and/or the cover. Staple insulation on the back of the cover, and/or drape it
over the opening on the attic side.
Window and door weatherstripping gets worn out from everyday use. Check these every spring and replace any
that are damaged or missing. Storm doors will help a lot, but often these will have poor weatherstripping which wears
out quickly. If you cannot find adequate materials to fix your storm doors you may want to consider a new, high
insulating storm door. Besides saving energy they can make your home more attractive.
Basement windows and doors are the worst sealed and are seldom insulated. Caulking inside and out will prevent
air leaks. Adding weatherstripping is a good idea. If they don't have storm windows/doors, consider adding them, or at
least use plastic to insulate them.
Tips on Materials . . .
- Latex caulk is easiest to clean up, works well, and is inexpensive. Be sure to get a brand that offers a warranty for
20 years or longer
- Plumbers putty is excellent for sealing larger cracks. It stays pliable for years, it's inexpensive, and it's
waterproof. Knead it into a roll larger than the opening and push it firmly in place
- Expandable foam, available in aerosol cans, can be used to fill very large cracks and openings. It expands and,
when dry, makes a filler like styrofoam. Be careful that you don't use too much it expands two to four times larger than
when you first apply it.
- Fiberglass insulation comes in rolls of different widths, to fit between joists/studs, with or without a vapor barrier.
The vapor barrier is made of heavy paper, which has been waterproofed, and is wider than the insulation to aid in stapling
to studs or joists.
Reprinted with permission, HomeDoctor.net