Insulating a home against high costs

Attics, exterior walls, floors over cold areas are critical places

October 24, 2004|By Ken Sheinkopf | Ken Sheinkopf,ORLANDO SENTINEL

One of the least understood features of energy efficiency in a home is insulation.

Even though it usually is visible in the attic, insulation isn't something most homeowners think much about. Few check to make sure they have enough of it.

Odds are good, though, that your home needs more insulation. If you have an older home, it probably doesn't have enough insulation to meet today's minimum recommended levels. And even if your home is new, the insulation put into it when it was built might have settled, might have been compressed when you stored things in the attic and might have been inadequate originally.

Keeping your home's insulation at the right level can significantly cut your energy bills and make your home more comfortable. If you think your bills have been too high or find that your house isn't as comfortable as you would like it to be, have a home energy rating conducted. Your local utility company might do this for you.

An alternative is to check the insulation yourself. Generally, the key areas are in the attic, especially between and over the floor joists, where attic air is prevented from getting to the living space below; in exterior walls, including between the living spaces and unheated garages or storage areas; and below floors over cold areas such as crawl spaces or unheated garages.

You can get more details on the places where a house needs, along with a fact sheet on insulation, from the U.S. Department of Energy at

Another good source is the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, the trade association of companies making insulation products. Its Web site,, tells you how to determine the recommended insulation levels for your climate and details financial assistance programs in each state.

In a number of states, utility companies and state and local agencies have grants and loan programs to help you insulate your home.

Having the proper amount of insulation in your home means that it will be cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The insulation will keep your conditioned air inside where you want it.

Ken Sheinkopf is associate director of the Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa, a research institute of the University of Central Florida. The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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