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Insulation Upgrade: What Is a Good Investment?

Is an insulation upgrade a wise investment? We often talk about the importance of energy upgrades for your home. But if you’re thinking about an upgrade this winter, such as adding more insulation to your attic, you may be wondering exactly how to calculate whether that’s a wise financial investment.

Insulation Upgrade - What is a Good Investment?There are a variety of formulas available for making this calculation, such as the one from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

It’s not a terribly difficult formula to use, and we’ve modified it here to make it a little more understandable.

You’ll need to do a little research to track down some basic information to fill in the blanks, all of which you can get off the Internet or with a couple of phone calls. Then it’s just a couple of minutes with a tablet and a calculator.

Incidentally, this formula also works for upgrades to wall insulation.

Insulation Formula and Definitions

The DOE’s formula is as follows: (Ci x R1 x R2 x E) ÷ (Ce x [R2 – R1] x HDD x 24)

OK now, don’t let your eyes glaze over, or have terrifying flashbacks to high school algebra class. Here’s what all those variables stand for:

  • Ci: This is the cost of the insulation you’re considering, in dollars per square foot. If you’re doing the work yourself, it’s the cost of the materials, supplies and any rental equipment you need. If you’re having the work done, it’s the estimated cost from the contractor.
  • R1: This is the R-value of the insulation you currently have in the attic.
  • R2: This is the R-value you want to upgrade to.
  • E: Efficiency rating of your heating system. How well your heating system heats your home plays a major role in how much you’re going to save with an insulation upgrade; the less efficient your heating system is, the more energy dollars the additional insulation will save you each year. You may know the specific energy efficiency rating of your particular heating system, or you may be able to get it from your utility company or HVAC contractor. If not, the DOE offers the following general suggestions: oil and propane furnaces, 0.6 to 0.88; natural gas furnaces, 0.7 to 0.95; electric, 1.0; heat pump 2.1 to 2.5.
  • Ce: This is what you’re paying for the energy you use, converted to dollars per British thermal unit (Btu). To arrive at this number, you’ll need to divide the actual price you pay for the fuel you use (electricity, gas, etc.) by the Btu content of that fuel. You can find the price you’re paying on your utility bill or by calling your utility company.

The Btu content of various fuels is as follows:

No. 2 fuel oil = 140,000 Btu/gallon

Electricity = 3,413 Btu/kilowatt-hour

Natural gas = 103,000 Btu/cubic feet or 100,000 Btu/therm

  • HDD: This stands for heating degree days, which is a standard method for determining how cold a specific geographic location is, and how much demand there will be for heating. It’s determined by the statistical average of the number of degrees that a day’s temperature falls below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considered the temperature at which a building needs to be heated. The higher the number of heating degree days in an area, the more demand there is for heat, so the greater the savings will be from an insulation upgrade. You can get your area’s HDD number from your utility company or off the Internet.
  • 24: Hours in a day, used in this formula to convert HDD from days to hours.

Let’s say you have a 1,500-square-foot home with R-11 insulation in the attic. You have electric heat, and you’re currently paying 9 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity. You’re thinking of upgrading to R-38, and a contractor has given you an estimate of $1,200 to do the work. A quick check on the Web has shown you that your area has approximately 7,500 heating degree days.

Here’s how all that would plug into the formula:

  • Ci: 0.80. (Cost of insulation is 80 cents per square foot, based on a $1,200 estimate divided by 1,500 square feet).
  • R1: 11. (Existing attic insulation is R-11).
  • R2: 38. (Proposed upgrade is R-38).
  • E: 1.0. (Electric heat has an efficiency rating of 1.0).
  • Ce: 0.000026. (Electricity in your area costs $0.09 per kilowatt-hour, divided by 3,413 Btu/kwh).
  • HDD: 7500 (The number of heating degree days in your geographical location).

Now, take the formula in plug in the numbers, then do the math:

  • (Ci x R1 x R2 x E) ÷ (Ce x [R2 – R1] x HDD x 24)
  • (.80 x 11 x 38 x 1) ÷ (0.000026 x [38 – 11] x 7500 x 24)
  • 334.4 ÷ (0.000026 x 27 x 7500 x 24)
  • 334.4 ÷ 126.36 = 2.64 years

So, based on this formula and all the variables, you can expect the insulation upgrade to pay for itself in a little over 2 1/2 years.

Brown and Reaves Services, Inc., Serving the entire Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand area. Call us today: 843-497-9867. Remember to grab our 20% off coupon on your next service call by Liking us on Facebook.

Heating Repair Strategies That Will Save You Money

Unfortunately, a lot of people wait to invest in heating maintenance once it breaks down in the middle of winter and your teeth are chattering. However, skipping maintenance and upgrades to your climate control system is a waste of money. Your warm air will be slipping out the window along with your money. Rather than taking your chances, investing in your home early and regularly will help maintain its value longer and will reduce costly emergency HVAC house calls.

Here are three simple strategies that will decrease your energy bills and keep you warm during the colder months.

1. Seal
Maybe your furnace or heating system isn’t the problem. Heating repairs can start from the outside in. Proper sealing of your home is one of the best ways to trap the warmth inside and prevent it from leaking through cracks and crevices. Check all windows, doors, and other potential openings to make sure there is a strong seal and no damage that may be allowing excessive airflow. A few places where hidden holes often lie are the attic, crawl spaces, or basement (if you live in an area that has basements). You may want to hire a professional to inspect these areas, as they can be difficult and dangerous to maneuver around on your own. In addition to sealing these hot spots, your ductwork may have leaks as well. Air will not flow properly and can result in uneven heating if there are any holes.

Insulation2. Insulate
Insulation is another problem in many older homes. Fiberglass, which is a popular pink foam-like batting used within many walls, is far less energy efficient than new varieties of insulation. Your furnace, heat pump, ductwork, or boiler may all be working in top form, but you won’t reap the benefits of a warm house and lower energy bills if your insulation is working against you. If possible, consider upgrading to a more economical option. While expensive to install initially, eco-friendly spray foam insulation has a much greater energy rating, resale value, and overall longevity than its older counterparts. It comes with some other great benefits such as soundproofing and built-in pest control.

3. Regular Maintenance
Just because your heater is working now, doesn’t mean it will be running at top performance levels all year long without some maintenance. Many minor heating repair jobs can be done on your own, such as dusting the vents, checking and changing the air filter, and cleaning the outside of the condensing coil. While a little bit of elbow grease on your part is helpful, you’ll still want to have a professional tune up annually, or at the very least every two years, depending on the amount you use your system. Our Myrtle Beach HVAC professionals will inspect all working parts such as the ignition, fan switch, thermostat, ducts, and drains. They will also perform tests, lubricate the machinery for more fluid movement, and top off or change fluids as needed. These small tasks can prevent bigger, more expensive problems from developing in the future.

Insulation: Important for Maintaining Heat in Your Home

Energy efficiency is the key to reducing your energy bill these days, particularly in the winter months when you have to run your heater. With insulation options these days, you should have no problem retaining the heat in your home to reduce your dependency on energy. Insulation’s primary function is to slow down the heat flowing into and out of your home. In summer months, insulation keeps the outdoor heat from creeping inside while in the winter months, it traps heat inside the home to prevent it from escaping.

Choosing the right kind of insulation and knowing how much to use is important. You also need to know how it should be installed in the attic, walls and ceilings and even the foundation and floors of your home. When you can ensure there are no air leaks in your home and add proper insulation, you can greatly reduce your energy bill and reliance on fossil fuels.

Four Basic Kinds of Insulation

House InsulationFour basic kinds of insulation exist: liquid foam, loose fill, rigid foam and rolls or bats (blankets). The blanketed and loose fill is most often used in homes, particularly in attics, between floor joists, in the walls and between rafters in the roof. Liquid foam is primarily used in walls as it is a perfect material to seal any potential air leaks and create an airtight home. Rigid foam resembles sheets of foam and is usually used in the out walls of a home and other outdoor applications.

When you choose insulation for your home, there are several factors you should consider. First, will the insulation pose any type of danger to your family? Is it composed of materials that are harmful to the environment, specifically your home? Consider the long term performance your insulation will provide. You want its insulating properties to last for years.

If you already have insulation but you are replacing it or adding more, you must find out how much is already there. Measure the thickness of the insulation already present so you can get an R-value from the home improvement store and decide whether you need to add more insulation and how much. The R-value fluctuates depending on where you live as well as what heat source you use – gas or electric. Your goal is to strive for a higher R-value than what is required by your area to ensure optimal insulating properties.

You will notice in your insulation shopping that there are a variety of materials to choose from. Fiberglass is by far the most popular in the rolls of insulation that you lay out but it is tough to work with because the glass-like fibers can get into your skin. Special protective gear is must when working with fiberglass. Cellulose, cotton, mineral wool, lamb’s wool and recycled paper and fabric are also used as insulation.

Each type of insulation material has a different R-value so you must keep that in mind when shopping for not only the type of insulation but the material it is made from. Of course, where you are using the insulation is another mitigating factor in your decision.

If you have any questions about insulation, or need someone to analyze the insulation in your Myrtle Beach home, call us for a free evaluation and recommendation. Brown & Reaves Services, Inc., is a full service heating and air conditioning service, serving all of the Grand Strand and Myrtle Beach areas. Call us today. 843-497-9867.

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