Energy Saving In Four Easy Steps

In what order should you install energy saving devices in your home?

1. Ventilate the attic
2. Install radiant barrier in the attic
3. Install solar screens on the windows
4. Insulate wherever possible, including the attic

I generally do this in this order to get the best bang from your buck. Most of the people around me have newer homes, so insulation really isn't the issue. None of them have any powered air vents, and that's assuming that they have enough venting in the first place. I've started grabbing up those 4'-6'  A/C booster fans from Home Depot and putting them on the underside of the air vents in the roof. These give you good venting without creating a tornado in your attic. The little fans also don't take up much electricity and don't create too much of a vacuum to pull the air from the house into the attic (make sure to seal the attic entryway).

The second thing to do is block the heat from getting to your air conditioned space. you can do this by installing a radiant barrier in your attic. I have done this many, many times for friends, family, acquiantances, etc. (its amazing how many friends you suddenly acquire when you don't mind crawling in attics). there are 2 general kinds of barriers; spray-on or foil.

For those timid, go hire a company to spray it in and you're done. For those not so faint of heart, here's a tip. you can do both.

Yes, I know, the physics seem like they don't add up. The problem is that I went out and bought an infra-red thermometer and tested all of this in my attic (my wife has declared my attic to be a Frankenstein creation). I left a spot totally bare. pianted a spot. foiled a spot, and then did paint and foil on a spot. Then I went up and measured the temperature of the plywood on a crisp and cool 92 degree day. I measured each spot, each hour over the course of 3 days. What the temperature told me was that I lowered the plywood temperature by 11 degrees with the paint, 15 degrees with the foil, and 26 degrees by doing both.  I've tried different kinds of paint and different kinds of foil. Foil beats paint hands-down every time.

Most companies want to install the paint because its faster and easier when you have the professional equipment to just spray it. The foil feels like it takes forever to install and really needs to have at least 2 people (just having someone to hold the roll like a human paper towl holder makes a world of difference). foil only needs a cheap staple gun and a willingness to crawl through the attic to get every spot covered. I've done both processes many times and seen both the individual benefits and the benefits of doing both to a single house (that would be my current house).

Solar screens stop the heat before it comes through the windows. They work very well. I have also bought some mirror tinting and put it on the backside of my storm door in front. that has cut some of the heat as well.

Finally, insulation is ALWAYS good. The house I am in now was built in 2003  so it has no need for additional insulation (not that I won't add more anyway). in general, a house built within the past 10 years should have decent insulation already due to code restrictions. My first house was built in 1976 and had approximately 2 inches of insulation in most areas. It needed help, but my current house has 8 inches just about everywhere. 

Putting more in would just be happy overkill.

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