If your heating or cooling bill seems like it's too high, you should probably investigate the amount of insulation you have versus the amounts recommended for your area. This is especially true if your feet feel cold when you're downstairs in the winter or you can't seem to get the upstairs bedroom cool enough to sleep comfortably in the summer.
To answer the question you'll need to do two kinds of research. First, find out how much insulative value is recommended for each barrier structure in houses in your area. To do that in the United States, you can use the handy zip code form developed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Second, go see what's in your ceilings, floors and walls now.
Note every layer between you and the outside world. Then find the R-value of each of those layers, add that up and compare it to the recommended value. To find the R-values for your existing ceiling or floor or wall, you can use this chart at ColoradoENERGY.org. The important point to remember is that each piece of a ceiling, wall or floor has insulative value. You don't have to add enough insulating material to provide the recommended R-value all by itself. To achieve the best return on your investment, you should try to match the R-value of the entire cross section of the ceiling, floor or wall to the recommended value.
Other energy-saving ideas:
Plug those overlooked energy leaks around the house! Use low-VOC caulk and foam strips around windows and door frames that leak air. Add door sweeps and door shoe gaskets around threshold and exterior doors. Did you know that your light switches can be an overlooked source of air leaks? Simply hold a wet hand in front of a light switch plate or outlet; if you feel air, you have a leak. Installing foam gaskets behind all the light switches and outlets can stop these energy leaks.
Sealing cooling and heating ducts with duct wrap or mastic sealant can save up to 25% on your energy bill.
Insulating your water heater with an electric water heater blanket can cut your home's CO2 emissions and save you around 4% to 9% in water heating costs. You also reduce standby heat costs by 25%-45%. You probably don't know your water heater tank's R-value, so simply touch your heater. If it's warm to the touch, it needs additional insulation.
Glenn Berkwitt is the owner of Mr. Handyman of North Seattle 4509 Interlake Avenue North #177, Seattle, WA 98103 206-462-3212 providing handyman services to Seattle, WA. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured - General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Click here to request service in your area.