Money in the attic? How a simple project can lead to big savings

Most homeowners rarely venture up to their attics, but as winter approaches, many will make the annual trip upstairs to put away warm-weather items and retrieve holiday decorations. While a home’s attic is ideal for storage, smart homeowners realize that their attics also represent a great opportunity to save money.

How? Similar to the human body, the largest source of potential heat loss in a home is through the top. Thankfully, attic insulation works like a thick winter hat – it traps the heat inside so your house stays warm and comfortable.

More than 60 percent of U.S. homes are under insulated, and the average home needs up to 19 inches of fiber glass attic insulation for maximum energy efficiency. By using a tape measure to check the depth of their attic insulation, homeowners can easily see if their homes are up to par. Homeowners can reduce their homes’ heating and cooling costs by as much as 20 percent through proper insulation and air sealing techniques, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Homeowners are always looking for ways to stretch their household budgets, and there’s no better time than now to be proactive about reducing your home’s energy use,” says Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit dedicated to promoting energy efficiency. “Heating and cooling can account for nearly half of a home’s energy bill, and there are many smart, economical steps homeowners can take to cut their monthly utility bills and increase the overall comfort of their homes.”

Installing attic insulation and other simple steps
After measuring the depth of their existing attic insulation, homeowners should estimate the current performance of their homes by utilizing an online energy-efficiency tool, such as the Home Energy Analysis test available at

“One of the best ways to get started is to evaluate your home’s potential for energy savings and then develop a game plan focused on the projects that will provide the best return on investment,” says Mike Lawrence, vice president and general manager of Insulation Systems for Johns Manville, a manufacturer of building products. “An online assessment can help determine a home’s insulation needs, such as the recommended amount of insulation for your region and the appropriate R-value for your project. Such tools even provide a product guide that can be taken to Lowe’s to help identify the best insulation products for the job.”

Once the appropriate materials have been selected, DIY-savvy homeowners can install the insulation themselves by simply placing insulation batts or rolls into the floor joists of their attics, on top of any existing insulation. Not interested in the do-it-yourself approach? Hire an insulation contractor – seek recommendations from friends or family or speak with a reputable retail outlet about available installed sales programs.

In many cases, additional attic insulation is one of the most effective ways to improve a home’s energy efficiency. Homeowners looking to take it a step further should also take advantage of the following low- or no-cost opportunities:

* Weatherize your attic: By using caulk, spray foam or weather stripping to eliminate any holes or gaps that may exist in the floor or walls of their attic, homeowners can stop costly air leaks.

* Install a programmable thermostat: The EPA reports homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings.

* Insulate your water heater: Adding a hot water heater blanket around older water heaters can reduce excessive heat loss. It’s also a good idea to insulate the hot and cold water pipes extending a few feet from the water heater.

* Mind your chimney: Fireplace chimneys are a source of heat loss. Keep your fireplace damper closed when not in use.

* Take advantage of passive heat: Keep south-facing window blinds and drapes open while it’s sunny to absorb solar heat during the day, and close your window blinds and drapes at night to retain the heat.

For more insulation installation tips and information on energy efficient home improvement projects, visit or


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