Home Insulation Tips for Saving Energy and Money

Foam Sealant at Water Pipe

Plastics Make it Possible® insulation expert Kelly Frauenkron visited the Money Pit to talk about how plastics can help homeowners contribute to sustainability while saving money on energy bills. Read Tom and Leslie’s Q&A with Kelly below:

TOM: A lot of consumers don’t recognize the fact that air infiltration really adds to energy bills. New technologies in plastics really help seal up the gaps, and plastic spray foam insulation is a great place to start. Let’s talk about the various kinds of plastic insulation.

KELLY: Plastic insulation is a key component to energy efficiency upgrades—but it’s not just insulation, it’s also air barriers. When using foam plastic insulation, homeowners can either think big or think small. You can go out as a DIY consumer and tackle some projects yourself, like using a can of foam plastic insulation to fill the gap around old window frames, or use some plastic caulking to fill cracks and seal air leaks around the molding, pipes and outlets in a home. But if you really want to have a big impact on your energy bills, you can have a whole home energy audit that can identify some of those bigger air leaks.

TOM: It helps to be very strategic about where you’re really attacking those gaps. And I think folks are often surprised by the parts of their home that do leak. They may think it’s a window, and it may turn out it’s a wall, for example.

KELLY: That’s true. And uncontrolled air leaks can actually fill your home with dust and pollens and allergens—things you don’t want in it. The spray foam plastic is not only an excellent insulation product, but it also acts as an air barrier, so it can help stop that leakage and reduce that wasted energy, which is 25 to 40 percent of the energy we use to heat and cool a typical home today. So you can save that money every month for the life of a home if you use a product like spray foam to actually seal those leaks.

LESLIE: What I think is interesting about spray foam insulation is that its liquid consistency allows it to fill in the nooks and crannies that more rigid types of insulation can’t reach. It helps with waterproofing and pest infiltration as well, because again, it really is filling in all those gaps.

KELLY: Exactly. And there are other foam plastic insulations that are do-it-yourself, like the rigid foam plastic insulations that you were speaking of—and a homeowner can go buy those at a large home improvement store to, say, insulate an interior basement wall or a crawl space that may not be insulated. So there’s a large offering of plastic insulations out there that can really fit these needs for energy efficiency improvements.

TOM: Where do you draw the line between do-it-yourself and pro? What types of foam insulations would you suggest are within the realm of a do-it-yourselfer, and at what point do you go pro to make sure you’re doing the best job possible?

KELLY: When thinking big about energy efficiency, in most cases you’ll need a properly trained professional contractor, especially when installing spray foam plastic insulation because it is a more technical product. But the rewards for that are immediate and big and long-lasting. Otherwise, the do-it-yourself products are more the canned and the board products that you can go buy in the home improvement stores. So there are both options out there.

LESLIE: While the existing homeowner is getting the benefit of insulation upgrades in the form of financial savings on heating and cooling, do you think that when the time comes to sell the home, you’ve actually improved the value of the house by adding insulation?

KELLY: It definitely can, not just because it’s insulation, but because if you can show them the overall record of energy costs that are lower for your home compared to a similar home in the neighborhood, that can really make the value of the home go up because an insulating air barrier such as foam plastic can really make that home not only more cost-effective to operate, but also more comfortable, less drafty, less dusty, and it doesn’t let the pests in. And also more energy-efficient and easier to maintain.

TOM: Kelly Frauenkron for Plastics Make it Possible®, thanks so much for stopping by the Money Pit. For more information on how plastic insulation can help make your home more energy-efficient, you can head over to the Plastics Make it Possible® website at plasticsmakeitpossible.com.