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Study: 90% of Homes Under Insulated

Friday, October 2, 2015

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Only 10 percent of U.S. homes are thought to be insulated adequately, according to new research.

Boosting insulation in existing homes could cut costs, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and increase comfort for occupants, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association noted Tuesday (Sept. 29) in its report on the findings.

© / Nuli_k

Ninety percent of homes in the U.S. are under insulated when compared to the minimum prescriptive wall and ceiling R-values found in the 2006 IECC, NAIMA estimates.

“If all U.S. homes were fitted with insulation based on the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), residential electricity use nationwide would drop by about 5 percent and natural gas use by more than 10 percent,” said Dr. Jonathan Levy, Professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health and lead researcher on the Boston University team that investigated the subject.

For the study, “homes” refers only to single family detached dwellings and “under insulated” means when compared to the minimum prescriptive wall and ceiling insulation R-values found in the 2006 IECC, NAIMA reported.

Study Development

According to NAIMA, the estimate comes from information in the 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Survey, using methods to estimate insulation levels developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and was applied by Boston University researchers as part of a study, supported by NAIMA, into the energy savings and emissions reductions possible with increased insulation levels in U.S. homes.

BU's study focuses on how increased insulation across the U.S. housing sector can decrease energy use as well as cut carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

gas bill
© / kgeijer

Energy Star estimates that sealing air leaks and adding insulation can save homeowners up to 10 percent on their annual energy bills.

The study will also provide estimates of the resulting public health benefits. These estimates will be developed and provided through an upcoming series of peer-reviewed articles.

Important Time of Year

Curt Rich, president and CEO of NAIMA, emphasized the importance of the findings at this time of year in the U.S. 

“The fall is when many homeowners around the country begin thinking about home improvements to increase comfort and reduce their energy bills as temperatures drop come winter.

"Research like this should reinforce our message to homeowners, and to policymakers, that added insulation has real and significant benefits.”

National Campaign

Moreover, NAIMA said policy makers are taking notice, as 2015 marks the second year the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program has run its “Rule Your Attic!” campaign.

The national marketing and education effort aims to raise consumer awareness of the comfort and efficiency benefits of insulation and offers tools for both diagnosing a home’s additional insulation needs and guidance on how to do the work.

This year’s campaign runs Thursday (Oct. 1) to Nov. 20.

Energy Star estimates that sealing air leaks and adding insulation can save homeowners up to 10 percent on their annual energy bills.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Rich said that the campaign targets the top barrier in the market: people just aren’t aware that their home likely has far less insulation than a home built to modern standards. “People don’t see insulation, so they don’t think about it,” Rich noted.

“The reality is that insulation has a three times greater impact on the average home’s energy and comfort than windows or doors do,” he said, citing data from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The association offers resources for homeowners, including detailed pictorial guidance and videos of proper installation.


Tagged categories: 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC); Building Envelope; Certifications and standards; Energy codes; Energy efficiency; Energy Star; Insulation; North America; Research and development

Comment from bob gray, (10/2/2015, 9:41 AM)

This study is very conservative. The field reports from our customers indicate fuel consumption down by 30% when a home built to 1980 standards is updated in all available air sealing and insulation areas. An older home built in the mid-fifties often approaches 50% reduction in fuel consumption. Not my estimates but field reports from customers. As the country moves toward alternate energy sources a program to encourage owners of rental properties to upgrade their insulation and air sealing would have a major impact in reducing the country's annual fuel usage. If the renter is paying the utility cost the landlords have no incentive other than vacancies to upgrade their units and the occupants have no incentive to pay for a permanent improvement to the property. Updating this category of property could have the most long term benefits in reducing the nation's fuel consumption. Just saying! ! !

Comment from Gregory Stoner, (10/2/2015, 11:42 AM)

Very good response Bob...Let's hope that as we move forward we can generate that momentum.

Comment from Charles Brown, (10/2/2015, 12:27 PM)

Hopefully NAIMA is investing in training for installers as well. In my experience only 5-10% of insulation contractors install correctly the first time. With projects always under pressure to get dried in and inspectors over worked, under educated and under paid there is very little incentive to do it right other than pride in workmanship.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/8/2015, 12:44 PM)

Air sealing and switching to LED bulbs brought my summer electric cost down at least 40% on a 22 year old house. I'll attribute the rest of the savings (10%) to the cooler temperatures this summer compared to last. Just a tub of mastic, aluminum tape and a few cans of foam. No widespread insulation, just foaming penetrations and fixing up the ducts.

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