Energy Fixer: Adding Insulation

How do you make an older house more energy efficient? This year, we’re following Sarah, a PGE employee, as she updates a 55-year-old, 1,500 square-foot, all-electric house, which she purchased in November 2014.

Rethinking insulation

Between Sarah’s quick, online home energy review and her comprehensive home energy audit completed early in the year, she knew her top priorities for saving energy and improving home comfort should be:

  • Upgrade heating.
  • Seal air leaks, insulate and improve attic ventilation.

After resolving the heating situation this spring, Sarah wanted to have a contractor back to just seal air leaks and fix the attic ventilation. She thought she’d delay adding insulation since her attic already had some. However, all those 90-degree days we experienced early in the summer had her rethinking that decision.

“My new ductless heat pump helped keep the front part of the house cool and comfortable. But back in the bedrooms — where I haven’t added a ductless unit yet — it got pretty warm, even though I used fans and kept the shades closed,” Sarah said. “It was obvious the attic was really heating up, and the house needed more insulation to help keep the cool air in and block the heat.”

Sarah hired Revival Energy Group, the same Energy Trust trade ally contractor that conducted her energy audit, to seal air leaks, add insulation and fix the attic ventilation.

The benefits of sealing air leaks and insulating

It took just a couple of days for the crew to take care of the air sealing and insulation for Sarah. Why is it important to do both? Think of insulation like a jacket and air sealing like a zipper. If you put on a jacket but don’t zip it up, you’re still going to feel the wind.

Properly sealing and insulating your home can help you save up to 20 percent of your heating and cooling costs.* In addition, it will:

  • Reduce drafts
  • Improve comfort year-round
  • Block outside noise
  • Help control moisture
  • Help prevent pollen, dust, pollutants and insects from entering your home

Costs, financing and incentives

How much does weatherizing your home cost? It will vary based on your particular circumstances, but to get a rough idea, you can use this online calculator that provides estimates for insulation only. You can customize it based on your ZIP code.

There were two things that softened the budget impact of this energy upgrade for Sarah. First, Energy Trust of Oregon cash incentives helped reduce the cost.

Secondly, because she is juggling the expense of a number of energy upgrades this year, she decided to finance the work through Clean Energy Works Oregon. This allows the cost of the upgrade to be billed monthly on her PGE bill, so she can pay it off gradually.

“There are different options out there in the market for financing, including contractor financing and home improvement loans from banks or credit unions, But I liked consolidating the cost of the upgrade with my PGE statement so I have one less bill to deal with,” she explained.

The results

“We felt the difference from the insulation and sealing right away. The bedrooms, especially, are noticeably more comfortable,” Sarah said. “I think the house will feel a lot more cozy this winter, too. And I’m looking forward to seeing how much I save on my electric bill.”

Resources for you

Whether you want to hire someone to seal and insulate or make it a DIY project, check these links:

*Source: Environmental Protection Agency. Savings will vary based on individual circumstances.