Part IV: Air Seal and Insulate your Chimney to Save Money

Chimneys are a great conduit for removing smoke and gases from your house, but they’re also notorious for allowing conditioned air to escape to the outside via the chase that surrounds them.

If that weren’t enough of a concern, they’re also fire hazards when carelessly insulated with materials that aren’t properly fire-rated.

Fear not, you can resolve both issues with a little know-how and the right type of materials.

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Part III: Illuminate your Attic with LED Lights

There are a lot of tasks to do before adding extra insulation to an attic, especially in an older home. They vary from the easy to the onerous (looking at you attic baffles) and are even more of a pain to complete when the lighting is poor.

To improve the lighting in the attic I stapled a couple of lengths of LED strip lights to the underside of the ridge board. The strips are only plugged into an extension cord while I am working. They can also be removed when I finish insulating the attic, if I choose to do so.

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Part II: What to Wear When Working with Blown-in Insulation

I have spent a lot of time elbow deep in blown-in insulation in my attic, so I am well acquainted with the proper attire needed to get work done up there.

The key piece of advice is to be prepared for the hostile work conditions by covering yourself up. You won’t like being up there, so you should dress in a way that lends itself to efficient work.

Buy these items ahead of time or regret it when you’ve got fiberglass lung and you’re itching all over!

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Part I: How to Reduce Heating Bills with DIY Attic Insulation

Our 1961 bi-level house had a reasonable amount of blown-in fiberglass insulation in the attic when we moved in. This surprised us because homes from this era often aren’t well insulated, although it’s possible a previous owner added the insulation more recently. Regardless, we were pleasantly surprised to have nearly a foot of blown-in fiberglass in our attic.

Unfortunately, even though we had nearly an R-value of 30, it wasn’t evenly distributed due to some large gaps caused by previous home improvement projects. We also had no air sealing between the attic and the conditioned rooms below, which was an even bigger issue for us.

Due to these circumstances I decided to air seal our attic and blow in additional loose fill fiberglass insulation. What followed was nearly a year of intermittent preparation, although your experience and requirements will certainly vary! I only worked in the attic when the temperature was comfortable, which severely limited the times I could get work done.

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Replace your Door’s Weatherstrip to Keep the Elements Outside

The bottom seal on our external sunroom door had been slowly pulling apart for the past year. This was allowing small bugs and the occasional water to enter into our sunroom. It was also unsightly with the tangled rubber strips laying about the floor. Something had to be done!

The (pretty easy) fix was to replace the door bottom with a new seal so that the weatherstrip would again sit flush with the threshold. No longer would insects and worms have easy entry to the sunroom. Also the bottom of the door looks a lot better too.

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Use Kraft Paper for Natural Weed Cover

One way to discourage weeds from growing in your flower beds is to pair a layer of kraft paper with several inches of mulch.

The kraft paper prevents sunlight from reaching the weeds, retains moisture, and safely biodegrades.

This is obviously not a permanent solution, which is in contrast to using landscaping fabric, a material that lasts for years.

It’s also relatively inexpensive, so even mixed results would be worth the expenditure, so long as one doesn’t mind the extra effort that’s required to use it.

We decided to try it and then wait a year to see if it’s a worthwhile strategy for our landscaping.

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Clean your Air Conditioner Condenser to Save Money

One easy way to save money on your summer electric bills is to make sure that your air conditioner’s condenser is free of debris. Most people don’t pay any attention to the yearly buildup of yard waste on the their condenser’s coil fins.

All that built-up gunk inhibits the air flow through the coils, which is needed to cool the warmed refrigerant from within your house. When the coils are obstructed the condenser works harder, which increases your electric bill!

Having recently purchased our home, we had no idea about the maintenance history of our air conditioner condenser. That said, it only took a glance to see all the accumulated dirt on the coil fins.

Here are the steps I took to clean our condenser for improved energy efficiency.

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Diagnose Insulation Gaps with FLIR ONE Thermal Infrared Camera

A good way to find insulation gaps in your home is with a thermal infrared imaging camera. In the past these were very expensive, but they’re a lot cheaper now, especially if you don’t mind owning a less powerful model.

For my needs, the FLIR ONE for iOS hits the mark. It’s inexpensive and has a detailed enough resolution to measure the temperature variances in my walls and ceiling.

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