Is Your Home Properly Insulated? Are You Sure?

InsulationTrade organizations are notorious for sending out press releases claiming their products and services are critical to the survival of mankind. No doubt the cellulose-sponge industry ranks itself right up there with cancer researchers and firefighters in terms of lives saved.

So you can understand our skepticism when we received word from the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association alerting us that 90 percent of American homes don’t have enough insulation. Right. And the solution is to rush out and buy gobs more insulation.

This time, though, the press release had solid facts to back up its claims, and it opened the door to some fascinating research on home energy use and conservation. For instance:

  • Homes built in 2000 and later are, on average, 30 percent larger than those built before 2000, yet they consume only 2 percent more energy. That’s because of more-efficient heating equipment and better-insulated building shells. Homes today use 21 percent less energy for space heating than older homes.
  • In 1993, heating and air conditioning accounted for 57.7 percent of home energy consumption, but by 2009 that figure had dropped to 47.7 percent. Energy use for appliances, home electronics and lighting, meanwhile, jumped from 24 percent to 34.6 percent.
  • California households use 31 percent less energy than the U.S. average. Increased conservation efforts may play a part, but the main reason is the Golden State’s mild climate. More than 40 percent of our homes do not use air conditioning, and 14 percent are not heated.

Much of the data on home-energy consumption was developed with the help of researchers from the nearby Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In fact, the insulation manufacturers group mentioned above used Lawrence Berkeley’s methodology to determine the energy savings possible with increased home insulation levels.

The trade group found that home electricity use nationwide would drop by 5 percent — and natural-gas use by more than 10 percent — if all U.S. homes were fitted with insulation based on the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code, developed in part by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Increased home insulation reportedly would also reduce levels of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

“The fall is when many homeowners around the country begin thinking about home improvements to increase comfort and reduce their energy bills as temperatures drop come winter,” Curt Rich, the trade group’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Research like this should reinforce our message to homeowners, and to policymakers, that added insulation has real and significant benefits.”

For help determining proper home-insulation levels and information on insulation products, visit the trade group’s website, which includes content on installing insulation yourself.

(Photo: Flickr/Jesus Rodriguez)

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