No matter where you live in the country or world, there’s a good chance you rely on some sort of heating or cooling process to keep you comfortable.
For people in colder climates, heaters are a popular choice, and for those in sweltering conditions, air conditioning is the way to go. Although these systems were designed to keep us happy and comfortable, they are also detrimental to the environment when used in large quantities.
Heating and cooling equate to a huge portion of our average energy use, but the miracle of insulation has been able to limit its use when done correctly.
Ducted HVAC is a popular choice in commercial and domestic settings, but even this type of setup needs its own method of insulation to ensure it’s working efficiently.
What is duct insulation and can it save you money?
Duct insulation is insulation applied directly to heating and cooling ducts to keep temperatures regulated. As the air in these ducts is different from the air in the rest of the house because it’s heated from use, having insulation on them can keep these temperatures down and stable which then reduces costs.
Being eco-friendly is about looking at our way of life and doing what we can to make a difference, even if it seems minute.
Your heating and cooling setup at home and the office is one of the areas where you can make real change, so check out our guide on insulation, ventilation, and HVAC ducts to see what it’s all about.
- 1 The Average Cost of Heating and Cooling
- 2 What’s Involved With Duct Insulation?
- 3 The Different Types of Insulation
- 4 Insulating the Entire House
- 5 Detecting Areas That Need Insulation
- 6 Leaks, Holes, and Poorly Connected Ducts
- 7 How To Tell If Your Ducts Are Performing
- 8 Roof Ventilation and Why It Matters
- 9 Related Questions
The Average Cost of Heating and Cooling
When you think of the energy the average household uses to run each day, you might forget just how important HVAC systems are in that equation.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning costs are some of the biggest energy consumers at home, and according to the US Energy Information Administration, cooling alone was responsible for around 16% of the residential sector’s consumption.
Thankfully, there are some easy ways you can reduce your reliance on these systems, whether it’s an air conditioner or ducted heating. The more we learn about how to improve energy efficiency with things like insulation or solar power, the better it is for our utility bills and the planet.
The average US household spends hundreds of dollars each year on these systems, and not to mention the costs for repairs and installations.
By looking at newer and greener ways to heat and cool our homes we can save a lot of money in the long term but also reduce our carbon footprint by chewing up less energy just to stay comfortable.
What’s Involved With Duct Insulation?
Insulation has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce energy costs, as a home with the right amount of insulation and in the right areas, will have to rely very little on their air conditioner or heater.
Duct insulation is an often overlooked area though, as it refers to the insulation which covers the ducts that we use for these HVAC systems.
These systems, whether they are heating or cooling our home, operate with a lot of power, and it’s usual for them to get overheated.
As the ducts pushing the air out are at a different temperature to what’s inside the house, it can cause them to overwork and we end up wasting a lot of energy and not being able to maintain a comfortable temperature in our homes.
Duct insulation is a relatively simple process that can be done by the home handyman if they’re willing.
To insulate the existing ductwork in your home, use faced fiberglass insulation that has an R-6 or higher rating, and attach it with the exact tape recommended by the fiberglass manufacturer to ensure that it stays put.
If you already have existing duct insulation, it might be possible to add some more to the top, provided it’s in good condition. Otherwise, you can start from scratch to cover the ductwork throughout the home and check for any other issues as you go, like gaps, holes, and potential leaks.
The Different Types of Insulation
In addition to duct insulation, there are some other types you might consider to bring your energy costs down and make for a more comfortable home.
To determine which is best, think about the areas of the home that need it, and what R-rating you need to achieve. These are some of the most common options:
- Concrete block: A foam board used to insulate concrete block walls on a home’s exterior, and sometimes on interior block walls. This is ideal for the thicker nature of concrete where other types can’t provide insulation.
- Blankets, batts, and rolls: Made of fiberglass, natural fibers, and mineral fibers, these are sheets of material that be inserted into walls and ceilings to provide insulation.
- Reflective systems: Carboard, kraft paper, and plastic film are a few examples of reflective materials you can use for insulation.
- Foam board: Polyurethane or polystyrene foam boards that are thin but effective in providing insulation.
- Sprayed foam: A pressure-sprayed type of insulation that is ideal for existing homes where the R-rating needs to be beefed up. Can be used in addition to other forms of insulation that are already in place.
- Loose-fill: Small particles of insulating materials that can be blown in or inserted into the necessary spaces. Ideal for areas that are already built-in or need additional insulation.
Insulating the Entire House
To get the most energy-efficient home possible and reduce your HVAC costs, it can be beneficial to insulate your entire house.
You’ll need to be careful not to over-insulate as this can affect air quality and lead to moisture build-up and poor ventilation, but focus on these areas as a priority:
Both finished and unfinished attics need to be insulated but in different places. An unfinished attic, the rafters, and between and over the floor joints should be insulated. For finished attics, focus on ceilings and walls, including the studs between walls.
Both exterior and interior walls should be insulated. This includes foundation walls, walls between garages and living spaces, and shed roofs.
Any floor located above spaces like unheated garages and crawl spaces, as well as floors that are above a living area below. You can also insulate slab floors built on the ground as these attract both cold and heat.
Storm windows and other types of windows might need insulation also, but this can be done with caulking to cover up the minor cracks that allow the air to get through.
The band joist usually runs around the perimeter of the house or building and it can be insulated to provide further protection.
Detecting Areas That Need Insulation
The easiest way to reduce energy bills and your carbon footprint is to ensure your home is running as efficiently as possible. Unless your home was designed and built with this green goal in mind, there’s a good chance you can do a lot more to improve it.
Older homes were built with minimal insulation as the need for it wasn’t understood as much. With everything we now know about how to reduce energy costs and not rely so much on HVAC systems, it makes sense to go all the way and add as much insulation as you can.
The best approach for determining the areas that need further insulation is to enlist the help of an expert, namely someone who is experienced in energy assessments.
These home energy auditors can walk through your house and find areas of improvement, with insulation being one of the main offenders that they come across.
During this audit, they might also find areas where ducts need sealing, ventilation is needed, or other types of insulation could be helpful.
Although the initial outlay of these costs and upgrades may be scary, the benefits mean they’ll be paying for themselves in just a few short years, and you’ll know that you’re doing everything you can to keep the planet healthy.
To perform your own audit, you’ll need to establish the date that it was built and try to determine the materials used. You’ll also have to work out what type of insulation is there, where it’s located, the thickness of it, and its R-value rating.
With all of this data, you can make improvements as needed to improve your energy efficiency.
Leaks, Holes, and Poorly Connected Ducts
Any home or commercial setting that uses ducting heating and cooling is potentially facing another setback that can lead to poor energy efficiency.
These ducts are prone to a range of issues that affect their productivity and can end up costing a whole lot more, including leaks, holes, and various problems with connections.
Forced air heating and cooling systems release an average of 20 to 30 percent of unused air, according to Energy Star. This equates to larger utility bills and leads to an uncomfortable house, as no matter how much you adjusting settings on the thermostat or other system, you’ll be unable to get it to the right level.
As well as providing correct insulation, you may need additional work to fix issues with leaks and holes on the ducts. Depending on what you find in your inspections, this could be either a DIY job or something you entrust a professional contractor to take on.
They can provide an inspection of the heating and cooling systems to come up with possible solutions and expert advice.
However, if you’d prefer to go the DIY route, it’s an easy enough job provided the problems aren’t too large. Mostly, you can fix leaks and holes with a product like metal tape or mastic sealant, taking care to target the vents and registers of the ducted systems as well.
A simple fix like this can lead to a huge difference in your heating and cooling, which makes them more energy-efficient as well.
How To Tell If Your Ducts Are Performing
Having higher utility bills alone might not be enough to alert you to the fact that your ducts are underperforming.
If you’re used to these settings and have never really found the heating or cooling to be sufficient at home, it could be because your ducts have been in this condition for some time. Here are some signs that there’s a problem, with a simple fix of sealing or insulation being the best solution:
- The ducts are located somewhere it’s hard to see like the garage, in the attic, or a crawlspace. This makes it hard to check on them routinely or notice obvious cracks and leaks.
- Your energy and utility bills seem higher than average, even if it seems you don’t use these systems excessively. This can be established by speaking with your utility provider to get comparisons of households in your area.
- The feeling in the house is often uncomfortable temperature-wise, and you feel as though it’s never quite hot or cold enough, nor is there much fresh air.
- You can see obvious signs that something is wrong with the ducts. This might look like a hole, gap, or a tangle or kinked duct that is causing the issue.
Roof Ventilation and Why It Matters
The roof of a home plays a major part in ventilation, and as such, they require their own unique system to be effective.
The right roof ventilation is an important part of figuring out your home’s heating, cooling, and insulation, and without it, you could experience a range of problems, like:
- Damage to your roof and inside of the house
- Increase in energy costs and overactivity of HVAC systems
- Moisture build-up, water damage, mold, and mildew
- Damage to your existing interior insulation
- Rust and corrosion of metal parts like nails, straps, and ducting
The climate you live in will be the best indicator of the type of ventilation your roof needs. These are some of the best options to choose from, however, a professional contractor will be able to give advice on which works for your home and area.
- Moving vents: Name as such due to their moving parts, moving vents can be noisy at times, but they continually remove the hot air and moisture from your roof which can be a lifesaver.
- Static vents: These vents don’t move and don’t make noise, and they also require no electricity to set up. A static vent allows the hot air to leave the roof and attic by natural methods which can take a little longer but is still effective. Better still, you can easily place them all around the house.
- Electrical vents: These need electricity to work which makes them more expensive, but they are some of the most powerful for homes and climates that need additional ventilation.
- Solar vents: Powered by the sun’s radiation, these are the most energy-efficient option for the eco-friendly home. They don’t require moving parts of electricity but can be expensive to install and need the right conditions to work.
The way we heat and cool our homes to keep comfortable differs depending on the house. As we each need something unique to our environment and comfort levels, there’s no right or wrong solution for HVAC systems.
We’ve answered some FAQs on heating, cooling, and insulation at home so you can make more energy-efficient choices for you and the planet.
What is the Most Energy Efficient Insulation?
The best insulation depends on the home itself, how it was built, and what area it’s located in, and a qualified energy auditor or contract can help you establish this.
The most energy-efficient options for insulation include cellulose, spray foam, and fiberglass, with each having pros and cons to consider.
Is Ducted Air Better For Energy Use?
To determine whether ducted heating and cooling are better than standalone systems in each room, it depends on your current HVAC usage.
If you have systems running in every room in the house, ducted heating and cooling will be more efficient, but if you only want to maintain temperatures in one or two rooms, it works out better to use single air conditioners or heaters.
What is the Most Energy Efficient HVAC System?
The modern types of HVAC systems like geothermal heat pumps and split system heat pumps are the most energy-efficient but can be expensive to install.
However, over just a few years the energy they save enables them to pay for themselves, and they can make a huge impact on the environment as well.