Good Insulation Equals Comfort & Savings

Published on: June 19, 2013

The Cost Of Energy

According to a Bloomberg Businessweek report issued in February of 2012, roughly half of all American households covered by the reporting period spent 20 percent or more of their total annual family income on energy utilities. The report indicated that for families with household incomes between $10,000 and $30,000, approximately 24 percent of their after-tax budget was allocated to energy expenses. It was published early in 2012, and it can be reasonably assumed that the statistics worsened with the economy as wages remained stagnant and energy costs rose throughout that year.

The term energy expense broadly covers heating and cooling costs, illuminating the home, and providing hot water for washing and bathing. Energy costs for computers, televisions, stereos, refrigerators, clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, and cooking stoves are also lumped into the costs. Homes that use both electrical power and natural gas or liquid propane sum the costs of all fuels and power sources to calculate a total energy expense.

Most homeowners simply consider their energy bills as part of the monthly cost of living in a home. The United States Environmental Protection Agency looks at energy expenditures somewhat differently. This agency, charged with protecting the environment, views energy expenditures with an eye toward waste. It is well-known that energy generation contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.  These greenhouse gas emissions, which are often referred to as a residence’s carbon footprint, contribute to global warming. Wasteful consumption of energy creates an unnecessarily larger carbon footprint for a home.

The referenced EPA page contains the Individual Waste Reduction Model tool. This tool, which is commonly called iWARM for its acronym, helps energy-conscious consumers calculate the amount of energy they conserver or waste by recycling or failing to recycle. Recycling materials reduces a household’s dependence on virgin materials. Reduced dependence on virgin raw materials corresponds to lower energy consumption when the materials are mined, processed, and transported to manufacturing or distribution centers around the world. Increased household recycling ultimately reduces the carbon footprint of a residence.

When viewed from the perspective of energy waste, the most flagrantly wasteful practices in any home stem from poorly insulated areas. Allowing heated air to escape through single pane glass windows or bare ceilings or attic floors in the winter months or to enter through a poorly insulated wall or floor during the summer months is almost as bad as leaving a door wide open or a window raised while running the furnace or air conditioner. It’s actually worse in some ways because the window glass and solid surfaces of the walls, floor and ceiling give the illusion of containment. An open door or window would be spotted and closed right away, but homeowners usually have only a vague idea of the magnitude of heat or cooling loss through surfaces that lack insulation.

New Construction And Remodeling Building Codes

According to energy.gov, most local building codes contain some minimum insulation standard. These standards are designed to save energy, and they have been proven to save money over the lifetime of the building. They help ensure that homes or workplaces are built properly and provide for certain levels of comfort within those buildings. However, it is important to remember that they are simply minimum requirements. The majority of energy-efficient homes constructed today will exceed local code standards and provide accelerated returns on the investment by saving both energy and money from the initial occupancy of the structure.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which was established as the Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory in 1943, maintains a website that contains interactive calculators to help users determine the most beneficial designs to save energy when constructing a new home. The Whole Wall R-value Calculator is similar to the older Whole Wall Thermal Performance calculator, but it has been updated to allow calculations for fourteen wall details. It allows a direct comparison of wall technologies for a single-story residential structure with a fixed number of windows and doors built on a standard slab-on-grade foundation.

While the Whole Wall R-value Calculator deals only with new construction, the Department of Energy’s ZIP Code Insulation Program will help remodelers determine the most cost-effective insulation level for new or existing homes based on the geographic location of the home.

Comfort Is More Than Skin Deep

Homeowners can save energy by properly insulating a residence. It is very easy to derive a certain amount of physical comfort from living in a well-constructed home. There is also an undeniable financial comfort that comes from activities that save money and maintaining a savings nest egg. It is important to consider return on investment when insulating a new home or retrofitting an existing home with modern energy-efficiency products. It does no good to save money on a home improvement if the work costs more than the value received.

The thermal conductivity of a window is measured by its U-factor. A higher U-factor means that the window is not well-insulated and will conduct heat easily. This means that heat quickly enters through the window in the summer and rapidly leaves the house through the window in the winter. Many manufacturers express this characteristic as an R-value instead of a U-factor. An R-value for a window expresses the window’s resistance to heat conduction. Higher R-values are good for windows.

An aluminum frame 3’ x 5’ window with a thermal break and a single pane of glass will typically have a U-factor of about 1.07. The same window, with two panes of glass separated by a ½-inch air gap, will have a U-value of around 0.62. When the glass is treated with a low-emittance coating and the air gap is filled with argon, the U-factor drops to around 0.46. With these treatments, the inside surface temperature of the glass will remain at about 56 degrees Fahrenheit even when the outside temperature drops to zero.

In order to properly evaluate these windows, typical heating or cooling costs with the old windows must be compared with estimated costs if the new windows are installed. If, for example, replacing 12 of these windows is expected to save $25 per month in heating and cooling utilities and the windows cost $200 each to install, the total installation cost of $2,400 will take approximately 96 months, or eight years, to pay for themselves. These sorts of return on investment periods are not unusual when undertaking energy efficiency projects.


The ROIs can, however, be much shorter. It is common for residential heating or cooling costs to drop by as much as 50 percent after an HVAC upgrade or service visit. The Bryant and Carrier specialists found on AirConditioningSouthEast.com can give you the information you need to make smart energy efficiency choices. They can recommend equipment, materials, or even simple cost-saving measures to reduce your energy consumption and increase your home satisfaction. Talking to an expert will help you connect a routine maintenance activity with long term savings.

The AirConditioningSouthEast.com website connects homeowners and commercial building managers with qualified, screened HVAC professionals throughout the Southeastern United States. Most of these professionals are North American Technician Excellence certified. North American Technician Excellence, Incorporated is the leading non-profit certification program in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industry, and NATE testing is the only certification program supported by all HVAC/R manufacturers.

The contractors at AirConditioningSouthEast.com are experienced in the installation, maintenance and repair of quality Carrier and Bryant products, and their NATE certification qualifies them to work on many other brands as well. They can provide the heating and air conditioning services you need at prices you can afford, so browse our listings today and find the heating or air conditioning service plan that is right for you.