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The answer to this question is directly related to the climate that you live in. The major window manufacturers offer glazing that is designed for the solar heat gain and temperatures in the various climate zones. You can obtain information either through a reputable window company in your area or by visting the websites of national window companies such as Anderson, Pella, Milguard, etc.
For both an existing and new construction home, the top three items that provide the greatest value and return on investment are as follows:
Additional items to consider include:
Step one, if you have siding use a insulated vinyl siding with silica gel. Replace your windows with a double or triple insulated window system. And third your doors are very important. When you do replacement anything you want the doors and windows to fit the space perfectly. We can do these things and more at Jarrett Industries.
There are options available to go solar and be completely independent of you local utility provider. However, this type of set-up (solar+storage) is much more costly than the traditional "grid-tied" system mentioned by Mr. Cook. There are significant developments in the works for the energy storage industry and speculation suggests that batteries will become more reasonably priced in the next 3-5 years or so.
Until then, many folks are opting to install a grid-tied solar panel system, which can often offset 100% of your utility bill (minus a nominal monthly interconnection fee of $5 or so). In some cases, fully offsetting your electric bill isn't possible because of shading or roof complexity. When battery storage becomes more affordable, you can add storage and truly become energy independent!
Insulation is insulation regardless of type. Whatever the R-Value per inch of the specific material is, times the number of inches, will equal the total R-Value. We are looking for R-49 to be Energy Star.
If the roof is not vented or we are talking about a hot roof deck, that is another consideration.
The floors in your home, while insulation will certainly mitigate this delta, will be different temperatures as the laws of thermodynamics are universal.
Get the insulation in the attic to R-49, seal the ductwork, seal the top plates, etc. and you will be good.
The energy efficiency of a home relies on several factors.
The most dominant of these factors is the insulation used, both within the perimeter walls and attic. This would include the houses ability to breath as well as maintain a good barrier. It's not so much the amount of insulation as the type and installation methods.
Another factor that effects the energy efficiency of your home is your windows and doors. They come in all varieties of energy ratings, and are also reliant on the installation methods used.
The third thing that I would look at is the ventilation of your attic. If your attic has the necessary ventilation needed it can reduce energy cost as well as prolong the life of your roof system.
Great insulation plays a key factor in energy savings. There are many different options available to increase the energy efficiency of your home. James Hardie Siding is specifically designed for the climate in which it is installed. Whether you live in a climate with freezing temperatures, snow & ice or a climate with high humidity, heat, and rain; James Hardie has a siding product built for your homes specific needs. Technology has changed tremendously over the years so homes built 15- 20 years ago may have been installed with what was considered cutting edge at the time. Window replacement and the new technology that windows have now can save a great deal of energy costs. A good product that we can recommend also would be the Mezzo Vinyl Window or Integrity by Marvin Windows. These are high performance windows that are engineered to provide outstanding energy efficiency. Major appliances such as heating and A/C units can also offer great energy savings.
Insulation may not be the only thing you need. It is also important to have air flow through the attic. this is best accomplished by eave or soffit venting and ridgevent.
According to most building codes, you need one square foot of vent area for each 150 square feet of attic floor space. The minimum is one square foot for every 300 square feet of attic floor space if there is a vapor retarder or the space is balanced between the ridge and intake vents. A balanced ventilation system means about 50 percent of the required ventilating area should be provided by exhaust vents in the upper portion of your attic with the remaining 50 percent provided by intake vents.
Spray foam insulation is by far the best for an attic. It is sprayed in the rafters areas and basically seals off the entire attic and stops the heat as soon as it enters from the roof. It can be very expensive though compared to regular fiberglass insulation or blow in insulation.
Set it where you are most comfortable as that is why you have it. A good idea is to update the thermostat to a programmable version that will run the A/C mostly when you are home and according to your schedule as well as at the desire temperatures. It isn't necessarily recommended to shut off the A/C on warmer days when you are not there as it will have to struggle to catch up when you turn it back on. This would be due to the warmer air in the home and the storage of heat in the walls, ceilings, floors etc in your home.
Oftentimes the attic is the place to start. Make sure you have plenty of ventilation, both intake and exhaust. Check the soffit cavity to make sure you it isn't clogged with insulation. There are formulas for Square foot of attic in relation to ventilation. If you have a vapor barrier in the ceilling a ration of 1:300 sf is ok, otherwise about 1:150 is the rule. Second, check the insulation. All air escaping into the attic should be sealed using spray foam or other sealants. Next, depending on your geographic location, make sure you have plenty of insulation in the attic. Finally, something as simple as installing blinds over windows can be an economical solution to saving on energy costs. As recommended in some of the other answers, an energy audit or getting advice from any number of qualified professionals that are willing to visit your home is the best place to start.
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