Air Sealing and Insulating for Seasonal Comfort
Air sealing and insulating are relatively low-cost solutions to climate control in your home or office. Whether you are dealing with heat and humidity in the summer, cold and drafty spaces in the winter, or both, you will save both money and energy by taking some simple steps to tighten up your structure’s envelope (the physical barrier between air conditioned and unconditioned spaces).
Is That a Huge Hole in Your Home?
Did you know that the heat lost through the various cracks and crevices of a home is equivalent to the air leakage of a two- by two-foot opening? I often speak with customers who discover this firsthand when they have a professional whole-home energy assessment, which is often referred to as an “audit.” I suggest that they choose an auditor who is certified by the Building Performance Institute, a nationally recognized program that ensures that auditors are equipped with a high degree of technical expertise and follow industry best-practices.
You may be thinking “I know my home, and I really don’t need a professional energy audit.” However, you will find that an auditor will discover many areas for improvement that you may otherwise miss. They can find these hidden areas because they assess your home as a network of systems, examining your insulation, air-sealing, heating, and ventilation systems. Often, they rely on diagnostic tools and a blower door test to uncover specific areas of concern in your home.
photo credit: Efficiency Vermont
Button up Your Home Step by Step
Once they have conducted a thorough examination of your home, the auditor will provide you with a report that shows step by step what you can do to improve the comfort, health, and efficiency of your home. What’s really great is they show these improvements in order of priority and they provide estimated costs and energy savings. This makes your, and/or your contractor’s, job(s) very easy because all you have to do is check off the projects one by one.
In most cases homeowners will see that there are opportunities to improve the thermal shell of their home. Air sealing is one of the most cost-effective ways to save energy and improve comfort and the health of your home by minimizing drafts, humidity, and toxic air.
Are you starting a DIY weatherization project? Click here for videos and how-to resources from the experts at Efficiency Vermont.
Why Air Sealing and Insulation Are so Important
Air sealing is important because your home tends to act like a giant chimney. In the winter, cold air seeps in through gaps and cracks in the basement and lower living levels, and the warm air that you have paid a lot of money to heat escapes through the upper levels and attic. Air sealing helps to reduce and prevent this chimney effect, resulting in a much more comfortable home that costs less to heat.
Adding insulation is also recommended in many cases, as the two work together to protect your interior environment from external conditions. Think of it like this; if you go outside on a really cold and windy day, with just a sweater on (insulation), you are likely to be a little chilly. Add an outer shell (air sealing) over the sweater and now you will be much warmer. This is how air sealing and insulation work in harmony to protect your home.
When you work with an auditor, you'll find that your home becomes significantly more comfortable and costs less to heat and cool. You may also be able to take advantage of cash incentives and rebates to reduce the cost of the work.
If It Saves You Money, Why Wouldn’t You Weatherize?
Often, people don’t take on costly weatherization projects because they are concerned about increasing their debt. It is true that some weatherization projects will require financing but in many cases, you can find no- or low-interest financing for the whole project (including the energy assessment) and the financing can be structured so that the amount you save on your energy bills is greater than the amount you spend on your monthly loan payment. This type of financing can actually result in lower overall payments than you were originally making each month and once your payments end, the savings go in your pocket. Here is an example of how this can work when you finance your project using Efficiency Vermont’s Heat Saver Loan.
Many people choose an auditor who can double as the contractor for their weatherization project. You can go that route, or bring in another contractor for the project once the auditor has done their work. Either way, you should do due diligence in choosing a contractor who is qualified to perform the type of energy efficiency work your home requires.
Get started with your weatherization project today. Learn More at Efficiency Vermont.
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About Matt Kilcoyne
Matt Kilcoyne grew up in Essex Junction, Vermont and received his Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont. As a program manager for Efficiency Vermont, he designs and implements energy efficiency programs to make homes more efficient. Outside of work, Matt likes hiking, fishing, golfing, and spending time with friends and family.