Ways to Save Energy Around your Home by using Insulation
Making your home more energy efficient and saving you money on your electricity bill.
Houses built without modern insulation systems are terribly inefficient at keeping your home at a constant temperature. i.e. heat out in the summer and heat in in the winter. However there are a number of things that you can do to insulate the home making it more energy efficient.
Not only will you be doing yourself a favor by keeping healthier but you will also save money for yourself and your country. If you like to take it a little further each time we save a bit of energy we save our planet. Not a bad thing if we intend to stay here or leave something for our kids.
That is enough reasons for doing it, so how do we make our home more energy efficient?
How do we increase the energy efficiency of these areas?
Firstly as an interior designer or someone with a strong interest in interior design we need to understand some of the fundamentals about heat and energy. Heat has a tendency to rise, it also has a tendency to flow to the coldest point until the temperature becomes even. To stop this flow we use things such as walls, ceilings and floors, however the materials that they are made of are not necessarily the best insulators so we add insulation to them. We are trying to stop or at the very least reduce thermal transmission. This is the flow of heat or cold.
To stop this thermal transmission we use items that have a high R (thermal resistance) rating or in layman’s terms insulation. Generally the higher the R rating the higher the insulation value.
The amount of heat we lose in a home that isn’t insulated is (up to) approximately as follows:
Chimney 12 %
a central floor to a double story building 42 %
walls 24 %
roof 24 %
Considering that 54% of all energy that goes into the home is for heating then any savings we can make in this area can save you quite a bit of money.
A very easy way is to stop as many drafts as possible. Not only will that make your home feel more comfortable but also stops the warm air escaping. Of course we still need fresh air and ventilation but things like drafty doors and windows are easily fixed with either mastic sealants (these are the liquid forms of often silicon based products that get squeezed into gaps and when dry feel rubbery), sticky backed foam tape (which comes in rolls and you cut it to length and stick it to the edges of a door or window opening to help seal it).
With old timber or steel windows see if the putty needs replacing. This is a relatively easy job to do and it will certainly help seal up and stop the drafts if its old and broken or even missing. Putty shrinks as it dries out and with age will crack and let drafts in.
Simple Ideas for making your home more energy efficient and improve your house insulation
Silicon sealing with a caulking gun the vertical intersections between timber and brick or other different materials (e.g. where plaster may join timber) or where scribers join weather boards are all ways to reduce draft or air movement. Make sure that you don’t seal areas that are needed for allowing condensation or moisture out such as the horizontal intersections between the bottom weather board and the concrete foundation or the weep holes to a brick wall. These are very necessary in maintaining a healthy building. Everything needs to breath especially timber but what we are trying to do is get rid of unintentional and unnecessary holes.
The next easiest place to reduce loss of heat to an older home is to insulate the ceiling with a fiberglass or similar blanket. This stuff looks like the candy floss or cotton candy you get at the fair. It acts as a good insulator by trapping air in the fluffy fiberglass layers. If you think of a down filled bedspread or jacket you’ll understand the way air acts as a good insulator when trapped in pockets but also know that a single wool blanket or jacket isn’t as good as it is relying on its density to stop thermal movement.
The fiberglass wool/blanket is laid between the ceiling joists directly onto the lath or plasterboard. This way as heat rises and warms up the plasterboard once it gets to the other side of the board it is trapped by the fiberglass blanket. Similarly in summer when the sun beats down on the roof and the attic or loft space gets hot from summer sun) it goes no further than the space and doesn’t get into the living spaces below.
Although heat rises, when a space such as the attic gets to be full of hot air the heat will naturally radiate in all directions, especially when the air is hotter in the attic than in the house. Remember that heat will flow to the cold. What the fiberglass insulation does is creates a thermal barrier between the attic space and the living spaces below. Plaster board doesn’t do this effectively but does stop air movement.
I have had a number of clients with older homes who have asked me how much insulation should I put in. Your local building control authority will have a minimum set by the government (most building supply stores will know these codes), but my recommendation is to put in the minimum and then what ever extra you can afford after that. I have double insulated my home and although it is a small extra cost it is well worth the effort. Some say it is not necessary, or it is an overkill, or that there is only so much insulation required before it is a waste however the proof is in the reduction in power or electricity bills so it works well here.When installing the blanket use safety gear such as a dust mask and gloves, be careful not to stand on the ceiling itself as it won’t support you, use the framing instead. Don’t cover the light fittings with the blanket, use an approved light fitting cover to avoid any risk of fire.
Glazing If replacing windows then always double glaze if you are able to afford it. The difference between double glazing and single glazing over the total cost of glazing to a home is not a great deal and you will be surprised by the amount of money it saves you and the quality of life in your home that it brings.
Modern double glazing is now often filled with an inert gas in the sealed area between the panes of glass. This helps with the insulation properties of both heat transfer and to an extent, sound. It reduces solar gain in the summer as well as heat loss in the winter.
There are a number of proprietary after market double glazing systems such as using poly carbonate fixed to the inside of existing windows but also with a small air gap. Poly carbonate is a type of plastic that has quite amazing properties.
Unlike acrylic which is also a clear plastic it is very hard and scratch resistant. It is also an incredible insulation material. I was shown a demonstration where a naked flame was help beneath a clear piece of poly carbonate and I was told to put my hand on top of the poly carbonate. Being the trusting person that I was (and if I’d been burnt the sales person would also have been in a lot of pain), I tentatively placed my hand on top of the poly carbonate over the flame. It was cold to touch.
Very weird when you are expecting it to be at least warm. I was immediately convinced of the insulation properties. The downside was that it was expensive but it certainly worked and was much cheaper than replacing all the windows with new double glazing.
Another method of double glazing is to actually double window. This was a very common method in the buildings in Europe. The double windows do the same job as the double glazing but in the summer the second set of internal windows are kept open. The other advantage of double windows to a building is that they are very good sound insulators if the gap between them is 4 to 6 inches or more. As an interior designer another way of achieving this system is to use bi folding shutters to the insides of the windows. This is particularly suited to older and rustic homes. They can be in any number of finishes from timber to glass to fabric covered MDF board.
Reducing Under Floor Drafts
If you are able to get under the house i.e. it is built on piles with a crawl space or has a basement, then using a fiberglass blanket under there or polystyrene sheets between the joists is very effective too. Because wind can get under a house it is important to strap these items in place to stop any movement. The blanket used under a house is usually a special form that is sandwiched in aluminum foil. Ask your local building supply store for the correct type if doing this job yourself or as a good interior designer should be doing if specifying – do some research and find out what’s best in your local market.
Use Drapery to Help Insulate your Home and Save money on The Power Account
Tips for using soft furnishings to reduce heat loss and save your money on heating your home in winter.
Using curtains or drapery is another insulation system that is within the realm of the interior designer.
Be sure to take the drape or curtain all the way to the floor so that there is no air between the drape and the floor / wall that warm air can rise through or cold air can drop through into the room you are insulating.
The heavier the material the better and if you can use a thermal lining (well that speaks for itself).
Try not to be too economical with the use of the fabric and triple width the curtain or drapery. This will help create air pockets as well as force the drape to the edges of the opening, helping seal the window.
A pelmet and curtains are used here to insulate the window.
Another good idea when doing this is to use lead weights to the bottom of the drape so that the material hangs well and doesn’t rise and wrinkle.
Window shades to the exterior of the building will help with reducing solar gain to the building through the glazing and reduce the use of air conditioning in those hotter parts of the world.
Other Ways to Create Energy Efficiency
Other ideas to help with the energy efficiency of your home are to extra insulate your hot water cylinder but using a wrap. This is usually a plastic sandwich filled with a dacron inner. It stops the amount of heat lost by older hot water cylinders that weren’t previously insulated. (The older copper type).
Using fluorescent bulbs or tubes throughout the home will save a great deal of energy as well and do not need to be replaced as regularly as incandescent bulbs. Be careful on your choice though as some are not very aesthetic to look at and many provide a poor light. You need to get the higher wattage fittings and check the color of the light before you decide to fit out the whole house with them. Experiment a little. A 25 watt fluorescent will give out as much light as a 100 watt incandescent.
Find any leaky taps in the house especially the hot ones and don’t delay, fix them or get them fixed by your home handyman or plumber. It will save you a lot as the hot water cylinder is not continually working.
Below is a checklist of the things you can do to make your home more energy efficient:
- Insulate floors ceilings and walls wherever possible.
- Use window shades to reduce solar gain.
- Use drapes or curtains heavy and triple width to stop the thermal movement in and out of the glazing. This can work on very very hot days as well by reducing solar gain.
- Double glaze windows if possible.
- Seal all doors and windows from drafts.
- Block off open fireplaces when not in use.
- Use weather strips to the base of all external doors.
- Using fans inside the house will circulate warm air and not leave it trapped at the top of the room.
- Ventilate the attic – use gable vents.
- Repair all leaking taps.
- Use timers on electrical equipment e.g. exterior lights.
- Insulate the hot water cylinder.
- Use your microwave rather than a large oven whenever possible.
- Flat bottom pots and pans are more efficient.
- Don’t overload appliances such as the dryer, dishwasher or clothes washer. These work far more efficiently when used as they are designed.
If you can only try one or two of these ideas, you will save energy in your home.