Home improvements can equal big savings

Published 1:59 pm Monday, September 27, 2010

No matter where you live or what your income level, we are looking for ways to save around the house.

Homes that have the right amount of insulation cost less to heat and cool, are more comfortable and cost less to operate.

Unless the home’s design includes energy efficiency, adding insulation can be a good way to save money. Older homes usually do not have much insulation, which can mean higher energy bills. Even if a home is new, more insulation can pay for itself in a few years and increase the home’s resale value.

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The ABC’s of Insulation: The Federal Trade Commission requires insulation manufacturers and sellers to test and label their products. Generally, the higher the “R-value” the more energy saved.

When purchasing insulation, installers and retailers are required to give an R-value fact sheet. New home sellers must give information about the type, thickness, and R-value of the insulation in each part of the house. Many state or local building codes include minimum requirements for home insulation. For those purchasing a new home or adding on to an existing home, be sure the home or home addition meets those codes. It will save money in the end.

The amount of insulation needed depends on the climate, the part of the house, and the type of heating and cooling systems.

The attic is the best place to start. The Department of Energy has on online calculator to help determine the amount of insulation needed. Visit the Zip Code Insulation Program website at www.ornl.gov/~roofs/Zip/ZipHomes.html.

Another way to save energy around your home is to make sure your have well insulated windows.

For those homeowners in the market for new windows, consider high-efficiency alternatives.

Look for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label, an independent industry rating system for energy performance of windows, doors, and skylights.

Look for windows made of low emissivity — or “low-E” — glass. Low-E glass has a special thin coating that lets in light, but reduces heat transfer.

In warmer climates, consider windows with “spectrally selective coatings” — glazes that let light in, but keep heat out. In colder climates select windows that are gas-filled to reduce heat loss.

Also, remember that replacing old windows with new energy efficient ones will not only save on your energy bill, but you may also be eligible for a tax credit.

Callie Nelson is county extension coordnator.