facebook pixel Insulating & Saving Energy | HomeTips
Select Page
url is https://dev.hometips.com:443/category/air-conditioning-heating-ventilation/energy-saving-improvements

Rock-Wool Insulation: What It Is and Where to Use It

The importance of a well-insulated home can’t be overstated: Properly sized and installed insulation can reduce energy usage, keep you warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and save you money with lower energy bills.

rock wool insulationHome Depot

Rock wool insulation provides thermal and sound insulation and can be used as a firestop between floors.

For homeowners and homebuilders alike, fiberglass insulation has been the insulation of choice for many decades. While fiberglass remains very popular, there’s a relatively new type of insulation that’s making headway—and headlines—in the insulation industry. It’s called rock-wool insulation.

What Is Rock Wool Insulation?

Rock wool, which is also called mineral wool, comes in easy-to-install batts, similar to fiberglass. But instead of being composed of fluffy glass fibers, rock wool is made of—you guessed it—rocks, which doesn’t even seem possible. Here’s a brief explanation of the manufacturing process.

Natural rock is heated in a furnace to about 3,000 degrees until it melts into a liquid. The magma-like liquid is exposed to a high-pressure jet of air or steam, and then spun at super-high speed into long fiber strands. (Think: cotton candy machine filled with liquid rock.) The strands are captured and compressed into thick, dense mats, which are then cut into convenient-sized batts of insulation.

The unique composition of rock wool produces a high-performing insulation with the following features:

  • Made from natural, sustainable material
  • Typically contains up to 75 percent recycled content
  • Retains heat well and traps air, which slows the transfer of heat
  • Non-combustible and fire resistant to about 1,400 degrees
  • Highly water repellent
  • Excellent sound-deadening properties
  • Higher insulating value than fiberglass
  • Long-term performance—rock wool doesn’t degrade over time
  • Allows moisture to escape (which deters mold and mildew)
  • Dense, firm batts are friction-fit into place; no stapling necessary

Where to Use Rock Wool Insulation

Rock-wool insulation can be installed wherever you’d install fiberglass or any other type of insulation, including walls, floors, ceilings, attics and crawlspaces. However, it’s particularly well-suited for rooms along the cold north side of the house and for interior rooms in need of sound deadening, such as media rooms or music studios.

Because rock wool is highly fire resistant, it’s ideal—and often code-required—for use as a firestop between floors of a house. (During remodeling or new construction, ask the local building inspector to identify specific areas that require rock wool firestops.)

Rock wool is also easy to work with: The firm batts can be cut with a serrated knife or handsaw to fit snugly into place. If it gets wet, water beads up and rolls off without soaking into the fibers. The rock-wool fibers are compacted so tightly together that there’s no chance of the insulation shifting out of position or slumping down, which would dramatically decrease its insulating value.

Note that rock-wool insulation only comes un-faced, meaning there’s no kraft-paper or foil barrier. Depending on the situation, you may need to install an independent permeable membrane to serve as a vapor barrier.

The Bottom Line

At this point you might be wondering why rock wool isn’t the only type of insulation being installed. Here’s why: price.

Fiberglass insulation for a 2×6 wall costs between 57 cents and 72 cents per square foot. Rock-wool insulation for the same wall cost about $1.06 per square foot. That’s a significant difference, especially if you’re insulating an entire house or large addition.

However, in most cases, you’ll recoup the additional cost through lower energy bills, because, while fiberglass insulation has an R-value of 19, rock wool has an R-value of 23. The increased insulation capability allows you to keep your home at a comfortable temperature for longer without needing to adjust your thermostat, meaning you’ll make up the initial cost within a couple years. Plus, with rock wool insulation’s long-term durability, your home will be well-insulated with little maintenance needed for years to come.

 

Joe Truini is a home improvement expert who writes about a variety of topics related to carpentry and plumbing. Joe is also the author of numerous DIY books, including the best-selling Building a Shed. To learn more about Rock Wool insulation and other products for insulating your home, please visit the Home Depot website.

 

Is It Time to Boost Your Attic Insulation?

In the battle against winter cold and sky-high home energy costs, the first line of defense is attic insulation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimates, homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs by sealing up air leaks and adding insulation to their attics. And that’s just the average. If you live in the northern part of the United States, your savings may be even greater because the climate is more severe and energy for heating can be more expensive.

cross section of energy efficient houseJaddingt / Shutterstock.com

A fully insulated attic can dramatically reduce energy loss in a home.

The really good news is that adding insulation is an improvement that qualifies for tax credits and is excellent at returning value on your investment.

Current federal tax credits will cover 10% of the cost up to $500 for qualifying insulation and air-sealing products purchased in 2016 —so it makes sense to jump on this before the end of the year in case these incentives are discontinued. Note: These credits do not cover installation costs. For more about this program, see EnergyStar.gov. You can check on whether additional programs are available in your state at http://www.dsireusa.org/.

When it comes to value, Remodeling Magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value study determined that the addition of fiberglass insulation to an attic offers a better return on investment than any of the other 30 projects studied in this year’s report. Their cost source, RemodelMAX, estimated the average nationwide cost of insulating an attic to be $1,268. Real estate professionals who responded to their survey projected that, within a year of insulating, this improvement would increase the average home’s sales price by $1,482, resulting in a 116.9% return on the investment.

An Insulation Primer

Basic home building materials used for siding and roofing are great at providing shelter but readily allow the conduction of heat. The result is heat loss in the winter or heat gain in the summer. Insulation materials, typically made of fiberglass, cellulose or foam, have an open-cell structure that resists heat transfer—so when these materials are added to attics, walls and floors, they reduce energy loss. Just how effectively they do their job depends on the particular material and quality of installation.

An insulation material’s ability to resist heat transfer through conduction is measured and rated by an R-value: the higher the R-value, the better the insulation.

The R-values to target in your home depend primarily upon your climate and secondarily upon the part of the house being insulated. It’s most important to insulate the attic because that’s where the majority of a home’s heat is lost.

Fiberglass blanket insulation provides an R-value of from 2.9 to 3.8 per inch of thickness. Loose-fill cellulose insulation can vary from about 3.2 to 3.8, depending on how thoroughly it is installed. Sprayed polyurethane foam can be rated as high as 6.0 to 7.3 per inch. Air pockets, shallow coverage or compressed insulation cause diminished effectiveness.

For a more in-depth comparison of different kinds of insulation, see Energy.gov.

How Much Insulation Is Right?

EnergyGuide.org offers complete information on figuring the right amounts of insulation for your home. Note that the lowest recommended amount is R-30, which is the equivalent of about 10 inches of fiberglass or 8 inches of cellulose. For very cold climates, R-60 is recommended.

measuring attic insulation©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Use a ruler or measuring tape to measure depth of existing insulation in the attic.

If your attic already has some insulation, you’ll need to measure its thickness to figure the amount you should add. When in the attic, be sure to stand or kneel only on fully supported planks or joists—if you step between the joists, you’re likely to fall through the ceiling below.

Before insulating an attic, it should be air sealed, especially in cold climates where warm air that rises into the attic can cause heat loss and create moisture problems. Air sealing is the practice of using expanding foam to seal up cracks, crevices and connections where walls, plumbing stacks, electrical wires and chimneys penetrate the attic. This keeps the rooms below from leaking expensively heated air into the attic. Though some do-it-yourselfers can tackle this, it’s generally best to have it done by a professional.

Basic Insulating Practices

If you’re adding more to existing insulation, it isn’t necessary to use the same material. It’s okay to blow loose-fill insulation on top of fiberglass batts or to place fiberglass batts over loose-fill.

If you intend to install batt or blanket fiberglass insulation, note that you can buy it with or without an attached foil or paper facing (vapor barrier). When you’re insulating a previously un-insulated attic, buy the type with a facing and position this facing toward the warm-in-winter side (against the ceiling below). When you’re adding more to existing insulation, however, buy un-faced insulation or use loose-fill insulation, which doesn’t have a vapor barrier.

recessed light with insulationJohns Manville

Hold back insulation from recessed lights in the ceiling beneath the attic floor.

In an unfinished attic, insulation is installed between the ceiling joists of the room beneath the attic (the attic’s “floor” joists). When adding more batt or blanket insulation to an attic with existing insulation, the conventional wisdom is to orient the new batts perpendicular to the joists. Be aware, however, that doing this will make it much harder to identify where you can safely stand or kneel because you won’t be able to see the joists once they are covered. So start at the outer perimeter and work your way toward the attic hatch. Place and fasten planks or plywood, supported by joists at both ends, where needed for safely accessing and working in the attic.

Do not install insulation over the eaves vents—this will interrupt proper attic ventilation. Also, to avoid causing a fire hazard, never place insulation over recessed light fixtures unless the fixtures have an IC (Insulated Ceiling) rating. Use wire mesh to hold back insulation if necessary. Last but not least, insulate and seal the attic access panel.

This article, written by HomeTips’s Don Vandervort, was originally posted at USNews.com

5 Home Projects To Do Before Cold Weather Arrives

With fall right around the corner, it’s time to complete a few home projects that are best handled before the weather turns cold and the days grow short—most notably buttoning up your house and getting its heating system working comfortably and efficiently.

cutting foam window weatherstrippingCameron Whitman / Shutterstock.com

Adhesive-backed foam weatherstripping is easy to cut with a sharp knife.

Don’t wait too long. When cold weather and short days arrive, you won’t want to discover cold air blowing in through your windows—or out of your heating system.

Nothing instills a sense of urgency like cold drafts or a broken furnace—but that urgency can be expensive and uncomfortable—in fact, an unheated house can be downright deadly in the wrong situation. The longer you wait, the more likely contractors or other service people will be overbooked and will charge a premium for their services.

So here are five things you should handle now, before the weather turns cold.

 

1: Get the heating system in order. A good place to start is your thermostat. Set it to “Heat,” and turn it up to about 5 degrees warmer than room temperature. If the heat doesn’t go on and stay on until the room reaches the set temperature, either the thermostat or the heating system has a problem.

replace and put date on new furnace filter©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Mark the date on the filter’s frame so you’ll know when it’s time to change it. Note: Be sure the “air flow” arrow is pointing in the right direction.

Replace the thermostat’s batteries first, and then try again. If you suspect that the thermostat may be defective, this is a good time to replace it with a new programmable model that can reduce your energy costs. If you know that the thermostat is functional, or replacing it doesn’t do the job, call an HVAC professional to check and service the heating system.

Be sure to change the air filters, which are typically located in the furnace’s air handler or inside the return-air registers in the rooms. If you’re having a pro work on the system, he or she should do this. Clean filters don’t just mean cleaner air—they also help the system work more efficiently.

When checking on the delivery of warmed air through the registers, make sure dampers or registers were not closed for the summer and that heated air can flow freely into rooms.

If your home’s heating system is powered by fuel that is stored on the premises, such as propane or fuel oil, be sure you have enough fuel for the next month or two.

 

2: Prepare the fireplace. If your home has a wood-burning fireplace that you intend to use regularly, stock-up on firewood and make sure the wood is protected from rain.

Next inspect the fireplace. Shine a flashlight up into the chimney from inside the fireplace. Make sure the damper works, and then open it. Check to be sure birds or rodents haven’t nested in the chimney. Inspect the chimney walls. If they are coated with creosote, a sap-like material that builds-up on surfaces, have the chimney cleaned by a professional chimney sweep—creosote is highly flammable and can cause a chimney fire. Also look for any missing bricks, crumbling mortar or broken chimney flue tiles that need to be fixed.

 

foam pipe insulationFrost King

Foam pipe insulation can help quiet some noisy pipes.

3: Protect water pipes. If you live where outdoor temperatures can drop below freezing, protect water pipes that run through unheated spaces, such as an attic or crawlspace. To do this, you can buy inexpensive foam pipe insulation sleeves at a home improvement center. These are sliced along their lengths so you can just push them onto pipes. While you’re in the plumbing department of the home improvement center, also buy an inexpensive emergency pipe repair clamp to keep on hand just in case a water pipe bursts.

 

4: Stop drafts. Windows and doors should be weather-stripped to prevent drafts and energy loss. To weather-strip windows and doors, you need to keep them open for a while, so it’s best to do this work before the weather gets too cold. If some of your windows and doors are not protected by weather-stripping, now is the time to seal them up. Buy inexpensive vinyl or foam weather-stripping and apply it according to the label directions.

Storm windows and doors can help with minimizing energy loss, too. If you have the kind of screen-and-storm doors that utilize interchangeable screen and glass panels, switch out screens for glass. Before you install the panels, check and tighten the clips that secure them. Also check and, if necessary, adjust the storm door closer so that it pulls the storm door tightly closed without banging it.

 

5: Flush the water heater. When the weather gets cold, so does the water that travels through outdoor pipes to supply your water heater. As a result, the water heater has to work longer to heat that very cold water. So water heater efficiency becomes really important.

The best way to keep a water heater working efficiently is to flush it once or twice a year. Mineral deposits build up over time and coat the bottom of the tank, reducing the efficient transfer of heat from the burners at the base. Flushing out some of the water helps remove these deposits.

water heater drain valve©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Water Heater Drain Valve

To flush a water heater, turn off the heat, either at the gas valve of a gas water heater or by shutting off an electric water heater’s electrical power. Then turn off the valve at the cold-water inlet pipe, usually right above the water heater. Locate the faucet-like drain valve in the side of the water heater at its base, attach a garden hose to it and run the end of the hose outdoors, terminating at a point that’s lower than the water heater. Turn on a nearby hot water faucet to allow air into the plumbing system, and then open the water heater’s drain valve to flush sediment out through the hose. Drain about 3 or 4 gallons of hot water until it becomes visibly clear, and then close the valve.

Reverse this process to refill and reheat the water heater. In other words, disconnect the hose, turn off the nearby hot water faucet, turn on the water supply to the water heater and wait a few minutes for the water heater to refill. Then, for an electric water heater, turn the power back on, or for a gas water heater, turn on the gas and, unless it is a pilotless model, relight the pilot light.

This article, written by HomeTips’s Don Vandervort, was originally posted by US News.com

Make Your Home Energy Efficient

With video games, big-screen televisions, and high-tech smart appliances, today’s homes rely more heavily upon electricity than ever before. Accompanying this ever-climbing usage is over-consumption of precious resources and continually rising energy bills. In just one year, from 2013 to 2014, the average residential electricity price rose 3.2%, with the average monthly electric bill reaching roughly $110.

Homeselfe power usageHomeselfe

The good news is that we’re not powerless to turn things around. By making our homes more energy efficient, we can improve the comfort, conserve energy, and save money by lowering energy costs.

Energy Efficiency Measures

You can improve energy efficiency in many areas in your home, and it isn’t just about turning off the lights or unplugging unused appliances—although that does help!

Going energy efficient means looking at the whole picture, including…

Insulation. Key to the efficiency of a house is its ability to retain expensively heated or cooled room air. If you spend a small fortune heating or air conditioning your home’s interior spaces, and that comfortably conditioned air just leaks out through poorly insulated walls, ceiling, and floors, you’re wasting a tremendous amount of energy and money.

Attic insulation is the most important, followed by walls and floors.

Ductwork. With central heating, a home’s furnace or air conditioner distributes conditioned air through a system of ductwork. But, because relatively short runs of ductwork are connected end-to-end to make-up that system, there is considerable opportunity for heat (or cooling) loss through leaks. In fact leaks and gaps in ductwork can waste up to 40% of the energy used in heating or cooling. Finding and fixing ductwork leaks is a great way to improve energy efficiency.

Homeselfe iconsHomeselfe

Appliances & devices. Old, outdated appliances waste electricity. New appliances, on the other hand, are designed to save energy. In fact, most new appliances with ENERGY STAR certification use about 50% less energy than their less-efficient counterparts—without any loss in functionality.

Efficient large appliances such as refrigerators or dryers can save up to $100 a year or more. And small savings add up. Energy-saving compact-fluorescent light bulbs, for example, can make a big impact on reducing your energy usage because you use them many hours every day. Here’s an interesting fact: If every U.S. household swapped just one light bulb for an energy-saving one, global warming pollution would decrease by over 90 billion pounds over the lifespan of the light bulbs.

Get Energy Incentives

Many programs are available to help homeowners make the transition to better energy efficiency. Most power companies provide special offers and rebates to help homeowners upgrade homes with energy conservation in mind. Many local and state governments also offer tax credits for similar upgrades.

But say you’ve made the decision to save energy and money by improving the energy efficiency of your home. How do you know which upgrades to make, and what incentives or rebates are available?

There’s An App For That!

When it comes to improving the energy usage of your home, not knowing exactly what your home needs to increase its energy efficiency can be confusing and stressful. You may not know how to get the biggest bang for your buck. Making more conscious purchasing decisions can definitely help, but you might be neglecting important strategies without a little guidance.

Luckily, there are apps available that allow you to learn more about your home, your energy consumption, and what you can do to make improvements. Homeselfe, for example, is a free do-it-yourself app that enables you to assess your home’s energy efficiency. For more about this, see Homeselfe.

In Conclusion

By making your home more energy efficient, you can increase its comfort, and make it more affordable to operate—and you can do your part in decreasing global energy usage. Furthermore, improving a home’s energy efficiency increases its value. Studies have shown that energy-smart homes garner higher prices when they’re sold. All of these benefits make energy efficiency a win-win.[GARD align=”right”]

Do Your Own Home Energy Audit with Homeselfe

Is your home energy bill going through the roof… literally? When it comes to energy conservation, one of the smartest energy saving tips we can offer is this: Do a home energy audit.

A home energy audit will assess the best ways for you to save energy in your home. Essentially a report card for your house, it will show you where your home excels and where it needs improvement to save gas, lower your electric bill, and generally save energy.

Homeselfe-house-mapHomeselfe

Though you can spend a few hundred dollars to have an energy audit done professionally, a free and easy option is to do your own, using an online DIY energy audit app such as Homeselfe (pronounced “Home Selfie”).

Here we take a closer look at this very helpful option.

How Homeselfe Works

To begin your own home energy audit, the first thing you do is go to Homeselfe.com and sign up.

Homeselfe then provides you with a digital “map” of your home, and a questionnaire guides you through your house, room by room. It takes about 5 minutes to fill-in the questionnaire.

You’re asked questions like “How old are your home appliances or “Is Your Home Well Insulated?” These questions focus on the key areas of your home’s energy consumption. As you answer each question, a clear picture of your home’s energy efficiency begins to emerge. [GARD align=”right”]

What You Receive

When you’re finished, you get a free instant report that tells you which parts of your home are energy efficient, and where it would be prudent to consider energy upgrades. These suggestions include projections of how much you can save over time by making the upgrades.

In addition to this report, you’re given helpful information about federal, state, local, and utility company rebates or offers that can help you reduce or offset the cost of your energy improvements. Homeselfe also will connect you with qualified local contractors who can give you free estimates for doing the work—a very helpful feature for finding reliable, trustworthy pros.

TakeaHomeSelfe-ClInfographic by Gryffin Media

 

Do Your Own Home Energy Audit with Homeselfe

Is your home energy bill going through the roof… literally?  When it comes to energy conservation, one of the smartest energy saving tips we can offer is this: Do a home energy audit.. A home energy audit will assess the best ways for you to save energy in your home. Essentially a report card for your house, it will show you where your home excels and where it needs improvement to save gas, lower your electric bill, and generally save energy.

Homeselfe-house-mapHomeselfe

Though you can spend a few hundred dollars to have an energy audit done professionally, a free and easy option is to do your own, using an online DIY energy audit app such as Homeselfe (pronounced “Home Selfie”) Here we take a closer look at this very helpful option.

How Homeselfe Works

To begin your own home energy audit, the first thing you do is go to Homeselfe.com and sign up. Homeselfe then provides you with a digital “map” of your home, and a questionnaire guides you through your house, room by room. It takes about 5 minutes to fill-in the questionnaire. You’re asked questions like “How old are your home appliances or “Is Your Home Well Insulated?” These questions focus on the key areas of your home’s energy consumption. As you answer each question, a clear picture of your home’s energy efficiency begins to emerge.

What You Receive

When you’re finished, you get a free instant report that tells you which parts of your home are energy efficient, and where it would be prudent to consider energy upgrades. These suggestions include projections of how much you can save over time by making the upgrades. In addition to this report, you’re given helpful information about federal, state, local, and utility company rebates or offers that can help you reduce or offset the cost of your energy improvements. Homeselfe also will connect you with qualified local contractors who can give you free estimates for doing the work—a very helpful feature for finding reliable, trustworthy pros. [GARD align=”right”] For more about this helpful, free app, go to Homeselfe.com.