Dear Comfort Advisor,
I feel a slight chill in the air that could only be the slide into winter. What is the best use of my time and money to reduce my upcoming fuel bills?
Dear Think Ahead Harry,
It is difficult and perhaps downright depressing to consider what will more than likely be another Montana winter. We are truly blessed to live here but it comes at a price. Cold temperatures are hard on our bodies, vehicles, and homes. It takes added energy to get all of them up and going on an icy morning. Our bodies and our homes are similar in the way we approach staying warm. You had better insulate yourself quite well in a down jacket just like the typical home uses fiberglass insulation. Without the air space it provides, your body and home would need an incredible amount of energy to stay warm. You would be eating half a cow a day and your home would be eating up all the money in your wallet.
To answer your question I would certainly say insulating to reduce the amount of energy you use. Conservation is always the best way to approach energy reductions. You may have a modern home that is insulated to code, but please remember code is the minimum! I certainly wouldn’t brag about a home built to code because that is where you should start from. The Great State of Montana adopted the new IBC (International Building Code) recently and the various jurisdictions are implementing the new rules and regulations. The details regarding insulation, ventilation, and sealing of our homes and business is long overdue. One of the many things it addresses is that of air leakage.
It is easy to measure insulation with a ruler but infiltration (leakage) is a different matter. You know when the wind is howling outside and the drapes are moving around that something is going on. Buildings leak air (both into and out of) constantly. Things that drive this air movement are outside conditions (wind and heat) and inside conditions (mainly heat). The naturally warm buoyant air that is hugging your ceiling is being forced into the attic through leaking can lights, bath and kitchen fans, heat ducts, and any other penetration however small. As air moves out, it is obviously coming in somewhere. This is usually around doors and windows, sidewall vents, flue pipes, and again any small penetration. Even those thick batts of insulation are nothing more than air filters if there are no proper air barriers. You may be able to say what your insulation level is but it is extremely rare that anyone can tell you their ACH (air changes per hour).
Leakage rate is quantified using a blower door test. I invested in the equipment and was certified by Building Performance Institute to do the testing. I did my home first and discovered leaks that I am still working on. It was amazing but also sad the amount of money this was costing me. I have done many tests since getting certified and if you really want to see where your heating dollars are going we can run some tests on your home. New homes can and should use this test to prove compliance with the new energy code. It would be great to brag at the neighborhood party about your trimmed down ACH numbers. You can certainly call AirWorks to schedule an appointment.