On the Installation of Insulation: “Storm Windows and Insulation Save Money”

As the nighttime temperatures begin to fall, it is useful to remember that there are few investments in your home that are less visible, but more valuable, than insulation.  There have been some tremendous advances in the technology of insulation in the last decade and these improved products can keep your home cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter and save you money throughout the year.  Another addition that can be made quickly and affordably is the addition of storm windows to a home.  This can help prevent water penetration and serve to cut heat loss from the windows almost as much as installing expensive new double glazed windows.

In my work as an architect, we were recently asked to help renovate a home that had been built in the 1970’s. When the contractor opened the walls to update the insulation as per our specifications he discovered that there was no insulation to dispose of.  For nearly forty years the heating and cooling had been going out right through the walls! Instead of heating the house, the house had been contributing to heating the environment. In an instance like this, the savings on the heat following installation of new insulation can be enormous. How much is the savings worth? Image you are able to reduce a monthly heating bill from $350 to $200. To get that same $150 savings per month from an account paying 1% interest you would currently need to have $180,000 in the bank.   Even if you choose a more historic rate of 5%, the present value of the savings is still worth $36,000, so the return on investment can be excellent.

What is the best way to know if your house can benefit from increased insulation? If the snow melts off the top of your roof quickly, that is a good sign you need better insulation. You can also have infrared images of your house taken during the wintertime to see how and where the heat is escaping from your home.

In addition to lowering the cost to heat and cool your home, new insulation helps decrease your “carbon footprint,” which is the amount of energy and excess carbon dioxide your home puts into the atmosphere. For each and every gallon of fuel oil you use each year approximately 18 pounds of carbon dioxide are created. This is the type of gas that many scientists have identified as causing the increasingly chaotic climate conditions of fire and flood we have all seen in the recent news and weather reports. What could be better than helping save the environment and saving money at the same time?

Another benefit of the new forms of insulation is that they can help reduce the draftiness of a house and they can help prevent water leaks as well. One thing that this means is that the fresh air intake of HVAC should be increased to compensate for the air that will not be coming through the walls and window frames after the renovation.

There are many types of insulation available these days including fiberglass, open cell, closed cell and rigid, so you should work with your architect and contractor to help you choose the appropriate product, but also to design the system correctly so that you have proper ventilation and humidity control within the walls. With storm windows, the savings should also quickly cover the cost of the installation. While installing storm windows is expressly permitted by the Newport Historic District regulations, choosing the right windows that complement the look and function of your home is still important. The sooner you are able to upgrade your insulation and install storm windows the sooner you will begin to save money and the more money you will save in the long-term!

Ross Sinclair Cann, AIA, LEED AP, is, an historian, educator and practicing architect living and working in Newport with A4 Architecture Inc. This article was initially published in ARCHI-TEXT, in Newport This Week, November 8, 2012.

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