RSS Feed

ARE YOUR UTILITY BILLS SKY HIGH? CHECK YOUR R-VALUES

ARE YOUR UTILITY BILLS SKY HIGH? CHECK YOUR R-VALUES
“A man’s life is what his thoughts make it.”  – Marcus Aurelius
I recently overheard a couple at a hardware store exchange words as they peered down over a massive pile of insulation marked with various R-factors. “Just what IS an R-factor?, queried the woman. “Well, it has to do with how well the insulation does its job—so I guess an R-factor is kind of like the home’s “utility I.Q.”

It’s an interesting analogy since insulation does make your home smarter where utility bills are concerned. But unfortunately, many people don’t properly upgrade the insulation in their home when and where they should. And, in warmer climates, home owners often sidestep the importance of proper insulation all together. How can you gauge if your home is properly insulated and how can it potentially cut hundreds of dollars annually off your utility bills?

The R-factor, simply put, is the measurement of how well insulation resists (thus, the “R”) heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulating power. Heat (which is a form of energy) tends to gravitate towards cooler areas in the home (ie. the attic, the walls, the crawl spaces.) That’s why it makes the most sense to have these areas with ample, high-efficiency insulation.

But insulation isn’t just for controlling heat. Resistance works in reverse where cool air is concerned, keeping the warm air from flowing into spaces you’re trying to keep cool. That’s why home owners in warm climates need to know their home’s R-factors in order to keep a lid on their air conditioning bills.
What R-values are considered standard and how do they vary from climate to climate? Manufacturers clearly mark the R-value on the types of insulation they produce. Home owners can often use various types of insulation together to obtain a high R-value. (An example of this is hard-to-access exterior walls where insulation is blown in on top of existing insulation.) Standard R-values differ based on what part of the home you’re trying to insulate. For example, since the attic is the biggest area for energy loss, colder climates require values ranging from R-38 to R-49. But in the South, R-19 in the attic should be ample.

Most local building codes require an R-value of R-19 for exterior walls. But if a home is built using 2 x 6 studs, there’s enough space in the wall cavity to insulate up to a value of R-21.

A frequent cold air leak can be where the house meets the foundation. In fact, you can lose up to 20% of your home’s heating/cooling energy from the foundation area in an non-insulated or poorly insulated home. That’s why it’s important to insulate around the area where the house meets the foundation, not just in the basement walls.

Just because insulation is thick doesn’t mean it has a high R-value. Many manufacturers are now producing higher R-value in fiber glass products by merely increasing the density while keeping the thickness the same. Today you might see R-15 insulation in a wall where R-13 was previously the max due to physical constraints. The efficiency has changed while the physical size of the insulation remains the same.

The bottom line is that if your utility bills are calling “Uncle”, it’s high time you review the R-values in your home. Like the man at the hardware store said, they’re your home’s “utility I.Q.”

Advertisements

About Mme Jocelyne

Hi, I'm a transplanted northerner–(born and raised in New York to French immigrants–Oui je parle Francais)-living in Florida for 20 years. In the 70's I worked as a realtor in the Bronx – City Island to be exact. Then I started a family and didn't keep up my license. I aspired to a career in architecture, so I went to New York Institute of Technology for three years, moved to Florida and finished my degree at the University of Florida in Gainesville. After 10 years of working in my dream career I sustained an injury to my shoulder. This injury never healed because I was constantly on the computer doing cad design. I finally decided to make a career change – something where I could use my training as an architect. Needless to say, I was worried – where will the money come from? How will I be able to afford my career change? But, I put my faith in God and went for it. It’s the best move I ever made, other than my husband, children and dogs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: