Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation

Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
iowa energy center
Home Tightening,
Insulation and Ventilation
Lower your utility bills with energy-efficient home improvements
Plug air leaks, inside and out—page 3
Insulation can pay for itself in just a few years—page 14
Ventilation is one of the keys to year-round energy savings—page 22
Home Series
1
A little effort can pay big dividends
DidKnow?
you know?
Did You
Many utilities will perform a free
energy audit on your home and
identify areas needing insulation
and other improvements.
The average Iowa family spends more than half of its annual household energy
bill on heating and cooling. That’s a significant number, but you can dramatically
reduce these costs—up to 20 percent, according to ENERGY STAR®—by making
some simple energy-saving weatherization and insulation improvements to your
home. In addition—with a little attention to proper ventilation—you can protect
your home from moisture damage year-round, reduce problems caused by ice dams
on the roof during the winter and significantly cut summer cooling costs. As a
bonus, these projects can extend the life of your home and may increase the resale
value of your property.
If you like to fix things around the house, you can handle many of the projects
suggested in this book and make the most of your energy-improvement budget.
However, don’t hesitate to call a professional for help if you’d rather not do the work
yourself; the dollars gained through energy savings in upcoming years will be worth
the expense.
Check with your utility or bank first
Although many energy-efficiency projects—caulking windows, weather-stripping exterior
doors or insulating water pipes—will cost just a few dollars, others—insulating exterior walls,
installing ventilated soffits or adding storm windows—will cost considerably more. Some
utilities offer rebates on larger projects by giving you a discount on future heating and
cooling bills or even sending you a rebate check when the work is completed.
Your bank may be able to help too. Ask about a low-interest loan designed to cover the cost
of your energy-saving projects, or consider a home-improvement loan to fund them.
Be sure to look into the availability of government-sponsored assistance and grant
programs designed for low-income and elderly homeowners too. For more information, get
in touch with the Iowa Department of Human Rights/Division of Community Action
Agencies or a Community Action Agency in your area. (See page 24 for a list of contacts.)
Finally, check on national and state incentives for the installation of energy-efficient products.
For details on federal income tax credits, visit the Web site of the Tax Incentives Assistance
project at http://www.energytaxincentives.org. For state programs, go to the Database of State
Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) at http://www.dsireusa.org.
Sources of air leaks
in a typical home
Ceilings, walls
and floors: 31%
Electrical
outlets: 2%
Ducts: 15%
Plumbing
penetrations: 13%
Windows: 10%
Fireplace: 14%
Fans and
vents: 4%
Doors: 11%
Get the most for your money
To help you decide which jobs to tackle first, consider more than just the increased comfort
you’ll experience; analyze their return on investment too. It usually makes sense to start with
the ones that cost the least now but offer the most later in terms of energy dollars saved.
It’s easy to figure how long it will take for your energy improvements to pay for themselves
through reduced energy bills. Divide the total cost of each project by the annual estimated
energy bill savings—ask your utility for help—to find the payback period. For example, if a
project costs $1,600 and you’ll save $200 per year, the payback period is eight years.
Eliminate air leaks—then insulate
You may think that insulating should be the first step in making your home more energyefficient, but consider this: Air leaks through the ceiling, walls, foundation and other areas
typically are the greatest sources of heating and cooling losses in a home. So, controlling air
leaks is the best way to extend the life of your home, as well as to conserve energy, save money
and increase your home’s comfort. The bottom line is this: If you don’t tighten up your home
first, money spent on insulation may be wasted.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
Air infiltrates into your home through
every hole, nook and cranny. About onethird of this air infiltrates through the
openings in your ceilings, walls and floors.
According to the U.S. Department of
Energy, you can save 10 percent or more
on your energy bills just by plugging air
leaks in these places in your home.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency
and Renewable Energy
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3
Home Tightening
Ventilation is a good thing—air infiltration is not
Every home needs a certain amount of fresh air for the furnace and appliances that burn fuel,
for getting rid of excess moisture and reducing odors and stuffiness. When this air exchange
is controlled, it’s called ventilation.
A large amount of air is exchanged in uncontrolled and invisible ways, too, through
hidden cracks and openings present in every home. This is called infiltration.
> Wind-driven infiltration happens during cold-weather months when the wind blows cold
air into a house and forces hot air out. During warmer weather, the wind blows in warm
air, forcing cooler air out.
> Chimney effect infiltration takes place during the natural process of convection. As warm
air rises and escapes through cracks, it pulls cold air into the lower portion of a house.
> Negative air pressure infiltration starts when appliances that burn fuel use air for combustion
or when ventilation fans exhaust air. Outdoor air enters through any available openings to
equalize the pressure inside a home.
Typically, air infiltration causes drafts and a chilly feeling in some rooms during the coolweather months. Adjusting your thermostat will not stop the drafts, but sealing hidden cracks
and openings will. By stopping drafts at their source, you’ll stay warmer at lower thermostat
settings, use less fuel and reduce your utility bills. During the summer, plugging air leaks will
cause your air conditioner to cycle less often.
know?
DidDid
Youyou
Know?
If you’re building a new home or
putting an addition on your existing one, consider enveloping the
new structure with a house wrap as
a secondary weather barrier (behind
the siding). Think of the house wrap
as a raincoat under the siding; not
only will it help reduce air and water
infiltration into your home, but also
it will “breathe” to allow moisture to
escape from your home’s walls.
How does air escape?
Start by searching for air leaks
Fortunately, air infiltration is one of the easiest forms of heat loss to correct. The process
requires only a careful inspection of your home and some inexpensive weather stripping,
caulking and filler materials.
Most people know they should caulk and weather-strip various spots around
the exterior of their homes to protect them from the elements. However, it is equally
important to protect your home from interior air leaks. Moist interior air can enter the
walls and ceiling through cracks and holes, and condensation buildup in those locations
can damage or destroy insulation, wiring, wood and other building materials.
Test for leaks
The first step is performing a detailed inspection of your home for air leaks. You can do
this yourself during a windy day or hire a professional energy auditor to identify where
heat loss is occurring in your home and how to stop it.
A professional energy audit may include thermography—infrared scanning with a still or
video camera to locate air leaks and missing insulation—but it definitely should include a blower
door test. A blower door is a large fan that fits tightly into an exterior doorway in your home. It
depressurizes the space inside your home, which then causes air to flow in through the cracks
and other openings. The energy auditor then can walk around and tell you where the leaks are
by feeling for airflow by hand or by using a smoke pencil and noting where the smoke is blown.
You can perform a similar test yourself by closing all the windows and doors and using a
whole-house fan or a large portable fan temporarily sealed in an open window to exhaust the
air from your home. Use your hand or a lighted incense stick to look for leaks. This home version
of the test won’t be as accurate as the professional test, but it can get you started.
Once you’ve located the air leaks in your home, you’re ready to start plugging them. A good
rule of thumb is to seal the high and low air leaks first; in other words, start by plugging holes
and leaks in the attic and basement. Then move to the exterior walls, and look for smaller leaks
around doors, windows and electrical switches and outlets.
Plugging air leaks after a careful inspection of your home’s structure—
both inside and outside—can yield a
significant reduction on your monthly
heating and cooling bill. In this illustration, blue arrows indicate outside
air infiltration and red arrows show
where conditioned (heated or cooled)
air can escape.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
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Look for air leaks in your home
Insulate the attic hatch
insulation
Exterior
Holes for utility pipes
and wires
Caulk or foam around openings for electric, gas, oil and water-supply
lines; drainage pipes; plumbing for outside spigots; cable or satellite TV
and telephone cables.
Vents
Caulk or foam around dryer vents, heating and cooling system vents and
fresh-air supply vents for fuel-burning furnaces and water heaters.
Windows
Caulk around window frames. If you have combination storm windows,
caulk around the windows where the metal storm window frame meets
the window’s frame; don’t seal the moisture weep holes at the bottom of
the frame. If you have wooden storm windows that must be exchanged
for screens in the spring, use non-permanent, non-staining rope caulk to
seal around them.
Doors
Caulk around door frames. Install storm doors where you have none.
weather stripping
If you have an attic hatch, make sure it
fits tightly and is backed by insulation.
Do this by weather-stripping the edges
of the access hole and building a simple
wood box to hold insulation on the
backside of the hatch. As an alternative,
purchase an insulated hatch cover.
Did you know?
To learn more about performing
an energy audit and identifying
the best methods and materials for
saving energy at home, visit these
Web sites.
Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory Home Energy Saver:
http://hes.lbl.gov
ENERGY STAR® Home Energy
Yardstick:
http://www.energystar.gov
U.S. Department of Energy DoIt-Yourself Home Energy Audits:
http://www.eere.energy.gov
Alliance to Save Energy Home
Energy Checkup and Audit:
http://www.ase.org
Fix attic air leaks
Recessed lights, wiring, plumbing and
other openings in insulated ceilings
and walls can result in a tremendous
amount of heat loss.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
Attic
Hatches and doors
to the attic
Weather-strip the edges of the access hole and insulate the back of each
attic hatch and door.
Holes in attic floor
Seal all holes for wires, pipes, ducts and vents with a good generalpurpose caulk or spray foam. You may need to use a filler material
for larger holes.
Chase for
plumbing stack(s)
This channel may run inside the walls of your home, from the
basement to the attic, with openings at each floor where the pipes
branch off. If the chase isn’t much larger than the pipes, seal with
expanding foam. For larger chases, use drywall, wood or rigid foam—and
caulk or foam around all edges.
Fireplace chimney
and vent flues for
furnace and water
heater
Close the gap between house framing and the chimney and
vent flues with 26-gauge sheet metal; seal the edges with hightemperature caulk.
Interior walls
and partitions
Caulk or foam along the tops of interior walls where the top plate meets
the plaster or drywall.
Exterior walls
Caulk along the tops of exterior walls where the top plate meets the
plaster or drywall.
Soffits (usually in
kitchen or bath) or
a change in ceiling
height
Caulk along the joints where the walls change height.
Attic knee wall
storage drawers
If storage drawers are recessed into the attic space, build an airtight,
insulated box around the backside of the drawers.
Other holes
Using the appropriate materials, seal all other holes between the heated
space in your house and the attic.
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Seal around the chimney
Basement
Sill plate and band
joist
Caulk any crack between the sill plate and foundation wall using
a caulk that works well with masonry. Use caulk to fill any cracks
between the sill plate and band joist. Then insulate the band joist area.
(See page 19.)
Chase for plumbing
stack(s)
This channel may run inside the walls of your home, from the basement
to the attic, with openings at each floor where the pipes branch off. If
the chase isn’t much larger than the pipes, seal with expanding foam.
For larger chases, use drywall, wood or rigid foam—and caulk or foam
around all edges.
Vent flues for furnace
and water heater
Close the gap between house framing and the chimney and
vent flues with 26-gauge sheet metal; seal the edges with hightemperature caulk.
Openings running
through basement
ceiling
Seal the hole where the bathtub drain comes down and any other holes
for plumbing or electrical wiring in the basement ceiling with caulk
or foam. You may need to use a filler material for larger holes.
Ducts
In homes with forced-air heat, there may be large cracks or gaps where
the ducts pass through the ceilings, floors and walls. Caulk or foam where
the metal duct opening and the ceiling, floor or wall meet.
Basement windows
Using a caulk that works well with masonry, fill cracks where the frames of
the windows are set into the walls. Windows that are not used for summer
ventilation or as fire exits can be caulked shut permanently.
Hatch or door to
the crawl space
Weather-strip the edges and insulate the back of the hatch or door.
Other holes
Seal any cracks or holes in the foundation of your house with caulk, foam
or the appropriate patching material.
sheet metal
Heat can escape around the chimney if
it isn’t properly sealed with sheet metal
and the appropriate caulk.
Caulk basement air leaks
band joist
sill plate
foundation
Get rid of drafts on the main floor by
caulking along the sill plate and band
joist in the basement.
Living spaces
Door frames, trim
and baseboards
Caulk around frames for exterior doors and around trim and baseboards
with an interior-grade caulk. Use a clear-drying caulk for hardwood or
tile floors and trim with natural wood finishes—and paintable caulk for
painted trim and carpeted floors.
Windows
Check the weather stripping on all windows, and repair or replace as
necessary. Replace broken glass and reglaze or putty any loose windowpanes. Caulk all cracks between the walls and window frames and trim,
especially under the windowsills. During the cold-weather months, caulk
around the moving parts of windows with a strip-away, non-permanent
caulk you can remove easily in the spring.
Electrical switches
and outlets
Install foam gaskets on all switches and outlets—even on interior walls.
Use child-safety plugs to minimize the amount of cold air coming through
the sockets.
continued on page 6
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
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continued from page 5
DidKnow?
you know?
Did You
Standard and premium caulks
generally are formulated for application at temperatures above 40
degrees. If you must repair an air
leak during cold-weather months,
be sure to buy a caulk specifically
designed for that purpose.
Add foam gaskets
Recessed lights
and bathroom fans
These fixtures can poke into the attic insulation and create a pathway for air
leaks. Caulk around them from below with flexible, high-temperature caulk.
Missing plaster
Exposed laths indicate a direct hole into wall and ceiling cavities. Repair
with plaster or cover with new drywall.
Cracks in plaster
and drywall
Repair cracks using the appropriate patching material, and repaint.
Other holes in ceilings
or exterior walls
Caulk or foam around all ceiling fixtures, heat registers, medicine cabinets,
bathtubs, kitchen cabinets, drains and water pipes where they enter the
wall in the kitchen and bath. Also seal any other holes in exterior walls.
Fireplace damper
A missing or poorly fitting damper allows air to move freely up and down the
chimney. Install a new damper or repair the existing one, so it closes tightly.
A fireplace can waste more heat than it creates
Install foam gaskets between electrical outlets or switches and their
coverplates. Plastic plugs—such as
“child safety” inserts—also will prevent
air from entering your home.
Caution!CAUTION!
Before starting to seal air leaks
around wires, switches, outlets,
exhaust fans, recessed lights or
electrical boxes, turn off the power
to those devices at the circuit breaker
box or fuse box.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
A charming old fireplace may seem warm and cheery, but when there’s no fire burning the fireplace can cause substantial heat loss from your home. Even if you close the fireplace damper
and it leaks just a little, a lot of warm air from your home will be sucked up the chimney and
be replaced by cold air leaking into the house.
If you never use the fireplace, put a plug in the flue of the chimney to reduce heat loss. Seal
the plug to the chimney with caulk, and be sure to tell anyone who may want to start a fire
that the chimney is plugged. You also can secure the damper in place and caulk around it to
eliminate air leaks.
If you use the fireplace, follow these tips:
> Every year, have the fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney
sweep. Creosote buildup in the chimney can ignite, causing a fire that easily can spread to
the walls or roof.
> Check the seal of the flue damper. Close the flue, light a small piece of paper (or an incense
stick) and watch the smoke. If the smoke goes up the flue, there’s an air leak. Seal around the
damper assembly with refractory cement, but don’t seal the damper closed. If the damper
has warped from high heat, have a sheet metal shop fabricate a new one or install a metal
chimney top damper.
> Inflate a chimney balloon in the chimney above the damper when you’re not using the fireplace. It inflates like an air mattress, expanding to seal air leaks; if you forget to remove
it before starting a fire, it will react to the heat and quickly deflate.
> Install tight-fitting glass doors. Controlling the airflow in your fireplace improves combustion
efficiency by 10 to 20 percent and reduces air leaks up the chimney.
> Add a heat-circulating grate with a built-in fan to blow heated air into the room; some models
have a thermostat to reduce fan speed as the fire burns down. Be sure to buy a unit designed
specifically for your style of fireplace.
> Make a tight-fitting plug for the fireplace opening from rigid board insulation backed by
plywood with pipe insulation around the edge. Finish it to match the room’s decor, and insert
it whenever the fireplace is not in use.
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Caulking is easy and cost-effective
know?
DidDid
Youyou
Know?
Use caulk to permanently seal air leaks in the cracks and gaps between window frames and
your home’s siding. Generally speaking, you can seal openings up to 1/4 inch. For larger
gaps, add a backing material before caulking or use a spray foam sealant instead.
Most types of caulk are sold in tubes that fit a caulking gun. In addition, some caulks come
in aerosol cans; they’re a good choice for filling gaps up to 1/2 inch.
When shopping for caulk, you will find prices ranging from under a dollar to several
dollars per tube, so be sure to read the labels on the tubes and choose the caulk that will
adhere best to the materials you’re sealing. If your budget allows, spend a little more for a higherquality caulk. Inexpensive caulks may last only a few years, while premium-priced caulks are
rated for 20 years or more.
Also note that some caulks are for indoor use only. In addition, some caulks combine
different chemistries; for example, you’ll see acrylic-latex or acrylic-latex with silicone caulks.
Once you have applied the caulk, it takes time for it to dry, or cure. Curing time is described
two ways. The tack-free time tells you how quickly the fresh caulk’s outer surface will dry—or
skin over. The total cure time indicates the time required for the caulk to become completely
stable—or reach the point where no further drying or shrinking will occur.
Most caulks pose no known health hazards after they’re fully cured. However, some highperformance caulking compounds contain irritating or potentially toxic ingredients, and you
should apply them only when there’s adequate ventilation; carefully read the manufacturer’s
instructions and take the appropriate precautions. In addition, make sure pets and small
children do not come into contact with fresh caulk.
If you’re replacing windows in your
home, caulk twice—first, where the
window meets the sheathing and
second, between the window trim
and the siding. If you’re building a
new home or putting an addition
on your existing one—and you’re
using a house wrap/weather barrier under the siding—be sure to
follow the installation instructions
that come with that material.
7
A dollar’s worth of prevention
Caulking materials
Silicone
Uses
Seals most dissimilar building materials such as wood, stone, metal flashing and brick
Shrinkage
Little or none
Adhesion
Good to excellent
Cleanup
Dry cloth immediately. Mineral spirits after curing starts, as specified on package.
Cost
High
Comments
Permits joints to stretch or compress. Sticks to painted surfaces, but most cured
silicones not paintable. Very durable and long-lasting; some rated 20 years or more.
Check for air leaks in weather stripping
around windows and exterior doors by
closing them on a dollar bill or a strip of
paper in several locations around their
perimeters. If you easily can remove the
bill (or it falls out), the weather stripping
needs to be repaired or replaced. Also
perform a visual check of every weather
strip, looking for cracked, deformed or
missing sections.
Latex
Uses
Seals joints around tub and shower. Fills cracks in tile, plaster, glass and plastic; fills
nail holes.
Shrinkage
5% to 10%
Adhesion
Good to excellent
Cleanup
Water, as specified on package
Cost
Low to moderate
Comments
Easy to use. Smooth seams with moist finger or tool. Water-resistant when dry. Paintable.
Less elastic than other materials. Varied durability of 2 to 10 years. Will not adhere to
metal. Little flexibility once cured. Must be painted when used on exteriors.
continued on page 8
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
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continued from page 7
Caulk like a pro
Here are some tips to follow.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll probably
use half a cartridge per window or
door and up to six cartridges for foundation work.
Before applying new caulk, remove
old caulk or paint residue with a putty
knife, stiff brush or special solvent.
Make sure the area is dry, so you
won’t seal in moisture.
Hold the caulking gun at a consistent
angle; 45 degrees is best.
Caulk in a straight, continuous
stream, avoiding stops and starts.
Make sure the caulk sticks to both
sides of the crack or seam.
Release the trigger on the caulking
gun before pulling it away from
the crack to prevent applying too
much caulk. A caulking gun with
an automatic release makes this
much easier.
If caulk oozes out of a crack, use a
putty knife to push it back in.
Don’t skimp. If the caulk shrinks,
reapply it to form a smooth bead
that completely seals the crack.
DidKnow?
you know?
Did You
In their original tubes, some caulks
have a shelf life of a year or less—
especially if the tubes have been
opened. Don’t buy caulk until
you’re ready to use it, and tightly
seal opened tubes between jobs.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
Butyl rubber
Uses
Seals most dissimilar materials such as glass, metal, plastic, wood and concrete. Seals
around windows and flashing. Bonds loose shingles.
Shrinkage
5% to 30%
Adhesion
Good
Cleanup
Mineral spirits, as specified on package
Cost
Moderate to high
Comments
Durable; lasts 10 or more years. Resilient, not brittle. Paintable after one week curing.
Variable shrinkage. May require two applications. Does not adhere well to painted
surfaces. Toxic; follow label precautions.
Oil- or resin-based
Uses
Seals exterior seams and joints on building materials
Shrinkage
10% to 20%
Adhesion
Good
Cleanup
Mineral spirits, as specified on package
Cost
Low
Comments
Usually least expensive. Rope and tube forms available. Oils dry out and cause
material to harden and fall out. Low durability of 1-4 years. Poor adhesion to porous
surfaces such as masonry. Should be painted. Can be toxic—check label. Limited
temperature range.
Urethane
Uses
Seals most dissimilar building materials such as vinyl, wood, stone, metal flashing
and brick
Shrinkage
Little or none
Adhesion
Excellent
Cleanup
Solvent (such as xylene), as specified on package
Cost
High
Comments
Permits joints to stretch or compress. Sticks to painted surfaces and is paintable.
Very durable. Takes a week or more to fully cure. Often available only at commercial
construction or building supply outlets.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Use expanding foam for large gaps
Expanding foam is ideal for filling cracks that caulks can’t handle. It comes in aerosol cans and
takes a short time to cure. The foam is very sticky and attaches itself quickly, so be prepared to
pick up any messes fast.
You also can use foam instead of caulk for applications such as sealing along the tops of
interior walls where the top plate meets the plaster or drywall in your attic; low-expansion
foam will stick better to dusty and dirty surfaces in your attic than caulk.
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In fact, when you’re working in a large area such as your attic, it may be inconvenient to
carry and keep track of several cans of expanding foam. Instead, consider renting a contractor’s
foam gun, which has a long nozzle and can help you get into tough-to-reach spaces.
Expanding foam
Water-based, low-expansion foam sealant
Uses
Around window frames and door frames, in small cracks
Shrinkage
None; expands only 25%
Adhesion
Good to excellent
Cleanup
Water
Cost
High
Comments
Best for most applications. Takes 24 hours to cure to soft consistency. Waterbased foam does not produce greenhouse gases. Will not overexpand to bend
window or door frames. Must be exposed to air to dry. Not useful for larger gaps, as
curing becomes difficult.
Seal around pipes in
exterior walls
Expanding foam sealant works well for
sealing gaps more than 1/4-inch wide.
Polyurethane expanding spray foam sealant
Uses
Expands when curing; good for larger cracks indoors or outdoors. Use in non-friction
areas, as material becomes dry and powdery over time.
Shrinkage
None; expands quite a bit
Adhesion
Good to excellent
Cleanup
Solvent such as lacquer thinner, immediately
Cost
Moderate to high
Comments
Quickly expands to fit larger, irregularly shaped gaps; may put excessive pressure on
sides of gaps. Flexible. Can be applied at variable temperatures. Must be painted for
exterior use to protect from ultraviolet radiation. Manufacturing process produces
greenhouse gases.
CAUTION!
When you go shopping for expanding foam to fill gaps around window
and door frames, look for the type
made specifically for that task. Standard expanding foam may expand
so much that it will put pressure
on the frames and bend them.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Try these materials for special jobs
In addition to the types of caulk and spray foam sealant described above, you may need to use
fillers to plug extra-wide gaps. Fillers come in a wide variety of materials—cotton, fiberglass,
foam and sponge rubber—and you can find them in the caulking department of your local
hardware store or home center. However, these fillers are not designed for exposure to the
elements; you’ll need to caulk or seal over them.
To close gaps too wide for foam, use foil-faced bubble wrap. And for really large holes, cut
sections of rigid foam insulation to fit and glue into place with expanding foam—before covering
the area with wood or another appropriate building material.
For winter, use rope caulk to seal windows and other spots that you’ll want to be able to
open during the spring. Rope caulk is a gray, putty-like material that comes in long strips or
rolls. It’s easy to install and remains flexible—and you can pull it off when the weather turns
warm. Note that rope caulk will not last longer than a year, and oil-based rope caulk may stain
painted areas.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
10 iowa energy center
DidKnow?
you know?
Did You
A 1/8-inch air gap under an exterior
door may seem insignificant, but
it will let as much cold air into your
home as a four-inch-diameter hole
punched in the wall!
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top view
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top view
Weather-stripping doors
and windows is the next step
After you’ve handled the larger air leaks in your home’s attic, walls and basement, tackle the
smaller leaks by weather-stripping doors and windows. If you do the doors and windows first,
you’ll just be adding to the chimney effect in your home that allows warm air to rise and escape
through the attic, pulling outside air into the main level.
Weather stripping prevents air infiltration around doors and windows by sealing the gaps
between the frames and moving parts when they’re closed. With weather stripping, one or both
surfaces of a door or window must be free to move, as opposed to caulking, which builds a
permanent seal between two stationary surfaces.
Weather stripping comes in several sizes and shapes (often designed for specific uses) and may
be made from metal, plastic, vinyl, rubber, felt or foam—or a combination of these materials.
You should weather-strip all exterior doors, along with any doors that lead to unheated areas,
such as the attic, garage or basement. In addition, weather-strip all operable windows.
You can buy weather stripping by the foot or in kits at a local hardware store or home
center. Before you buy anything, determine what kind of weather stripping you want to use.
Checking the size of the gap between the fixed and moveable sections of your doors and
windows, as well as thinking about the amount of expected wear and tear in these areas, will
help you decide which material is the most appropriate. Obviously, less-durable materials will
have to be replaced more frequently.
You can calculate the amount of weather stripping you’ll need by measuring the perimeter
of all the doors and windows to be weather-stripped. It’s a good idea to add five to ten percent
more for waste.
Keep in mind that less-durable materials such as felt or foam will have to be replaced more
frequently. Weather-strip doors and windows all the way around their outer edges. It’s best to
apply one continuous strip along each edge (or joint), making sure the weather stripping is
tight at the corners.
For self-adhesive products, be sure to clean the surfaces to which you’ll be applying the
weather stripping. In addition, follow the manufacturer’s directions for the minimum outdoor
temperature needed for a solid installation; some weather-stripping adhesives lose their
initial gripping power in temperatures under 40-50 degrees F.
Weather-stripping materials
Tension seal
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Description
Self-stick plastic or vinyl, folded along its length in a V-shape; also a springy
bronze (copper, aluminum or stainless steel) strip shaped to bridge a gap and
nailed in place. Material creates a seal by pressing against the sides of a crack
to block drafts.
Uses
Inside the track of a double-hung or sliding window and top and sides of door
Cost
Moderate. Varies with material used.
Advantages
Durable. Invisible in place. Very effective. Vinyl is easy to install. Look of bronze
works well for older homes.
Disadvantages
Surfaces must be flat and smooth for vinyl. Can be difficult to install, as corners
must be snug. Bronze must be nailed in place to prevent bending or wrinkling.
Can increase resistance in opening and closing doors or windows. Some kit
manufacturers include an extra strip for the door striker plate.
top view
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
iowa energy center 11
Felt
Description
Uses
Plain or reinforced with a flexible metal strip; sold in rolls. Must be stapled, glued
or tacked into place. Seals best if staples are parallel to the length of the strip.
Around a door or window, fitted into a door jamb so door presses against it
top view
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Disadvantages
Low durability. Least effective at preventing airflow. Do not use where exposed
to moisture or where there is friction or abrasion. All-wool felt more expensive,
but more durable. Very visible.
.
Easy to install. Inexpensive.
.
Advantages
.
Low
.
Cost
top view
Foam tape
Description
Nonporous, closed-cell foam, open-cell foam or EPDM (Ethylene Propylene
Diene Monomer) rubber
Uses
Top and bottom of window sash, door frames, attic hatches and non-operable
windows. Good for blocking corners and irregular cracks.
Advantages
Extremely easy to install. Works well when compressed. Inexpensive. Selfadhesive may not adhere well in cold weather. Can be reinforced with staples.
Disadvantages
Durability varies with material used, but not especially high for most types. Use
where little wear is expected. Visible.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Low
.
Cost
top view
.
.
.
.
.
top view
Reinforced vinyl
Pliable or rigid strip gasket attached to wood, plastic or metal strips
Uses
Door or window stops, top or bottom of window sash
Cost
Low to moderate
Advantages
Easy installation. Low to moderate cost. Some types of rigid strip gaskets
provide slot holes to adjust height, increasing durability.
Disadvantages
Visible. Self-adhesive on pliable vinyl may not adhere well to metal or during
cold weather.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Description
.
.
.
vinyl
.
.
.
top view
top view
wood
Door sweep
Description
Aluminum or stainless steel with a brush of plastic, vinyl, sponge or felt
Uses
Bottom of interior side of in-swinging door, bottom of exterior side of outswinging door
Cost
Moderate to high
Advantages
Relatively easy to install. Many types adjustable for uneven threshold.
Automatically retracting sweeps also available to reduce drag on carpet and
increase durability.
Disadvantages
Visible. Can drag on carpet. Automatic sweeps are more expensive and may
require a small pause before retracting, once door is unlatched.
inside
inside
door bottom
side view
continued on page 12
Home Tightening, Insulation and
Ventilation
inside
12 iowa energy center
continued from page 11
Magnetic
top view
Description
Works similarly to refrigerator door gasket
Uses
Top and sides of doors, double-hung and sliding window channels
Cost
High
Advantages
Very effective air sealer
Disadvantages
Expensive
Tubular rubber
top view
Description
Vinyl or sponge rubber tubes with a flange along length to staple or tack into
place. Door or window presses against them to form a seal.
Uses
Around a door or window
Cost
Moderate to high
Advantages
Effective air barrier
Disadvantages
Self-stick versions challenging to install
Reinforced silicone
top view
inside
Description
Tubular gasket attached to a metal strip that resembles tubular vinyl
Uses
On a doorjamb or a window stop
Cost
Moderate to high
Advantages
Seals well
Disadvantages
Installation can be tricky. Hacksaw required to cut metal; accurately butting
corners poses a challenge.
Door shoe
inside
Description
Vinyl or sponge rubber tubes with a flange along length to nail or screw into
place. Door presses against it to form a seal.
Uses
Seal space beneath door
Cost
Moderate to high
Advantages
On the exterior, product sheds rain. Durable. Can use with uneven opening.
Disadvantages
Fairly expensive. Installation moderately difficult. Door bottom planing may
be required.
inside
door bottom
side view
inside
door bottom
side view
inside
Bulb threshold
side view
inside
inside
side view
door bottom
side view
inside
door bottom
side view
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
Description
Vinyl and aluminum
Uses
Door thresholds
Cost
Moderate to high
Advantages
Combination threshold and weather strip. Available in different heights
and lengths.
Disadvantages
Wear from foot traffic. Relatively expensive.
iowa energy center 13
inside
side view
Finned door bottom
Description
U-shaped vinyl with fins on bottom that contact threshold
Uses
Door bottom
Cost
Moderate
Advantages
An effective air-blocker when new; multiple fins seal even if one is damaged or
worn. Easy to install.
Disadvantages
Very visible. Cutting to exact length is critical, or air can leak around ends. Entire
unit must be replaced when fins are worn.
inside
door bottom
side view
Frost-break threshold
Description
Aluminum or other metal on exterior, wood on interior; door-bottom seal
and vinyl threshold replacement.
Uses
Seal beneath a door
Cost
Moderate to high
Advantages
Use of different materials means less cold transfer. Effective. Threshold
is adjustable.
Disadvantages
Moderately difficult to install; involves threshold replacement.
inside
door bottom
side view
Fin seal
Description
Pile weather strip with plastic Mylar fin centered in pile
Uses
Aluminum sliding windows and sliding glass doors
Cost
Moderate to high
Advantages
Very durable
Disadvantages
Can be difficult to install
top view
Interlocking metal channels
Description
Enables door and frame to engage one another when closed
Uses
Around door perimeters; also at bottom.
Cost
High
Advantages
Exceptional weather seal
Disadvantages
Very difficult to install; alignment is critical. Professional installation only.
door bottom
side view
Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
14 iowa energy center
Insulation
DidKnow?
you know?
Did You
You can install your
own insulation
For many insulating jobs, such as
those in your attic and basement,
handling the work yourself can
save money. However, some jobs—
insulating walls and foundations, for
example—are more difficult and
time-consuming. In those cases,
calling a professional insulation
contractor for installation may be
the wisest choice.
Create an energy-saving thermal envelope for your home
Insulation slows down the heat flow through a building’s envelope. A home’s building envelope
contains the walls, attic, roof and basement—basically everything that surrounds the space
you want to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Insulation works all year long to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient.
In the winter, it slows heat loss and helps prevent condensation buildup. During summer
months, insulation reduces heat gain and helps keep your home cool.
Where to insulate
Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Back of attic hatch
Finished attic—ceiling
with cold spaces above
Finished attic—
between rafters
Finished attic—knee
walls and dormer walls
Exterior walls of
all living spaces
Back of attic access door
Vaulted ceiling
Gaps between wall
framing and exterior
windows
Unfinished attic—
between (and over)
floor joists
Gaps between
wall framing and
exterior doors
Band joists at top of
foundation walls
Floors above cold areas, such as
unheated crawl space or garage
Floor cantilevered or extended
beyond exterior wall below
Caution!CAUTION!
Termites can tunnel through foam
plastic insulation products installed
underground and find their way into
your home’s structure. If termites are
a problem in your area, talk with an
insulation professional about using termite-resistant products and
preventing termite infestations by
other means.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
Walls between living spaces
and unheated areas
Under slab floor built on ground
Foundation wall in heated
basement (inside, outside
or both)
iowa energy center 15
Adding insulation to your home can cut heating and cooling costs anywhere from 15 to 45
percent, depending on factors such as the original amount of insulation in your home, house
size, air leaks and personal energy use and living habits. Many variables affect the amount you’ll
save, but the fact remains that insulating your home is a wise energy investment.
Caution!
CAUTION!
When you’re insulating or sealing
air leaks in the attic, be careful
not to step on wires or wiring
devices such as ceiling boxes or
recessed lighting fixtures. Turn off
the power to those devices at the
circuit breaker box or fuse box before
you start. Follow manufacturer‘s
recommendations for insulating
around lighting fixtures.
The idea behind insulation is pretty simple
While every house is different, the basic rule of insulating is the same for all homes: Install
insulation on any surface separating a heated space from an unheated space. Recommendations
vary for the amount of insulation necessary for peak energy savings, depending on factors such
as climate conditions, the sections of your home being insulated and the kinds of materials used
in your home’s construction. The recommendations shown here are for a typical Iowa home.
Check this R-value guide for the optimal insulation levels for your home
Zone
1
Gas
✔
1
✔
✔
Heat pump
✔
✔
✔
Fuel oil
✔
✔
✔
Electric furnace
2
✔
2
3
✔
✔
Ceiling/Attic
R-49
R-49
R-49
R-49
R-49
Ceiling/Cathedral
R-38
R-60
R-38
R-38
R-38
Wall
R-18
R-28
R-18
R-22
R-18
Floor
R-25
R-25
R-25
R-25
R-25
Crawl space
R-19
R-19
R-19
R-19
R-19
Slab edge
R-8
R-8
R-8
R-8
R-8
Basement/ Interior
R-11
R-19
R-11
R-19
R-11
Basement/Exterior
R-10
R-15
R-10
R-15
R-10
Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency
and Renewable Energy
Insulation is rated by R-values
The R-value (or thermal resistance) of insulation is a measure of its ability to resist heat loss or
heat gain. The higher the R-value, the better a material insulates.
It’s important to note that an insulation’s R-value is based on its performance in a 70°F
environment with no air movement. Ironically, those ideal conditions are not when you need
insulation the most!
Therefore, the rated R-value from the insulation’s manufacturer may be much higher than
its effective R-value if the insulation is not properly installed—or air leaks are not plugged
before the insulation is added. Some types of insulation—such as blown-in wet cellulose,
polyurethane and polyicynene—combine both air sealing and insulation in one step. The rated
and effective R-values for these products are very similar, and they have a good performance
record when installed correctly.
When you go shopping for insulation, it’s important to remember that the product with
the highest R-value per inch may not be the most cost-effective one. For example, when insulating
a basement wall to an R-12 value, using 3 inches of an R-4 per inch insulation material might
be less expensive than using 2 inches of an R-6 per inch product. To get the most insulating
value for your money, compare the total costs of insulating an area to a specific R-value.
In addition, some materials may settle after installation, reducing their effective R-value by
10 percent or more. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications before you buy insulation.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
16 iowa energy center
CAUTION!
Check local building codes before
starting an insulation project at
your home.
DidKnow?
you know?
Did You
Trying to plug an air leak with fiberglass insulation won’t work very
well, because the material is not a
good air barrier. Instead, use solid
materials such as caulking, spray
foam, drywall, plywood or rigid foam
to stop air infiltration.
Types of insulation
Blankets: batts or rolls
Material
Fiberglass, rock wool and natural fibers
Method of installation
Fitted between studs, joists and beams
Where applicable
All unfinished walls, floors and ceilings
Advantages
Do-it-yourself. Suited for standard stud and joist spacing, which
is relatively free from obstructions.
Loose-fill
Material
Rock wool, fiberglass, cellulose and natural fibers, polyurethane
and polyicynene
Method of installation
Blown into place or spray-applied with special equipment
Where applicable
Enclosed existing wall cavities or open new wall cavities. Unfinished
attic floors and hard-to-reach places.
Advantages
Commonly used for retrofits (adding insulation to existing finished
areas). Good for irregularly shaped areas and around obstructions.
Sprayed foam and foamed-in-place
Material
Polyisocyanurate and polyurethane
Method of installation
Small spray containers or in larger quantities as a pressure-sprayed
(foamed-in-place) product
Where applicable
Enclosed existing wall or open new wall cavities; unfinished attic floors
Advantages
Adding insulation to existing finished areas, irregularly shaped areas
and around obstructions
Rigid foam
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
Material
Extruded polystyrene foam (XPS), expanded polystyrene foam (EPS or
beadboard), polyurethane foam and polyisocyanurate foam
Method of installation
Interior applications—must be covered with 1/2-inch gypsum board
or other building-code approved material for fire safety. Exterior
applications—must be covered with weatherproof facing.
Where applicable
Basement walls, exterior walls under finish materials and unvented
low-slope roofs
Advantages
High insulating value for relatively little thickness. Can block thermal
leak when installed continuously over frames or joists.
iowa energy center 17
Reflective
CAUTION!
Material
Foil-faced kraft paper, plastic film, polyethylene bubbles or cardboard
Method of installation
Fitted between wood-frame studs, joists and beams
Where applicable
Unfinished floors, walls and ceilings
Advantages
Do-it-yourself. All are suitable for framing at standard spacing. Use bubblestyle if framing is irregular or obstructions are present.
Structural insulated panels
Material
Foam board, liquid foam core and straw core
Method of installation
Builders connect them together to construct a house.
Where applicable
Unfinished floors, walls and ceilings for new construction
Advantages
Superior and uniform insulation compared to more traditional
construction methods; also take less time to build.
Vermiculite insulation was commonly used in homes built before
1950. Vermiculite insulation isn’t
used today, because naturally occurring asbestos has been discovered in
some vermiculite products.
Only a few sources of vermiculite
have been found to contain more
than tiny trace amounts of asbestos,
according to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency. Still, if you have
vermiculite insulation in your attic,
don’t disturb it. If you want to add
insulation to your attic, call an insulation contractor who is trained and
certified in handling asbestos.
Insulating concrete forms
Material
Foam boards or foam blocks
Method of installation
Installed as part of the building structure
Where applicable
Unfinished walls—including foundation walls—for new construction
Advantages
Literally built into home’s walls as part of sandwiched concrete-foam
system, creating high thermal resistance.
How much insulation do you already have?
Even if your home is only eight to 10 years old, it may not have enough insulation in the attic
and walls—or under the floors. If you live in a much older home, it’s pretty likely that adding
more insulation will help reduce your heating and cooling bills.
> Look in the attic. Use this chart to figure out what kind of insulation you have and what
its R-value is. Then measure the insulation’s depth and multiply it by the factor shown to
estimate the R-value.
What it
probably is
What you see
Depth
(inches)
Total R-value
Lightweight yellow, pink or white
Fiberglass
= 2.5 x depth
Dense gray or near-white, may
have black specks
Rock wool
= 2.8 x depth
Small gray flat pieces or fibers
(from newsprint)
Cellulose
= 3.7 x depth
Granules
Lightweight (various colors)
Vermiculite
or perlite
= 2.7 x depth
Batts
Lightweight yellow, pink or white
Fiberglass
= 3.2 x depth
Loose fibers
continued on page 18
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
18 iowa energy center
continued from page 17
> Look into the walls. It’s pretty difficult to add insulation to existing walls, unless you’re planning
New attic insulation
new insulation
joists
original insulation
vapor retarder
ceiling
When you add insulation to your attic,
run the new batts perpendicular to
the direction of the ceiling joists to
cover air gaps that may have developed in the existing insulation along
the joists.
DidKnow?
you know?
Did You
If you are building a new home,
make sure a proper vapor retarder is
installed under the concrete slab.
to add new siding to your home or finish an unfinished space. However, there are insulating
methods (usually handled by a professional insulating contractor) that can bring the
R-value up to the appropriate level.
> One method of determining if exterior walls are insulated is to check around electrical outlets
in the walls. (Be sure to turn off the power first!) Remove the cover plates and shine a flashlight
into the crack around each outlet box; you should be able to see whether or not insulation
is in the wall. Be sure to check separate outlets on the first and second floors—and in old
and new parts of the house—because wall insulation in one wall doesn’t necessarily mean
that it’s in all walls.
If you can’t see insulation around the outlets, remove a section of baseboard molding or
paneling to expose an exterior wall cavity, cut a hole in the wall of a closet or cabinet that
faces an outside wall, go to the attic and look down openings in the top plates of exterior
walls or take out a small section of exterior siding.
> Look under floors. Check the underside of any floor over an unheated space such as a garage,
basement or crawlspace. Inspect and measure the thickness of the insulation you find there.
It most likely will be fiberglass batts, so multiply the thickness in inches by 3.2 to find out
the R-value. If the insulation is a foam board or sprayed-on foam, use any visible label
information or multiply the thickness in inches by 5 to estimate the R-value.
To determine the most economical insulation levels for your home, go to the U.S.
Department of Energy Web site at http://www.ornl.gov/~roofs/Zip/ZipHome.html and fill
out the ZIP-Code Insulation Program form.
Insulation needs a vapor retarder
As you’ve seen with a glass of ice water, condensation occurs when warm, moist air touches a cold
surface. When this happens in your home, it can cause water or frost damage, mold and mildew.
A vapor retarder slows the movement of air and water vapor through building materials;
in fact, a good vapor retarder will allow very little moisture to pass through. When you go
shopping for a vapor retarder, you may find it mislabeled as a vapor barrier.
Whenever you install insulation in an uninsulated area, always include a vapor retarder.
If you’re adding insulation to an area that already has a vapor retarder, you don’t need to add
another one. Vapor retarders generally fall into these categories:
> Foil, a synthetic material or kraft paper often is part of fiberglass batt or blanket insulation.
The vapor retarder should face the warm side of a ceiling, wall or floor surface.
> Rigid board insulation acts as a vapor retarder when installed under an interior covering
material such as drywall. The seams of rigid foam board should be taped—for both interior
and exterior use—to improve its performance. This will help prevent moisture condensation
problems, because the foam keeps the temperature in the wall cavity above the dew
point temperature.
> Sprayed-in materials such as polyurethane and polyicynene insulation may not need a vapor
retarder when installed properly. Check your local building codes for vapor retarder requirements.
> Polyethylene sheets are not a good choice if you have central air-conditioning; the material
can trap hot, humid air inside your home.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
iowa energy center 19
From top to bottom, here are some things
to know about insulating your home
Start in the attic
Because your home can lose a significant amount of heat through the roof, the best place to
begin insulating is the attic. This usually is the easiest place for “do-it-yourselfers” to
begin, because access is good and you can install loose-fill, batt or blanket insulation over existing
insulation. If you choose to use a blown-in insulation such as wet cellulose, polyurethane or
polyicynene, you’ll need to have it professionally installed.
Caution!
CAUTION!
Whenever you’re in the attic looking
for air leaks, working around existing
insulation or installing new batts,
blankets or loose-fill products,
change into a long-sleeved shirt and
long pants or a disposable protective jumpsuit. Prevent eye and skin
irritation with safety goggles, a
respirator and nitrile gloves too.
What about open ceilings or flat roofs?
Insulating a cathedral ceiling, A-frame house or flat roof is an especially difficult job, because
there is little or no space between the ceiling and roof. With these types of ceilings, professional installation of spray-in insulation materials is recommended.
Insulated ceiling panels are another possible solution; the panels are made from insulation
batts covered with a vapor retarder.
Another solution is to build a wooden framework to hold the insulation, which is installed
against the ceiling and covered with a vapor retarder and new drywall. Ventilation of the space
between the cathedral and new dropped ceiling may be necessary to avoid condensation.
Head for the basement
Most Iowa homes have basements with either concrete block or poured-concrete walls. While
such walls make sturdy foundations, they’re poor insulators and have a very low R-value. As a
result, an uninsulated basement can account for a significant amount of a home’s total heat loss.
Before you begin any insulation projects in the basement, check for moisture problems and
air leaks. You can repair minor problems on the inside of the foundation wall with sealant or
waterproofing compounds, but any serious water leaks will require more extensive repairs. In
addition, make sure downspouts are in good shape and the ground around the foundation
slopes away from the house to ensure that water drains away from it.
If you don’t correct these problems before insulating—or don’t install a proper vapor
retarder—you may cause mold problems in your basement.
Check the top of the basement foundation
The wood joists and other building materials offer only token resistance to heat flow from
your basement. The band joist area (where the wood structure of the house rests on the
concrete foundation) is the best place to begin. It’s the simplest and least expensive basement
area to insulate, and it will bring you the highest return on your investment. Insulate it to R-19.
know?
DidDid
Youyou
Know?
Do not cover or hand-pack insulation around bare heating system or
gas water heater vents, stove pipes,
electric motors, recessed lighting
fixtures not labeled for direct contact with insulation or any other
heat-producing equipment. If you
pack insulation in these areas, heat
can build up and start a fire.
Insulate along band joists
insulation batt
band joist
sill plate
foundation
Cut insulation to fit band joist spaces
between the sill and subfloor.
Then do the basement walls
Insulating the interior of your basement’s perimeter walls (using batts or blankets) usually is
less expensive and less involved than insulating the outside of the perimeter walls. Although
the techniques necessary for building new stud walls around the perimeter require some
carpentry skills, they generally are within the skills of the average do-it-yourselfer. Before
beginning, check your local fire code for special insulation requirements.
Exterior foundation insulation usually is done during construction; on an existing home,
it’s a job for a professional. Rigid panel insulation is glued to the exterior wall of the basement.
Above ground level, the insulation is covered with cement board or pressure-treated plywood
to protect the insulation, and both are secured to the foundation.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
20 iowa energy center
Use batts in
cantilevered spaces
exterior wall
insulation
cantilevered
overhang
Insulate under bay windows and other
cantilevered spaces.
Caution!CAUTION!
Crawl spaces may require special
attention for moisture-related issues.
Consult a building professional if you
suspect any problems, and fix them
before you insulate.
Insulate floors over unheated spaces
Floors over a basement that has a heat source such as a furnace, boiler or wood stove don’t need
to be insulated. However, floors over an unheated area such as a garage, a porch or open ground
can be a source of considerable heat loss.
> A cantilevered floor over an exterior wall needs insulation just as much as a floor over an
unheated basement, because it’s exposed directly to the outside and may have many air
leaks that cause drafts. Depending on how the floor is built, there are a few ways to make
cantilevered floors more comfortable. One way is to hire a professional to spray in polyurethane or polyicynene insulation. If you choose to insulate this area yourself, use R-19 batts
with a vapor retarder facing up, toward the heated part of the house.
> Insulate the floor in a mobile home or a home supported by piers to R-19 or higher. Cover
the ground and the batts or blankets to protect against moisture, wind and animals.
> If your home was constructed slab-on-grade, the cold slab can damage wood and carpets
if water and ice condense on the floor. During construction, rigid board insulation should
have been installed around the entire perimeter of the slab. If not, a professional can insulate
the slab using rigid insulation board with plywood flooring on top.
> Use rigid board insulation or spray-in foam to insulate the “floor” of a bay window
projection or other cantilevered spaces.
If you have a crawl space …
Insulate crawl space foundation walls and the floor to a value of R-10 or higher. If your crawl
space has a dirt floor, cover it with polyethylene sheeting and extend the plastic several inches up
the walls before insulating. See page 22 for tips on properly ventilating a crawl space.
When should you add wall insulation?
A job for a professional
Although you may be able to rent the
equipment for blowing insulation into
your home’s exterior walls, the job is
very involved and is best handled by
an experienced insulation contractor.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
Insulating the walls of an existing home is difficult and generally should be done by a professional insulating contractor. Because of the high cost of blowing insulation into exterior walls,
consider this job only after your home has been thoroughly tightened and the attic and basement or crawl space have been insulated.
Insulating your walls is a good idea when there is less than one inch of insulation in the
wall cavities. (Typically, walls have space for 3 1/2 inches of insulation.) If you already have
some insulation there, however, the cost of adding more insulation may outweigh the benefits.
One time it makes sense to consider insulating your walls is when replacing your home’s
siding. Insulation can be blown into empty stud cavities before the new siding is installed;
another option is to install foam board insulation under the new siding.
As an alternative, if you’re planning an extensive interior renovation—to the point of
gutting the interior walls of your home—fill the wall cavities with insulation as long as they’re
already open.
If you decide to insulate your walls, obtain bids from several contractors and compare the
R-values provided, as well as the cost to complete the job. Walls should be insulated to a level
of R-18 or more with blown-in, loose-fill or spray-in insulation. (See chart on page 15.)
iowa energy center 21
Keep heated and cooled air in your ducts
The ductwork for a forced-air heating and air-conditioning system can be one of your home’s
biggest energy wasters—especially if those ducts run through unheated or uncooled spaces.
> Check the ducts for air leaks. Repair leaking joints first with sheet-metal screws; then
seal remaining leaks with latex-based mastic and embedded fiberglass mesh or mastic or
aluminum tape. Don’t use plastic or cloth duct tape because it will harden, crack and lose
its adhesion in a very short time.
> Wrap the ducts with duct wrap insulation rated at least R-6, with the vapor retarder facing
out. All joints where sections of insulation meet should have overlapped facings and be
tightly sealed with fiberglass tape. Avoid compressing the insulation, which will reduce its
thickness and R-value.
> To make sure some of the warmed or cooled air in the ducts is not blowing into walls or
under floors, seal all registers and grills tightly to the ducts.
> When you’re finished working, install a new air filter to catch any dust and debris you
may have knocked loose while insulating or repairing the ducts. Check the filter a couple of
days later to make sure it doesn’t need to be changed again.
> Make sure ducts fit tightly to the register openings in floors and walls; if they don’t, seal the
joints with caulk.
> Seal return duct joints, too, so you won’t be breathing basement or crawl space air.
Seal and insulate ducts
insulation
tape seams
seal leaks
with mastic
or aluminum
tape
Tighten and seal leaky ducts before
insulating with foil- or paper-faced
batts made especially for ducts.
Insulate pipes
Insulate your pipes
The longer they run through unheated spaces, the faster the hot water pipes from your water
heater or hydronic heating system will cool, causing these systems to work harder than necessary
to meet your family’s needs. Use inexpensive foam insulation sleeves from your hardware store
or home center to insulate these pipes; secure the insulation with duct tape.
For boilers and steam heating system pipes, use insulation with a high enough temperature
rating so it won’t melt.
Check your doors and windows too
While you might not think of exterior doors and windows as being part of your home’s insulation
system, they’re certainly an integral part of your home’s protective envelope.
> If you don’t properly maintain the finish on a wood exterior door, it can absorb moisture
and warp. A solid-core wood door is a good insulator, but it’s not as good an insulator as a
steel or fiberglass door with a foam core. An insulated steel door with refrigerator-type
magnetic weather stripping is the best choice for energy efficiency.
> New high-efficiency doors and windows can contribute to saving a considerable amount
of energy if installed properly. One key to maintaining their efficiency is sealing the edges
where they meet the surrounding walls, so air and moisture can’t enter your home. Pay
close attention to the hidden joints where each door or window meets the wall framing, as
well as the visible seams at the siding. Fill large, hidden gaps with liquid urethane insulating
foam from a spray can or with fiberglass insulation. Also run a bead of high-quality caulk
at the surface of each joint, and paint it to match.
> Decrease the heat loss from windows during cold-weather months with insulating window
treatments such as heavy draperies, insulating panels and pop-in shutters with a rigid foam
insulation core and quilted roller shades and Roman shades with several layers of fiber batting.
Close window coverings in rooms that don’t receive sunlight during the day, and close all
of them at night. When warm weather arrives, use light-colored window treatments to
reflect the sun’s heat away from windows. For year-round use, choose dual-surface shades—
they’re reflective white on one side and heat-absorbing dark on the other side—so you can
reverse them with the seasons.
Use foam insulation on hot water
pipes in your basement or crawl space.
The water will stay warmer in the
pipes, cutting the time you need to
wait for hot water for sinks, bathtubs
or showers.
Save hot water
Electric
Gas
Giving your older water heater a
blanket to lower your water-heating
bills is an easy, do-it-yourself job. Be
sure to follow the insulation manufacturer’s installation instructions—the
process differs for electric and gas
water heaters. Note that new water
heaters have adequate insulation,
so their manufacturers recommend
not adding an insulating blanket.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
22 iowa energy center
Ventilation
A healthy, energy-efficient home needs to breathe
DidKnow?
you know?
Did You
Proper ventilation is important to protect your home from moisture damage during the winter
A power attic ventilator can rob your
home of warmed air in the winter or
cooled air in the summer, if your attic
doesn’t have adequate ventilation.
CAUTION!
Call a professional to install a wholehouse fan or power attic ventilator.
Continuous ridge vent
continuous
ridge vent
and to reduce heat buildup during the summer.
Even if your home is very tight, some moisture will travel to the attic, where it can cause a
lot of damage if it’s not vented outdoors; you’ll see problems such as wet insulation (which is
ineffective), water stains on your ceilings and ice dams on the roof during the winter.
Your home needs at least two ventilation sources for circulating air through the attic. Vents
high—at or near the top of the roof—and low—at the lower edge of the roof—let air circulate
naturally.
At the top of the roof, you can use continuous ridge vents, static roof vents, gable end vents
or wind-driven turbines. At the lower edge of the roof, install continuous soffit vents or several
single vents in the roof overhang; make sure these vents aren’t blocked by attic insulation and
allow air to circulate naturally.
Attics with a ceiling vapor retarder should have a minimum of one square foot of vent area
for every 300 square feet of ceiling area. If your ceiling doesn’t have a vapor retarder, your attic
needs twice the amount of vent area, or one square foot for every 150 square feet of ceiling area.
(See page 18 for vapor retarder information.)
Good natural ventilation makes a power ventilator unnecessary for most homes. However,
if you can’t get enough air flowing through your attic on its own, a power attic ventilator is
an effective, but expensive, solution to solve moisture problems and to cool an attic. The best
place for a power attic ventilator is near the top of the roof on the side facing away from the
prevailing winds. During the winter, a humidistat starts the fan to remove moisture from the
attic; during the summer, a thermostat starts the fan when the attic gets too hot.
soffit vents
If you’re reroofing or building a new
home, a continuous ridge vent combined with soffit vents offers optimal
attic ventilation. In this illustration, blue
arrows indicate outside air flowing into
the attic and red arrows show attic air
flowing out.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
Here are a few more home-ventilating tips
While keeping the air moving through your attic is the largest ventilation issue in your home,
there are some other things you can do to promote proper ventilation throughout your
home.
> A basement usually doesn’t need to be ventilated, but a crawl space containing water pipes
or other utilities does (unless it’s insulated). Install vents that can be opened in the summer
and closed tightly in the winter to reduce heat loss. You’ll need about one square foot of
vent for every 150 square feet of floor in your crawl space. Vents at each corner of the crawl
space provide the best air circulation.
> A whole-house fan can be a good substitute for air-conditioning, reducing indoor temperatures by several degrees. All you do is open your home’s windows during the evenings on
warm-weather months and start the fan to draw cool air into your home and expel warm
air into your attic and out the attic vents; you can expect lower air-conditioning costs
through the prudent use of this energy-saving system.
> Install an exhaust fan in each bathroom to remove moisture from showers or steamy baths,
as well as putting one in the kitchen to vent moisture and cooking smells. Note that exhaust
fans remove heated or cooled air as well as moisture and odors, so use them only when
needed. When you go shopping, make sure the fans you buy are properly sized for the rooms
in which they’re located and their planned usage. During installation, make sure the fans
are vented outdoors instead of the attic. Otherwise, the fans will dump excess moisture into
the attic, which could dampen the surrounding insulation and render it ineffective.
iowa energy center 23
For your safety, try a carbon monoxide detector
Because carbon monoxide(CO) can’t be detected in any other way, buy at least one batterypowered CO alarm or an AC-powered unit with a battery backup for each level of your home
and near sleeping areas. Other beneficial features include a digital display, which allows you
to see both the level of CO as soon as it’s present and the memory of the peak level. This
information lets emergency personnel know how high the level was—and how to treat victims
of CO poisoning.
Follow the manufacturer’s directions for placement, installation and replacement of the
CO alarm, and make sure you test it monthly. Also change its battery once a year—an easy-toremember time is when you set back your clocks from daylight saving time every fall. This also
is a good time to change the batteries in your smoke alarms, emergency radio and flashlights,
so you’ll be prepared if a severe storm causes a power outage in your area.
Finally, note that a CO alarm won’t last forever; it needs to be replaced after approximately
seven years. Check the unit’s instruction manual for details, or look for a sticker with a
replacement due date on the bottom of the device.
know?
DidDid
Youyou
Know?
When a CO alarm sounds in your
home, never ignore it. Get your
family out of the house immediately,
and open the windows to allow the
CO to dissipate. Call emergency
personnel from a neighbor’s home
or a cell phone once you’re out of
the house.
Test your CO alarm monthly
Can your home be too tight?
Tightening up your home with caulking and weather stripping, installing insulation
and sealing ducts to reduce energy costs will have a significant effect on the way your
home operates, as well as your comfort. However, it is possible to get your home too
tight, causing it to trap stale air and moisture inside. One sign that you do not have
enough ventilation in your home is the appearance of condensation on walls, attics or
crawl spaces.
In extreme cases, your fuel-burning appliances—such as the gas furnace, water heater
and stove—can use more than their fair share of the air in your home for combustion,
creating a negative air pressure inside and causing the appliances to back-draft. This can
lead to a number of problems—including CO poisoning and even death. The same thing
can happen if you have a wood-burning stove, a fireplace or an attached garage where
you let your car idle to “warm up.”
The smart thing to do is to have a blower door test performed after you’ve completed
all your energy-saving improvements to check the amount of fresh air coming into your
home. If it’s not sufficient for healthy living, you can add an air-to-air heat exchanger
to your heating and cooling system to bring in fresh air. In addition, hire a technician
to check your furnace and water heater flues to make sure they’re drawing properly
and sending combustion byproducts up their flues and out of your home. If they’re
not working properly, you may need to have the technician add a fresh-air intake
to these devices.
In the future—when you’re replacing the heating units in your home—choose a directvent sealed combustion furnace or consider installing an electric unit such as a ground-source
heat pump.
The best type of CO detector to buy is
one that plugs into an outlet and has
a backup battery.
CAUTION!
To protect your family from carbon
monoxide (CO) poisoning, have all
fuel-burning heating appliances
checked by a qualified heating contractor every year. And be on the
alert for these signs of carbon monoxide poisoning:
Your entire family is sick at the
same time with flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea,
fatigue and dizziness.
Flu-like symptoms decrease when
you’re away from home.
Illness is present when gas appliances are in use.
Excess moisture appears on the
inside of windows.
Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation
for more information
Alliance to Save Energy
1850 M Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-857-0666
Web site: http://www.ase.org/
Alliant Energy
4902 North Biltmore Lane
P.O. Box 77007
Madison, WI 53707-1007
Phone: 800-255-4268
Web site: http://www.alliantenergy.com/
American Council for an
Energy-Efficient Economy
529 14th Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20045-1000
Phone: 202-507-4000
Fax: 202-429-2248
Web site: http://www.aceee.org/
Atmos Energy Corporation
2547 Hilton Road
Keokuk, IA 52632
Phone: 888-286-6700
Web site: http://www.atmosenergy.com/
Black Hills Energy
625 9th Street
Rapid City, SD 57709
Phone: 888-890-5554
Web site: http://www.blackhillsenergy.com/
Energy Efficient Rehab Advisor
Web site: http://rehabadvisor.pathnet.org/
ENERGY STAR®
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Phone: 888-782-7937
Web site: http://www.energystar.gov/
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Phone: 877-382-4357
Web site: http://www.ftc.gov/
Gas Appliance Manufacturers
Association (GAMA)
2107 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600
Arlington, VA 22201
Phone: 703-525-7060
Web site: http://www.gamanet.org/
Home Energy Saver
Environmental Energy Technologies Division
at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Web site: http://hes.lbl.gov/
IowaENERGY.org
Web site: http://www.iowaenergy.org/
Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives
8525 Douglas, Suite 48
Des Moines, IA 50322-2992
Phone: 515-276-5350
Fax: 515-276-7946
Web site: http://www.iowarec.org/
Iowa Department of Human Rights/
Division of Community Action Agencies
Lucas State Office Building
321 E. 12th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
Phone: 515-281-3861
Fax: 515-242-6119
Web site: http://www.state.ia.us/government/
dhr/caa/
Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities
1735 NE 70th Avenue
Ankeny, IA 50021-9353
Phone: 515-289-1999 or 800-810-4268
Fax: 515-289-2499
Web site: http://www.iamu.org/
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
502 E. 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319-0034
Phone: 515-281-5918
Web site: http://www.iowadnr.gov/
Iowa Office of Energy Independence
Lucas State Office Building
312 E. 12th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
Phone: 515-281-0187
Web site: http://www.energy.iowa.gov/
Iowa Renewable Energy Association
P.O. Box 3405
Iowa City, IA 52244-3405
Phone: 319-643-3160
Web site: http://www.irenew.org/
Iowa State University Extension
Answer Line Phone: 800-262-3804
Web site: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/
answerline/
or http://www.extension.iastate.edu/housing/
MidAmerican Energy
666 Grand Avenue, Suite 500
Des Moines, IA 50309-2580
Phone: 888-427-5632
Web site: http://www.midamericanenergy.com/
U.S. Department of Energy Office of
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Forrestal Building
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585
Phone: 877-337-3463
Web site: http://www.eere.energy.gov/
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Phone: 202-272-0167
Web site: http://www.epa.gov/
This is an Iowa Energy Center publication.
The Iowa Energy Center is a research, demonstration and education organization dedicated
to improving Iowa’s energy efficiency and use of renewable energy. The Energy Center meets
its goals by developing in-house energy research and education programs and by sponsoring
energy projects developed by other groups. The projects supported by the Energy Center,
which vary in size and complexity, are conducted throughout the state in Iowa’s universities,
colleges, community colleges and private nonprofit organizations.
Iowa Energy Center
2521 University Boulevard, Suite 124, Ames, IA 50010-8629
Phone: 515-294-8819 | Fax: 515-294-9912 | E-mail: [email protected]
Web site: http://www.energy.iastate.edu
LH
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