Green Lifestyle Home insulation trips and techniques

Published on December 14th, 2012 | by Scott Cooney

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Home insulation, good money saving habits, and you

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By now most Green Living Ideas readers know the value of home insulation, but for those new to the green lifestyle, insulation is like an extra blanket on your bed in the winter. Except for houses, the insulation can help keep in cooler air in the summer and warmer air in the winter.

Pointing out how much energy is wasted through inadequate insulation, Paul Hawken, author of Natural Capitalism, famously said there’s more energy in the attics of homes in America than in entirety of Alaskan oil reserves. It’s one of the best investments most homeowners can make in terms of energy savings. But given a variety of factors, many people do not adequately insulate their homes, and end up spending more money heating and cooling the inefficient space than they would on the insulation job.

So where to begin?

The first thing to do is to look at your heating and cooling bill. Tack it up somewhere publicly, so everyone in the home is aware that it’s costing you a lot of money that might be better spent somewhere else…maybe on their green holiday gifts! Then get everyone aware and working on the easy habits that will save you money and  help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

  1. Close doors and windows when you’re losing heat (or cool air) through them. If you want to air the place out, wait until the temperature outside matches the temperature inside as much as possible. If air quality is a concern, consider an air filter or indoor plants that help clean the air rather than airing the place out in the middle of winter.
  2. Adjust the thermostat. Dropping a degree or two likely won’t change your in-home experience much, and it will have a noticeable effect on your bill. Just be sure to check with your wife first. And maybe buy her a really nice organic wool sweater. :)
  3. Match your cooking with the weather. There’s a lot of reasons that BBQ’s are popular in the summer. One little known one is that if you run a BBQ in your air-conditioned house, you’re creating a lot of heat and making your A/C work harder than it has to. Same goes for baking, crock pots, and any other cooking style that can release a lot of heat. In the summer, maybe eat more raw foods (here’s a great recipe for kale salad to get you started), and in the winter, maybe get a crockpot and make a lot of stews that cook all day (and heat the home at the same time).
Once you’ve started the whole family thinking about saving money on heating and cooling, it’s time to think about spending a little money up front to make big change over time. Every house is different, so it’s impossible to make any blanket statements about insulation, but these two techniques are the best ways to *generally* start.
  1. Invest in a programmable thermostat. It’s easily the best investment you’ll make. You can set the temperature so that it’s more comfortable when you’re home, and less so when you’re not.
  2. Get an energy audit from a company that specializes in doing one. The infrared technology these companies use will help show where your house is leaking, and what might need more insulation. The knowledge you’ll gain through an audit literally is power to do something about it. Once you’ve identified the major areas of need, you can spend your money wisely in order to help rectify the situation.

Windows are obviously a big part of the insulation challenge in a house. Our sister site, CleanTechnica, posted an article about how to best tackle the window insulation challenge, so we won’t cover it in great detail here. Suffice to say that extra panes of glass in a window are basically the same idea as putting the blanket on your bed at night. What double and triple pane windows do is trap layers of air on the inside, so that there are barriers between the air in your house and outside, which helps stop the transfer of heat. In the winter, you can also cover windows with blankets, or if they’re in a place where you want the light to shine through, you can also get some clear plastic and tape it up around the edges of the windowsill to trap another layer of air as a barrier to the outside.

Whatever you end up doing, know that investing in insulation usually has a very rapid payback period. Often this can be less than a year for really drafty homes, and likely several years for the average home. After that, watch the savings just roll in for the rest of the life of your home!






About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on



One Response to Home insulation, good money saving habits, and you

  1. stewart says:

    Yeah! I know the value of insulation, it’s really like an extra blanket on our bed in the winter, insulation keeps home warm in winters and cool in summer this is the trait of insulation for saving energy bills. It was really an informative and useful post that you have shared. Many thanks for sharing.

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