Reduce Energy Bills by Hundreds per Year

by Gary Foreman

DIY Landscaping for Less photo

A well-insulated home means lower energy bills. Reduce your energy bills by up to 30% with these easy DIY insulation guidelines.

According to the® Electricity Bill Report, the average U.S. electric bill in September 2023 was $88.74 if you lived in Utah (the cheapest state) and $226.73 in Connecticut (the most expensive). Most of us had electric bills that fell somewhere between the two.

Also, for most of us, half our home energy usage is consumed by heating and cooling our home.

Let’s take a look at this information and see if we can’t find some savings.

A Properly Insulated House Reduces Energy Usage

The DOE says that spending a few hundred dollars on insulation and weather-stripping can save you up to 30% of your heating and cooling bills. That 30% savings would be $26.62 per month for the Utah folks and as much as $78.02 per month for those in Connecticut. So it looks like no matter what part of the country you live in, you could save a few to several hundred dollars each year by keeping your home properly insulated.

Even if your home has been built in recent years, you might not have enough insulation. Some local building codes do not require the optimum amount of insulation. To save on construction costs, they may have allowed less than you’d want.

Even renters should consider weatherizing their residences. If you pay for your heating and cooling, many of these suggestions will more than pay for themselves in a matter of months. Your landlord might be willing to supply the materials if you do the work. (See 12 Energy-Saving Tips for Your Apartment.)

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Let’s Begin With a Quick Course in Insulation

It is typically available in four types. Each kind is designed to be used in different portions of your home.

Batt Insulation

A “batt” is a rectangular piece that’s made to fit between your ceiling joists or wall studs. By purchasing the correct width, only a small amount of cutting is required. Most batts are made of rock wool or fiberglass. They’re rated by “R-value”. The higher the R-value, the more insulating occurs. In most cases, a thicker batt will have a higher R-value.

The temptation is to buy the thickest batt available. After all, it doesn’t cost much more. But don’t buy batts that are thicker than the space available for them. For instance, if you buy a five-inch batt and install it between two by four studs, you’ll end up reducing the R-value of the batts when you compress them.

Roll Insulation

“Roll” insulation is just that: a large roll of insulation that you unroll over your attic floor. They’re very similar to batts, except that they’re in roll rather than sheet form.

You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to add this type of insulation. It’s almost as simple as opening a large bed-roll.

Loose-Fill Insulation

“Loose-fill” is designed to be blown into areas that aren’t easily accessible, such as between existing walls. The insulation is made of rock wool, fiberglass or cellulose.

Adding loose-fill requires professional equipment. Naturally, this increases the cost. But if you need more insulation in exterior walls, it may be your only option.

Rigid Foam Board Insulation

“Rigid foam boards” resemble a thick sheet of plywood made of insulation. They can be cut to fit and even provide some structural support. The boards are made of expanded or extruded materials and can be used in walls, ceilings and confined spaces.

Rigid foam represents the high tech end of insulation products. They’re easy to use and offer a high R-value for the thickness required.

Start With the Attic and Work Your Way Down

Generally, the first place you’d want to add insulation is in your attic. And it’s easy to tell if you would benefit from adding some.

Just measure how deep the insulation is. If it’s less than five or six inches, you should add insulation.

Next consider your basement and exterior walls, floors and finally crawl spaces.

Find and Seal Holes and Cracks To Prevent Leaks

Now that your home is adequately insulated, it’s time to tackle the other half of the job — eliminating openings that allow air to move between inside and outside your home.

The Cost of Air Leaks

Air leaks can increase your heating and cooling bills by as much as 20%. Depending on where you live, that’s anywhere from $106 to $289 per year. If you spend some time this weekend caulking, sealing and weather-stripping your home, you’ll be rewarded all winter.

Have you ever yelled at your kids for leaving the door open? You’ll be interested to note that the leaks in the average home, when combined, are like having a 3′ X 3′ window open.

Finding Leaks

Finding leaks is a combination of logic and detective work. Begin by looking for joints between materials. Any place that wood, concrete, bricks, aluminum, water pipes, electrical conduit, and glass meet, you’ll find a potential leak.

Start with a visual inspection. Then, wet your fingertip and hold it next to places that could be leaking air. You’ll feel a slight draft if there’s an opening. You may want to burn an incense stick and watch the smoke. If it moves sideways, you’ve found a leak.

Sealing leaks

Weatherstripping fills gaps between moving parts like the door and its frame. Caulking is used where non-moving parts meet, like the window frame and the wall. There’s a dizzying array of both available. And the only tools you’ll really need for this job are a caulking gun and a hammer: no fancy power tools to buy or rent. (See 11 Ways To Save at Home Depot.)

Whether you’re an expert or a beginner, the best way to simplify the job is to make rough sketches of the areas you want to weatherize. Remember to note the types of material that you want to seal. You’ll need that info to make the proper selection of materials.

Then, visit your local hardware center with the sketches. They’ll be happy to show you various caulks and weather strips for your specific applications.

Even if you need to do extensive caulking and weatherstripping, you’ll find that $40 to $45 goes a long way. This is definitely one of those projects where doing it yourself can save money. (See Which Home Projects Are DIY and Which Require a Pro?.)

Finally, remember that proper insulation and weatherizing are essential parts of good home maintenance. Completing these tasks keeps out the wind and also bugs and water that can damage your castle.

So there you have it — a simple do-it-yourself type project that doesn’t require special skills, has relatively low-cost materials and provides benefits that keep coming for years. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a step ladder and a caulking gun waiting for me.

Reviewed November 2023

About the Author

Gary Foreman is the former owner and editor of The Dollar Stretcher. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and has been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and

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