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Energy Tips: Seal Air Leaks when Getting Insulation

Posted at: 01/02/2014 5:59 PM
By: Minnesota Department of Commerce

Icicles are a symptom of inadequate insulation, since they form when warm air leaks through the roof and melts snow.
Icicles are a symptom of inadequate insulation, since they form when warm air leaks through the roof and melts snow.

Consumers should beware of insulation contractors who offer to insulate attics without checking for and sealing attic air leaks. If the offer to insulate does not include sealing air leaks, then the contractor is in violation of the Minnesota energy code, which says “Attic insulation may not be installed unless accessible attic bypasses have been sealed.”

Before building science demonstrated the role that air leaks play in energy loss, it was commonly believed that insulation was enough to stop heat flow through a home or building. Although insulation slows heat transfer, it is easily compromised by air flow. The only way to stop this air movement—and associated heat loss—is by eliminating the air leaks between the inside of the house and the outside. First step to tightening one’s home: Identify air leaks and seal them.

Adding insulation is a great way to reduce the amount of energy that you use, but it only reduces energy costs if it is installed per the manufacturer’s instructions and in conjunction with air sealing activities.

Consumers should conduct careful research before investing in any energy-efficiency technology or improvement and before signing with a contractor. Get at least three bids. Utility companies and nonprofit energy groups may have contractors they recommend, and utilities may offer consumer rebates for insulation work. Get references and check sources like the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota (651-699-1111 or 1-800-646-6222) to see if there are any complaints or actions against contractors.

For more information on insulation and other energy-efficient measures to improve your home, contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources (DER) at 800-657-3710 or 651-539-1882 or visit www.energy.mn.gov. DER provides a free home energy guide called Home Envelope with detailed information about air sealing and insulation, saving energy, and selecting a contractor.