Home Insulation - your top priority
Make home insulation your top priority, and you'll have won half the battle with respect to energy conservation. You can have energy efficient HVAC as part of your approach to frugal living, but without proper insulation, you're wasting your money.
The idea of insulating your home is an investment that pays dividends all year and every year. Whether you are trying to keep your house warm or cool, insulating it will help tremendously. This is the most important of energy saving tips based on my personal experience.
How Energy and Insulation Behave
If we're going to capture energy or keep it away from us, we better know first how it behaves.
Energy is always trying to go from high to low. Whether it is warmth in your house trying to get outside into the cold winter air, or heat from the sun trying to warm up your air conditioned home, energy always moves from a high state to a lower state.
Next, let's understand how home insulation works. It creates small air pockets. The air pockets don't transfer heat well because still air is a poor conductor of energy.
Air can transfer heat much better if it's moving, like a fan associated with your furnace - it moves the heated air around to warm things up. The small air pockets in insulating material create "dead" air that isn't moving. Since it isn't moving, it slows down the transfer of energy that would otherwise occur by convection (air movement) and conduction (heat movement through material).
So, home insulation helps keep us warm and cool by interfering with conduction and convection.
I've lived in upstairs apartments where the hot sun cooks you like a broiler. I've rented poorly insulated homes where the snow doesn't stand a chance of staying on the roof. In either example, your major source of energy transfer is the roof and ceiling, so let's start there.
Next, you’ll want to do some home weather proofing to seal up cracks and openings around the house. It keeps bugs and water and dust out of your house, and it improves the effectiveness of your insulation by keeping the air still.
Windows are notorious for creating drafts, and they also conduct energy much better than wood siding, so they are also top sources of energy transfer, both in and out of your house.
Attic insulation should be your top priority. Heat rises, so in the winter it's always trying to get out through the roof. In the summer, the hot roof is trying to heat up your ceiling.
The next focus should be on the windows. These are large contributors to energy inefficiency in an otherwise well sealed house with energy efficient appliances. You can replace windows with high efficiency windows or simply install storm windows to help add insulation value.
If you're focused on long term frugal living in your current residence, you'll need to consider making some investments like home insulation and window upgrades.
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