Air Sealing Basics

air sealing

While it’s well-known that homes require insulation to mitigate heat loss through walls, ceilings and floors, the concept of air sealing is often less understood. Yet, the Green Building Advisor states that, “one third of the energy you pay for probably leaks through holes in your house.”

Air leaks occur when outside air enters and conditioned air leaves your house uncontrollably through cracks and openings. In addition to wasting energy, air leaks may contribute to moisture problems, and poor indoor air quality (U.S. Department of Energy, 1999).

Air sealing will save you money on heating and cooling costs, improve system longevity, and increase occupant comfort. It will also help to create a healthier indoor environment. Air sealing doesn’t require much effort, and is generally very cost-productive.

Air Sealing Measures

Some measures you can do yourself include:

  • Caulking around windows and doors
  • Installing foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates
  • Installing weatherstripping around windows and doors (include the garage door)
  • Replacing door bottoms (thresholds) with those that feature pliable gaskets

Other sources of air leaks, such as attic and lighting fixture penetrations, are best addressed by a professional. Before beginning any of these measures, it is a good idea to have a comprehensive energy audit performed, which includes both a visual inspection and thermal imaging scan. An energy audit can detect cold spots, air leaks and intrusion, energy-hogging appliances, and insufficient insulation levels.

Save with Energy Upgrade Rebates

Good news! There are several energy upgrade rebates available that make air sealing substantially more affordable. Eligible homeowners can recoup 75% of their project costs; up to $250 for air sealing and up to $400 for insulation through SRP. To check eligibility requirements, click here. We are an SRP Certified Contractor. APS and Electrical District No. 3 offer similar rebates.

Multiple Applications for Closed-Cell Spray Foam Insulation

spray foam insulation

Closed-cell spray foam insulation is renowned for being a superior material for both residential and commercial projects. Its unique application allows it to improve energy-efficiency while also enclosing conditioned air inside the structure, thus, reducing the amount of money spent on wasted energy. It’s also virtually impervious to moisture, preventing the loss of R-value, as well as the growth of mold.

Because it will not shrink or settle, its high R-value – it can achieve an R-20 at 3 inches and R-41 at 6 inches – and acoustical performance lasts the life of a structure. It is manufactured on site by combining an isocyanate and a polymeric resin through state-of-the-art equipment. Properly installed, closed-cell spray foam insulation can adhere to a wide variety of substrates including concrete, metal and wood.

Applications for closed-cell spray foam insulation include:

  • Roofs: Spray foam insulation can be used as a re-roofing material, applied directly on the existing roof structure, providing two important benefits: 1) waterproofing and 2) increased R-value. This application is more commonly seen in commercial building rather than residential.
  • Exterior walls: One of the positive attributes of spray foam insulation is its versatility. It’s compatible with many wall types and can be sprayed onto the exterior sheathing in new construction projects, or assimilated between stud cavities in retrofit situations.
  • Interior walls: Upgrading insulation with spray foam insulation allows you to benefit from fewer drafts, more consistent indoor temperatures, better indoor air quality, and reduced noise pollution. Similar benefits can be achieved when installed under floors.
  • Custom insulation applications: Contact for more information

Banker Insulation specializes in insulating your residential and commercial building envelope using the highest-quality insulation materials. Our experienced team is ready to partner with you on your next project. Call us today at 602-273-1261. For a free quote, click here.

6 Energy Efficient Ways to Beat the Heat this Summer

beat the heat

Air conditioning may ensure your comfort during the summer, but running it non-stop during a heat wave will have you cringing when your utility bill arrives in the mail. The good news is that there are several ways you can beat the heat this summer without increasing your energy bills.

Here are some energy efficient ways to beat the heat that’ll pay off immediately.

Use your ceiling fans wisely. During the summer, ceiling fans should rotate counterclockwise to push cool air down, creating a wind chill effect. This allows you to set the thermostat at a higher temperature without sacrificing comfort. Portable fans produce the same effect. Turn them off when you leave the room.

Draw the curtains. During the day, room temperatures can rise by as much as 20 degrees, especially in areas with windows that get direct sunlight. Keep your curtains closed during the summer. Blackout curtains are often the most effective at reducing heat gain.

Switch out your light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs produce a lot more heat than you might think. They are also considered the least energy efficient. LEDs (light emitting diodes) use only 20-25% of the energy and last up to 25 times longer than the traditional light bulbs they replace. Choose bulbs that are ENERGY STAR certified.

Clean or change you’re A/C filters once a month. Your air conditioner consumes 5-10% more energy if the filter is clogged or dirty. You should change or clean the filter out on your A/C unit once a month.

Avoid using your stove or oven during the day. One of the last things you want to do on a hot day is generate more heat. Wait until sundown to use your stove or oven. Use smaller appliances, such as hot plates, crockpots, pressure cookers, and microwaves during the day. Small appliances have the added benefit of being energy efficient.

Install new insulation. Insulation can help keep your home an average of 20 degrees cooler or warmer year-round. It will also reduce your energy bills. Look for insulation with a high R-value (the insulation’s ability to reduce heat transfer). You can choose between fiberglass, cellulose, and spray foam insulation for this project.

5 Simple Ways to Soundproof Your Home

soundproof

Because we all deserve a little peace and quiet.

Noise – there is no escaping it. Whether it is the result of noisy neighbors above you, music blaring, an airplane passing overhead or honking cars outside, there is nothing more irritating to the senses than unwanted noise. Unwanted noise that can have far reaching consequences according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In fact, any unwanted noise that our ears haven’t been trained to filter out can mess with our sleep, add to our stress, infringe on our privacy, and generally compromise our quality of life. Fortunately, there are a number of soundproofing initiatives you can take alleviate the problem, which don’t require you to go through the expense of remodeling your home.

Here are 5 simple ways to soundproof your home:

#1. Add Insulation

Adding insulation is one of the most effective ways to keep unwanted noise out. Good candidates for additional insulation include the ceilings, walls and attic. Blown-in cellulose is an effective sound insulator. Made from recycled paper or denim, it contains no VOCs, is fire-resistant and environmentally friendly, too. Rigid foam board insulation is another good choice.

#2. Upgrade Your Windows

In terms of blocking sound, the windows in your home probably aren’t cutting it; especially if you’re still rocking single pane glass. Your monthly heating and cooling costs may also be higher than they should be. Replacing old, inefficient windows with double pane offers much more in the way of energy efficiency and noise reduction, without paying a premium for triple pane windows.

#3. Apply Weatherstripping

There are many low-cost ways to soundproof your home. One of the easiest: weatherstripping each window and door in your home. Weatherstrip all points where sash meets jambs, headers and sills, using adhesive-backed high-density foam tape. Fill tiny cracks or gaps with an acoustical caulk sealant. Replacing hollow-core entry doors with solid-core will also help quiet outside noise.

#4. Hang Sound-absorbing Curtains

The same materials used to decorate your home can help absorb a great deal of sound, as well as stop the transmission of outdoor sounds, and keep the sun out of your rooms. Look for tightly-woven, heavy materials such as velvets, embroidered brocade and wools or blackout curtains with built-in liners. To maximize the sound reduction, make sure they cover the wall above and below your window too.

#5. Try – Duct Wrap

Your plumbing also contributes to noise. Water running through pipes is unavoidable, but by insulating those pipes, you can cut associated sounds in half. The same is true for air ducts. Apply duct wrap to all joints before wrapping them with insulation. Use foil-backed insulation with a minimum R-value (thermal resistance rating) of 6. You can also apply this combo to your home’s water heater.

How to Insulate an Attic

insulate an attic

Heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, accounts for more than half of the energy consumed in an average home. This means that an attic that is not properly insulated could be costing you big bucks as heat rises. Taking steps to prevent this loss is good for the environment, good for you, and good for your wallet. Use the following information to insulate an attic.

How much does it cost to insulate an attic?

According to this year’s Cost vs. Value report, which compares the average cost of 29 popular home improvement projects with the value those projects retain at resale in 99 U.S. markets, hiring a contractor to install insulation in your attic will cost $1,343. On the upside, you will see a 107.7% return on investment (ROI), should you ever decide to sell or refinance your home. In addition, you may qualify to receive a federal tax credit of 10% of the cost, up to $500.

How much material do I need?

That depends. Insulation levels are specified by R-value. R-value is a measure of an insulation material’s ability to resist heat flow. Higher R-values are required in colder areas, whereas, R-38 is the recommended value for temperate and hotter climates. Take a look at ENERGY STAR’s recommended home insulation R-values guidelines for more information. Keep in mind that R-values vary depending on material.

Armed with this information, you will then want to measure the length and width of your attic to determine how many square feet of insulation you’ll need. To complete this job, you may also need other materials, such as silicone caulk, metal flashing, and weatherstripping, as it is important to first seal off any existing air leaks or drafts. Sealing off these leaks will provide benefits for years to come.

Tips for Working in the Attic

  • Have a plan in place. The key to any successful project – especially a project of this magnitude – is adequate planning. Before beginning, gather all necessary tools and supplies, including a flashlight. You’ll also want to ensure the area is well-lit by using a work light.
  • Protect yourself. Insulation can be itchy and irritating to the skin, as well as harmful to the lungs, which is why it’s important to wear the proper gear to protect yourself. We recommend wearing safety googles, work gloves, a face mask, and a lightweight disposable coverall in addition to using knee pads.

3 Steps to an Insulated Attic

Step 1: Seal Air Leaks

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that you or a professional air seal your attic before insulating it. There are many benefits to air sealing including reducing heating and cooling costs, improving durability, increasing comfort, and creating a healthier indoor environment. Caulking and weatherstripping are two effective air sealing techniques that offer quick returns on investment.

Step 2: Choose Your Insulation

Loose Fill Insulation – No one says you have to use the same type of insulation that currently exists in your attic when adding additional material. You can easily use loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets. If you choose to use loose fill insulation, it may be in your best interest to hire a professional as this type of material requires specialized machines and techniques.

Batt Insulation – Laying fiberglass rolls is an easy to moderate do-it-yourself project. Sold in various widths, this type of insulation is designed to fit easily within most typical joists, although layering is required to get the proper R-value for your zone. When laying down additional insulation, work from the perimeter, moving towards the attic opening. Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents.

Step 3: Create Barriers

No matter the material, if you’re installing insulation near recessed lights or soffit vents, you’ll want to use sheet metal or wire mesh to help create a barrier. Insulation and recessed light fixtures do not mix! Some recessed lights, however, are designed for “insulation contact” or “IC,” in which case no barrier is required. Check the fixture first before installing insulation.

Understanding Heat Transfer

heat transfer

One of the biggest contributors to expensive home energy bills is the heat transfer that occurs as a direct result of insufficient or improper insulation. Heat transfer is the movement of heat from the indoors to outdoors during the winter, and from outdoors to indoors during the summer. Controlling the transfer of heat in and out of your home is an essential first step in reducing your home’s energy use.

Types of Heat Transfer

Heat is transferred to and from an object – in this case: your home – via one of three methods: conduction, radiation, and convection. Understanding how conduction, radiation, and convection work will help you insulate smarter and stop dreading those monthly energy bills. Let’s examine each of these in more detail.

Conduction is the transfer of heat through liquids or gases. On hot days, heat is conducted into your home through the roof, walls, and windows. This results in an increase of energy use. Insulation, energy-efficient windows, and heat-reflecting roofs slow the heat conduction and help maintain a comfortable temperature.

Radiation is the transfer of heat through space in the form of visible and non-visible light. Sunlight is an obvious source of heat for homes. This results in more wear and tear, as well as energy use, on your HVAC system as it attempts to overcome the heat gained. Energy-efficient windows, UV films and screens, and blinds can help block this radiation.

Convection is the third method for heat transfer. Convection affects your home by air infiltration. Convection occurs through all surfaces of the home – walls, floor, roof, windows, and doors. Weatherstripping, caulk, outlet gaskets, and spray foam are key products for ensuring a tight envelope.

Energy Audits

One of the best ways to combat heat transfer is to schedule a comprehensive energy audit, which often includes both a visual inspection and thermal imaging scan. Together these detect cold spots, air leaks and intrusion, energy hogging appliances, and, of course, insufficient amounts of insulation. Consider having an energy audit done if your home is drafty in the winter, and stuffy in the summer, or your energy bills seem excessive.

Ensuring Sufficient Insulation

Ensuring sufficient insulation is important because it resists the flow of heat. Insulation in attic, wall, and floor cavities force the heat to conduct from one insulation fiber to another which slows the passage of heat. Insulation adds to your comfort, increases sound control, creates a healthier home environment, reduces your energy bills, and has a positive impact on the environment.

The Importance of Air Sealing

 

air sealing

{Source: Energy,gov}

Leaks can be a significant source of wasted energy and money. Found in almost every home are the cracks, gaps, and holes that allow the air you just paid to heat or cool to escape far too easily. A relatively easy, do-it-yourself way to increase your home’s energy efficiency is air sealing.

Air sealing is also quite cost effective – as long as you know what areas to attack with the caulk gun or insulating foam. A home energy assessment can accurately pinpoint these areas, assess your home’s energy consumption,  and recommend ways to improve its energy efficiency.

While a professional home energy assessment will provide you with the most accurate results, you can conduct your own assessment by carefully walking through your home, with a handy flashlight at your side. This will allow you to spot many of the area’s in requirement of air sealing.

Leaks can be sealed with caulk, spray foam, and weather stripping depending on the problem area. When done correctly, air sealing has the potential to reduce your energy bills, increase your home’s indoor air quality, and decrease your chances for dealing with mold and rot.

Where You’re Losing the Most Air

  • Ceiling, walls & floors = 31%
  • Ducts = 15%
  • Fireplace = 14%
  • Plumbing penetrations = 13%
  • Doors = 11%
  • Windows = 10%
  • Fans and vents = 4%
  • Electrical outlets = 2%

If you didn’t know the importance of targeting these areas first, you do now! Especially since each and every one of these air leaks can cause a number of problems such as mold, drafts, and heat loss. Information source: U.S. Department of Energy.

Do-It-Yourself Air Sealing

Fireplaces: Fireplaces are notorious for drafting a lot of heated or conditioned air out of homes. Make sure you have a tight-fitting damper that opens and closes properly. Pinterest has some great ideas for DIY insulated fireplace screens.

Windows & Doors: Caulking and weather-stripping goes a long way towards combating leaky windows and doors. Using low-expansion foam, insulate around the frames of your doors and windows, and caulk where the drywall and trim intersect.

Outlets & Switches: Turn power off at the circuit breaker before proceeding. Remove face plates. Place stick-on foam outlet sealers around the outlet/switch. For best results, carefully apply spray foam around the junction box’s exterior.

Pipes & Ductwork: Use low-expansion foam or caulk to seal any wall penetrations due to pipe or duct-work. Seal all duct joints and seams using the same materials. You can also tape them. Wrap hot and cold water pipes with insulation.