Insulating the Older Homes

by : Justin Havre

For those who bought an older home and have just been delivered safely through a cold winter, you are lucky; many home owners buy older homes that have inadequate insulation, and wonder how to solve the problem without wrecking the interior or exterior decorating job. Well, there are several options available and some of them offer minimal intrusion to the decor.

Areas which let in the cold are, traditionally, doors, windows, ceilings, floors and walls. Ha! What else is there?

Let's attack these in the order of least expense: It is fairly inexpensive to seal doors and windows using caulking or weather strip, but you should only consider this route if you feel that drafts are coming in this way. Coldness coming in is a different matter. If your windows are not double glazed, you will feel coldness coming through the pane of glass.

If you wish to hold off on permanent double glazing, there is a system that is inexpensive and easy to do and which will shrink your heating bills. Your local builders' yard or hardware store will probably carry special 'cling film' packs to double-glaze your windows; they are inexpensive and effective. They can be installed easily, by you, on the inside or outside. A big difference will be felt if you at least cover the north, west and east windows. The money in heating costs that you save by using them may pay for your new double glazed window units within three years.

A storm door is also great for keeping in the warmth. It's just an extra door in front of your front door, and it helps to keep out the worst drafts and cold.

Ceilings are not so difficult to insulate if you can access your attic. The level you want is between R38 and R60.

The biggest loss of heat is probably also the most expensive to correct - that of the walls. When building a home, it is fairly inexpensive to lay the pink insulation between the outer and inner wall. However, this is not an option in an existing home.

The best option is to choose a local company to 'blow-in' or 'spray in' the insulation using their special machinery. This comes in the form of fiberglass, foam or cellulose. Foam is the most thorough (it gets into all the crevices) and the most expensive, with fiberglass coming up a close second.

This system can save an estimated 30% on your bills. It can also be blown into attics, so it may be worth getting two quotes: one for walls only and one for walls and attic, and then you can choose.

If you have an un-insulated basement, now would be a good time to insulate it; it is not a difficult job and it is one of the improvements that will greatly decrease the size of your heating bill. Meanwhile if you feel cold air coming up from the basement, think of hanging a curtain or installing a permanent door to block off the part that is not heated.

One of the simplest things to remember is natural energy. If you plan to re-model your home, and you can choose where to put a window, place it on the southern side of the house. A small overhang will stop it getting too hot in the summer (24 inches is ample) and the winter sun will still peep below it and warm up your room in the winter.

While we're on the subject of natural energy, it has almost been forgotten that trees can be a considerable help. If you plant evergreens near your north and west walls, you will be protecting your house from cold and wind. Since these walls will not get much (if any) sun, you will not be blocking out the warmth of its rays.

Conversely, if you plant deciduous trees (which drop their leaves in the fall) outside your south and east windows, they will allow the sun to warm your windows in the winter, but in the summer their leaves will shelter the window and you will not feel the heat so much.