You probably already know that your home’s HVAC system accounts for the largest share of your household energy consumption. But you might not know exactly where you can perform the most effective efficiency upgrades to minimize that consumption and reduce your monthly bills.
You don’t necessarily need to upgrade your entire HVAC system to get a big boost in efficiency -- in many cases, you can get enormous results just from upgrading your home’s insulation. And through the precision application of polyurethane spray foam insulation, you could get that boost for just a few dollars.
The DIY version of spray foam insulation is sold at most hardware stores, and applying it is usually not much harder than using a can of bug spray. And if you’re in the market for a bigger investment, you can have spray foam professionally applied in place of fiberglass insulation in your attic, basement and other areas of your home.
Filling In the Gaps
Major spray foam insulation projects are not for the DIY homeowner, but with a small can of spray foam in your hand, you can still make major improvements to the integrity of your home envelope. The real trick is knowing where to apply it.
Air leaks are easiest to notice in the winter, when you might call them “drafts”. Those cold, breezy spots may be fully sealed with just a small dollop of spray foam, and over the course of your whole home, those little fixes can add up to make a big difference.
There are also tools and tricks to help you find hidden leaks. On the low-tech end of the spectrum, there are draft detectors available at most hardware stores that blow fine wisps of odorless smoke. As you walk through your home with the HVAC turned off, the smooth stream of smoke will be disrupted whenever you pass a drafty area. An even lower-tech version is to walk around with a lit candle, waiting for the flame to catch a drafty breeze.
A much more high-tech solution is to use thermal imaging radar, which is often part of a thorough home energy audit. This technology allows you to see the hottest and coldest parts of your home, inside and out, to get a better idea of where and how treated air is escaping. With this information, effective spray foam sealing can be a cinch.
Taking It a Step Farther
Thinking bigger? You may be able to improve your overall insulation effectiveness by replacing your aging fiberglass insulation with spray foam, which typically results in a more air and watertight seal. But this is one area where you definitely don’t want to go with a cut-rate installer.
Major spray foam installations require lots of training and practice, because it’s important to create an impenetrable seal and apply the foam evenly and at the right thickness. Choosing a reputable service provider is critically important.
If you’re considering an upgrade to spray foam, a thorough home energy audit or just need help locating stubborn drafts for spray foam sealing, reach out to your local HVAC experts.