Invest in a new blanket

By Okram (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Cellulose insulation. Photo by Okram (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
It is that time of the year again. Many of the trees are still beautiful, and we have much for which to be thankful. I am thankful for health, shelter, food, family and friends, and a job that pays me to help many people just like you.

Part of my job is to receive your calls about energy efficiency. I enjoy helping folks and I love to hear your stories. Likewise, I’m humbled when I can be of assistance. I’m especially thankful for the support of the electric cooperatives. We have worked together for years to help co-op members find solutions to lower their utility bills and improve the comfort of their homes. We’ve also taught many how to build a new home with low utility bills and optimum comfort.

Well, the holiday season has started and there are only about eight weeks until Christmas. That means you had better hurry and buy those Christmas gifts before they disappear from the shelves. It is also the season when you turn the thermostat from cool to heat. Many folks dread the coming of the heating season because they remember high heating costs of winters past. Even though financial resources may be very limited for some, almost everyone can afford to do something to help lower their heating bills.

I remember an elderly couple whose only income was from Social Security, but the two of them were determined to make their house more energy efficient. Their house had no ceiling insulation at all. They decided to buy two bags of cellulose insulation each month, and the husband would spread that insulation in the attic using a garden rake. I became aware of this when he called my radio show and told us that they were finally finished insulating the attic and how they did it.

Well, it took the caller about 15 bags of cellulose insulation to provide a R-19-rated ceiling insulation for the couple’s 900-square-foot house. At that time, a bag of cellulose insulation cost about $5 for a total cost of $75. So it took about seven and a half months to finish the job. The payback was probably about one cold winter and one hot summer. At today’s price, the cost would be about $150, but the payback would probably still be about one year. This took place about 12 years ago, so the family has probably saved at least $900 for a $75-dollar investment. The preceding real-life story is a perfect example of how most energy efficiency improvements are investments. The return on investment is a more comfortable home, with lower utility bills.

Many of you are learning about the benefits of stopping air infiltration and installing the “proper amount” of “proper insulation” in your existing homes from this publication and electric cooperative educational materials. I commend you for doing so! For those who are thinking about doing the same thing, let me give you some encouragement and help.

The recommended amount of insulation for an Illinois attic is at least R-40. However, many barely have an R-19. Attic insulation is much like a quilt on a bed. If you are cold, the first quilt helps a whole lot. The second quilt may help a little more, and, if it is deer camp cold, it may take three quilts to really be warm. However, it is the very first quilt that does the most good. Likewise, it is the first inch of insulation that gives the most benefit. So, simply buy as much insulation as you can afford up to the recommended amount. If you can only afford three inches of cellulose (R-13), then buy three inches and be proud that you did what you could do.

If it is necessary for you to hire someone to purchase and install the needed insulation, you could expect to pay somewhere around 55 cents per square foot to add R-19 to your attic. If you want help determining the feasibility of installing insulation at your house, you may call your electric co-op or call me at 501-653-7931.

Time for me to go Christmas shopping!