All homeowners are looking for small ways to lower everyday household expenses and utility bill. With so many set costs like taxes, HOA fees, general upkeep, and maintenance, it’s no wonder everyone looks for corners to cut that will save a few dollars.
For some, this means layering up in the winter (say hello to sweaters and two pairs of socks) and stripping down in the summer. But what can the rest of us do to be comfortable in our own homes without breaking the bank?
As roofing and siding specialists, we know where homes lose their R-value (the construction industry term for how well something insulates against hot and cold temperatures and holds its ambient temperature). We have years of experience and knowledge that we want to share with every questioning homeowner before they purchase the wrong upgrades for their home improvement project. Read on for tips that will save you time and money, starting with one of the questions we are asked the most
As siding experts, we are often asked if siding choices will affect energy bills. The answer is yes, but only slightly. We believe that anyone promising energy savings with more expensive siding choices is overstating the value of the siding itself.
There are wonderful reasons to do a siding replacement on your home. Choosing a new siding can offer a great return on investment. New siding will make your home look nicer and more efficiently protect it from inclement weather. Upgrading your siding option can make your old house feel brand new while raising the home value, but it’s not necessarily important for R-values.
For instance, vinyl siding is slightly less effective at stopping energy transfer than brick, but the R-value almost triples when you add insulation separately!
The real savings come from the type of insulation you use in your home.
Like exterior building materials, there are myriad options to choose from for insulation inside your home. Some insulations are most beneficial on the external segments of your home, and some aren’t, so it’s important to know what is most effective and where it should go.
Insulation choices from highest to lowest R-values:
This material is the most popular choice for insulating home interiors and attics. It’s voluminous, inexpensive, and comes in large sheets. In addition, its soft and malleable nature means that it is easy to install and effective at insulating large areas.
These are the panels that go under your siding. They come in a variety of materials and thicknesses and offer protection from extreme weather and a wide range of temperatures. In most cases, the thickness of the board will dictate how effective it is. If you live in a warmer region, consider using foil-backed insulation that reflects the heat off of your walls and back outside.
Foam insulation offers excellent energy efficiency but is not a DIY project. Foam insulation is blown between the siding and interior drywall during the siding installation process. The major advantage of foam is that it offers an airtight seal, whereas insulation boards and batting often have gaps that allow ambient energy to move in and out at critical points.
This insulated siding option takes traditional vinyl siding and pre-attached foam insulators on the back of the panels. The thickness allows it to stay in place very well, and it’s a very durable siding material that many contractors like to work with. However, the biggest issue is that it comes with a hefty price tag but doesn’t deliver on efficiency. Choosing the best insulation for your home and climate will give you better results than mass-produced “general” insulation.
Siding is only one of the major places where a house loses energy. So if you want to save money on your heating and cooling bills, it’s important to know where else the energy is escaping your house.
Attacking all vulnerable points will be your best bet for minimizing unnecessary costs, and it might keep you from having to put on a second pair of socks in the winter! Every house is different, so take what applies to your context from this guide. If you need a second opinion, we are only a phone call away.
Starting at the top of a house is incredibly important. It’s especially important in the summer heat when the sun beats down on your dark roof, slowly baking the air inside your home while your expensive air conditioning escapes up into the atmosphere. We recommend robust insulation in your attic to keep you comfortable (summer or winter). This is where most homeowners will go all-in on fiberglass batting, especially in attic spaces that don’t need to maintain buttoned-up appearances.
We are often asked if re-roofing will help with energy efficiency, but the answer is similar to siding: re-roofing will ensure that your house stays dry but doesn’t do much for R-value.
Windows and doors are problem points for heating and cooling bills. Opening and closing them can create a helpful draft when it’s nice out, but in the winter, it can let in a gust of cold air that will have you scurrying for more layers. And even if you keep them closed tight, the panes and cracks (under your door and around the windows) are huge energy wasters. Since natural light is vital to most of us, there are other solutions to help you insulate without boarding up your home. For example, weatherstripping can be bought cheaply and applied to ensure that the crack under your isn’t accidentally exposing your house to the elements. Similarly, inspect your window sills for cracks that can be sealed and painted over.
If you have very old windows or doors, consider upgrading to newer Energy Star (a program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy that promotes energy efficiency) products that will save you on heating and cooling costs.
Like your attic space, basements don’t often need to be heated and cooled like the rest of your home. The appearances aren’t quite as important, so having exposed fiberglass batting is a fairly common fix to insulate cold floors.
While we talked about cracks around doors and windows, those aren’t the only places that cracks show up in homes, but they are the easiest to check and fix. Weatherstripping can be applied around doors, door frames, and windowsills to regulate your house temperature, but more serious cracks can creep up over time.
As siding settles over time, it can develop cracks or warp. This warping will expose some of your insulation to the elements, leading to more problems than simply being energy inefficient. Exposed insulation is a perfect home for all kinds of critters and molds. If you have foam insulation, warped siding can pull it away from the nooks and crannies, leading your house to be less and less efficient over time.
A roof will experience a similar movement, occasionally exposing a segment that should be covered. This leads to a loss in energy efficiency and the potential for a moisture incursion into your attic space. Checking to see that your home is sealed is critical if you want to save on your energy bill.
In some cases, houses (especially new builds) settle into their foundations. Depending on the engineering and soils, this can lead to cracks in the foundation that also become drains on your wallet. Sealing this should be a priority to prevent moisture ingress and energy egress.
The bottom line is: if you see a crack, fill it as soon as possible.