Typical home energy leaks. Source: United States Department of Energy. Used with permission.

With energy costs rapidly rising, updating your home’s insulation can be a very cost-effective home improvement.  You can often repay your initial investment in two to three years.

The first step in a retrofit home insulation project is a home energy audit.  A qualified energy auditor uses his professional knowledge and a variety of specialized instruments to determine the greatest source of heat and energy loss in your home.

A professional energy audit for the average size home can cost a few hundred dollars to a thousand or more.  Note, however, that insulation contractors often provide energy audits for much less…  perhaps $50 to $100.  Just bear in mind that energy auditors working for insulation companies are not independent.  While the information they provide can still be very useful, their goal is to sell their company’s services.

In a few cases, local utility companies may provide free or low-cost energy audits; contact your utility company to find out.

The energy audit will identify different areas of heat and energy loss, and quantify how much is being lost through each.  Typical sources of heat loss include rooftops, walls, doors and windows, vents, heating ducts, and hot water heaters and pipes.

By measuring the heat loss, and using the cost of energy in your area, the energy auditor can determine how much money can be saves by upgrading your insulation.

Typical solutions may include:

  • Placing insulating blankets around hot water heaters.
  • Wrapping hot air ducts and hot water pipes in insulating sleeves
  • Seal gaps around doors, windows, and vents
  • Replacing rooftop vents with energy-efficient heat baffles
  • Replacing old, poorly insulated doors and windows
  • Adding rolled fiberglass insulation in attics and crawl spaces
  • “Blowing” insulation into walls and inaccessible areas.

If you are handy working with simply tools, you can . There are many do-it-yourself books that will give you step-by-step instructions for insulation projects.

If your budget permits, you may prefer to use a .

A contractor can help you make tradeoffs between materials, and advise you on local building codes and regulations.  The contractor may also know about tax credits and energy rebates that are available, and this can make insulation upgrades even more cost-effective.

If you decide to hire a contractor, be sure to get at least three bids, get everything in writing, and check references.

Be sure the contract specifies the type, insulation value, and brand of insulating materials that will be used.

A deposit should typically be no more than 20% of the total job cost, and additional payments should be tied to completion of specific tasks.

Whether you choose to do-it-yourself or hire an insulation contractor, you’ll be surprised at the savings!

Related Reading

Ten Ways to Save Energy Around the House


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