2014 Habitat for Humanity Builders Blitz Is Underway
June 5, 2014
Moving into the Evergreen: Green Living
March 19, 2011
Two Homes, One Week
June 19, 2014
Building Green in Winter Park – Insulation
February 5, 2011
Insulation is an important component of a home’s energy efficiency, but is often overlooked because of its ‘hidden’ nature. Located within the attic and exterior walls, insulation is meant to reduce the transfer of heat between the conditioned spaces of a home and unconditioned spaces outside of the building envelope. Each type of insulation is rated with an “r-value” scale and as the “r-value” increases, the insulating performance of the product improves. Increasing the amount of insulation, or achieving a higher “r-value”, often offers homeowners an easy and inexpensive method for reducing utility bills and improving the efficiency of their home.
There are many types of insulation used in homes, but the most commonly found are fiberglass batt, blown-in, foil, and spray-foam insulation. Fiberglass batt usually comes in rolls and can be found above the ceiling in the attic or between wood studs of exterior walls. This type of insulation can be expensive to retrofit in existing houses, but is relatively easy and affordable to use during remodels or new construction. Blown-in insulation is probably the least expensive option for increasing the “r-value” of insulation in existing homes and can be added to attics of existing homes relatively easily. Foil is used on masonry walls of homes and also can be added in the attic of shingled roofs as a radiant barrier. Fiberglass batt, blown-in, and foil are traditional types of insulation and have been used in most homes in our area, but spray-foam insulation is probably the most effective insulation on the market.
Spray-foam insulation is one of the most expensive insulation options currently available, but offers significant savings in energy efficiency and is easily used in new construction. When using spray-foam, it is applied directly to the bottom of the roof deck and gables of a home and creates an “un-vented” attic. By keeping hot and humid air out of your building envelope, your attic will stay much cooler – typically only 8-10 degrees warmer than the inside of your living spaces. As a result of this process, spray-foam will reduce the cooling and heating loads on a house by up to 30% as compared to traditional fiberglass batt and blown-in insulation. This means that you need a smaller air conditioner to keep your house comfortable and it will cost less to cool your home. It is important to properly size the air conditioning unit for use with the foam insulation or you may encounter high humidity problems. For this reason, when spray-foam insulation is applied to an existing home, a smaller air conditioning unit may be required. Spray-foam can also be used in framed walls to offer higher a “r-value” than other insulation techniques and acts as a sound barrier to reduce the transmittance of sound into a home. When spray-foam insulation is used in conjunction with properly sized air conditioning equipment, it offers the largest savings in energy use. For more information regarding spray-foam insulation applications to new construction and existing houses, contact Xtreme Foam at 407-366-4119.
The cost and payback period for increasing the amount of each type of insulation depends on the age and type of your house. With each type of insulation there is a point of diminishing returns, where adding additional insulation may not offer cost-effective benefits. The only way to know what is appropriate for your house is to speak with a certified Energy Rater and conduct a home energy audit. Large utilities in Florida, such as Progress Energy and FPL, offer free home energy audits and cash incentives for homeowners to increase the insulation in their homes. The Winter Park electric utility has not yet adopted any incentives to promote energy efficiency in existing homes or new construction within the city, but offers an online energy audit tool located at http://www.energydepot.com/fmpares. After figuring out what area of energy efficiency upgrade you will focus on, you should research available state and federal tax credits. Several federal credits are currently available, but may expire at the end of 2007 if Congress does not renew them. You can check out many available incentives for renewable energy and efficiency at the DSIRE USA website: http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?re=1&ee=1&spv=0&st=0&srp=1&state=FL
When remodeling or building in Winter Park, always ask your architect and contractor to incorporate green building techniques in your home.