The air in your home is a constantly flowing, constantly changing part of your house. Even when it feels like nothing is happening, your air is circulating.
Air likes to travel from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. That means that when your home is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer, the air is looking for any place to escape that it can.
A properly insulated home prevents a lot of heat flow from taking place. When you’re spending cold, hard cash to heat and cool your home that means insulation can save you some serious dough.
Let’s look at some specifics about how heat flow works in your home and where it’s escaping and costing you money.
Conduction happens when heat is transferred from one object to another. For example, if you’re holding a metal spoon over an open flame, heat will be conducted through the spoon to your hand (and burn you if you don’t let go!).
The majority of heat flow loss in your home occurs through conduction. Your walls, windows, doors, roof, and basement all touch the outdoors, and your heat energy is transferred through them.
Proper insulation and preventing gaps and air leaks is key to preventing heat exchange through conduction in your home.
Insulation is rated by its R-value, which is a measure of a material’s ability to provide thermal resistance. The material acts as a buffer between the exterior and interior of your home.
When the correct R-value material is installed, it results in preventing the conduction of heat from inside your home outside, and vice versa. If insulation is installed improperly and there are gaps in the insulation or air leaks become present, there’s no buffer to prevent conduction from occurring, so heat will exchange rapidly in those areas.
Warm air is less dense than cold air, which is why it rises. It’s the process known as convection, and anyone who has put their hand over a candle or put their face over the flames on their stove has felt it. Warm air from the flames rises and makes the area above it noticeably hotter.
If your home is sealed properly, convection will evenly heat your home as warm air rises and settles back down. In fact, the registers in your home are designed with convection in mind.
Because warm wants to escape, it will find ways to circulate out through open doors and even miniscule openings it can find in your walls, windows and doors. Those gaps, cracks, and holes can majorly disrupt convection from effectively heating and cooling your home and cost you money.
Radiation sounds like a scary word, but radiant heat is all around us. Radiant heat travels along electromagnetic waves and is given off by everything from the sun (felt by us as sunshine!) to humans and animals (think thermal or infrared cameras).
Radiant heat warms objects (e.g., you inside your home) faster because it moves through open spaces and is absorbed directly by the object and converted into heat. Some homes have radiant heaters installed, but most radiant heat affects homes in the form of sunshine hitting the roof and siding.
Sunshine can heat your home quickly during the summer, which can cause your AC unit to work overtime. Radiant barriers with a reflective surface can be installed to help mitigate the effect.
AREAS OF HEAT LOSS
Now that you have a better understanding of the types of heat flow affecting your home, let’s look at the ways it’s costing you money.
Windows are a big offender when it comes to heat exchange in your home.
Modern windows offer a variety of glazing to maintain insulation and can be constructed with an insulating layer of argon or krypton to increase their efficiency.
While modern windows are far superior to their single-pane counterparts of old, they’re still not perfect. Whether it’s a scorching day or a frigid day, sitting in front of the window likely isn’t the most comfortable place in a home.
Heat could be escaping through the caulking and weatherstripping around your windows if it’s worn out and cracked. Fortunately, this is a simple DIY fix, and you can check for air leaks on your own.
If your windows aren’t performing up to your standards of insulation they can easily be updated and replaced.
Your insulation works hard to keep you from losing money from heat flow through your walls. But if your insulation wasn’t properly installed or doesn’t have a high enough R-value, it could be costing you money.
Insulation that’s been cut too short or too narrow (or that has settled over time) creates air gaps in your walls that you’ll never see. If you have compressed insulation that was jammed into your walls, you lose its effective R-value, too. Some types of insulation lose their effectiveness over time, so depending on the age of your home you may need to consider more insulation.
There’s no easy DIY way to tell if you’ve got the proper insulation in your home. If you suspect that you have a problem with poorly insulated walls (you may have high energy bills or an incredibly drafty room), it’s best to call a professional.
If you’re like most homeowners, you have a stick frame home. That means you have wooden studs every 16 to 24 inches in your walls. Because wooden 2X4s are more conductive than the insulation that surrounds them, it creates a thermal bridge that allows heat to move through them. Post frame homes, like those designed by New Energy Homes, have significantly more space between posts, which means that solid walls of insulation help keep your home more energy efficient.
Inspect for air leaks around your baseboards, the edges of your flooring, and where your ceiling and walls join. Your outlet boxes can also be notorious spots to leak air if insulation wasn’t properly cut to fit around them. Any gaps in insulation you find should be filled and/or sealed.
Your roof protects your home from the elements, but it also serves a major function in insulating your home.
Like your walls, your roof and your attic need insulation to provide a buffer from allowing hot and cold air from exchanging in your home. Any gaps in insulation mean there’s an opportunity for warm air to leak out of your home.
A surefire way to tell you have poor insulation in your roof is to look for snow after a storm. If there’s snow or frost on your neighbors’ homes but not yours, that’s a good sign that you’re losing a lot of heat through your roof.
Most insulation naturally compacts and loses its effectiveness over time. A professional can make a recommendation on updating your roof and attic insulation if you think you may be losing heat through your roof.
The best place to start if you suspect you’re wasting energy through heat flow issues is by performing a home energy assessment. You can assess your home on your own or call in a professional to perform a thorough examination.
Proper insulation starts with proper construction. If you’re looking to build a high-performance home with superior insulation abilities, a house from New Energy Homes may be right for you. Contact us today to speak with one of our knowledgeable team members to learn more!