Seal and Insulate Your Home
Air that leaks through your home’s outer walls, doors, basements, and windows wastes a lot of energy, increases your energy bills, and can lead to an unhealthy indoor environment. If done properly, air sealing and insulation work hand in hand to reduce the risk of moisture-related mold and rot, boost indoor comfort by eliminating drafts, and reduce outside noise, among many more benefits. It is important to note that not all air leakage is bad. A home that is sealed too tightly can result in increased levels of carbon monoxide from combustion appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, and gas stoves, condensation/humidity issues, and stagnant air.
To better understand how well your home is sealed and insulated, consider participating in a home energy audit. A home performance contractor can evaluate and determine the appropriate levels of insulation, air sealing, and ventilation for your home.
Air Sealing a Home
Air sealing your home effectively helps you reduce heating and cooling costs. When done properly, air sealing also reduces the risk of mold and rot, eliminates ice damming on your roof, increases the comfort of your home by reducing drafts, and improves indoor air quality by preventing dust and pollutants from entering your home.
Some of the most common air leakage points are in attics, basements, doors, and windows. There are multiple ways to effectively seal your home, depending on your budget and comfort level with home energy–related projects.
There are many small, simple steps you can take to improve the air sealing of your home. First, identify where potential trouble spots in your home may be for air leaks (such as window frames, outlets and switches, and exterior door frames). Second, identify whether you can address the problem areas on your own. Some opportunities may include weatherstripping windows and doors, pull-down stairs, and attic entrances.
Air Sealing Products
There are multiple products to better seal your home, such as basic spray foams and silicone or acrylic latex caulk. To find out what product is best for air sealing your home and specific problem area, we recommend talking to your local hardware or home improvement store or a qualified contractor.
Hire a Contractor
To achieve the best results, we recommend hiring a professional contractor. Through home energy audits, contractors use building science principles to holistically look at the energy performance of your home, including identifying where air leaks are occurring. Having air sealing and insulation installed by a qualified contractor can help you save significant energy.
Insulating a Home
When combined with proper air sealing, insulation contributes to additional savings on heating and cooling costs. Properly insulating your home also enables a quieter space from outside noise. Any surface in your home that separates the interior from the exterior should be insulated. There are multiple ways to properly insulate your home, depending on your budget and comfort level with home energy-related projects.
There are many smaller, simple steps to properly insulate your home. Once you have effectively air sealed the problem areas in your home, identify whether the existing insulation in your home is adequate. Sometimes it is best to start with the basement and attic. For example, in your attic, if your insulation is just level with the floor joists, or you can see the floor joists, you should add and evenly distribute more insulation. Second, depending on the attic or basement, you will want to select the right insulation product. Talk to your local hardware or home improvement store for recommendations on the best product to purchase for your specific needs.
Multiple products are available to better insulate your home. There are three common options for insulation materials.
- Fiberglass is an insulation material that consists of extremely fine glass fibers. Fiberglass can be installed as a do-it-yourself product and is inexpensive. However, if not done properly or by a qualified contractor, the fibers in fiberglass could be inhaled or embedded in the skin. Fiberglass may also still allow for some airflow to occur.
- Cellulose is an insulation product that can be either loose-fill or blow-in material, primarily made from recycled newspapers or denim. Cellulose can be installed as a do-it-yourself product with the proper equipment, and is fairly inexpensive. However, cellulose can shift and is not as efficient as other materials in creating a long-term solution—allowing cold and hot air to move around freely.
- Spray Foam is a material that creates insulation against air movement. It can expand from its original size, filling all small spaces that could potentially be leaking air in your home. Spray foam is also environmentally friendly and safe to use. While the most effective insulation option, spray foam is more expensive than fiberglass and cellulose and should be installed by a qualified contractor.
Insulation material is measured in terms of its thermal resistance or R-value—the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness. The amount of insulation or R-value depends on the climate, the type of heating and cooling system, and the part of your house you plan to insulate. Depending on the type of insulation, you may need to arrange for installation by a professional contractor. To find out what products are best for insulating your home, we recommend talking to your local hardware or home improvement store or a qualified contractor.
Hire a Contractor
To achieve the greatest savings, we recommend hiring a professional contractor. Contractors can look at insulating your home holistically. Having air sealing and insulation done by a qualified contractor can significantly help you save energy.
Opportunities and Incentives
- Comfort Home Program: Offers incentives to homeowners for installing “seal and insulate” packages that save money and improve year-round comfort. By working with a Comfort Home contractor, homeowners will also receive guidance on available rebates and financing and options for clean heating and cooling systems, such as heat pumps, to further reduce home energy costs. Additional incentives may be available for installing heat pumps within 24 months of completing a Comfort Home seal and insulate package.
- NYS Clean Heat: Provides guidance and incentives to homeowners toward the installation of clean heating and cooling equipment, including cold-climate air source heat pumps (ASHP), ground source heat pumps (GSHP), and heat pump water heaters (HPWH).