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The Buster Poindexter party song says, “Me mind on fire, me soul on fire, feeling hot, hot, hot.” But, now that summer is in full swing, it’s more like, “Me face on fire, me feet on fire, feeling hot, hot, hot.” Still, in this age of global warming and international energy instability, we can’t (or at least we shouldn’t) just crank up the A.C. So how can we stay cool and save energy, too? Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest anything silly like, “Have a cool drink and take a cool bath.” I mean, you could do that, but that’ll only last a little while. I’m going to help you make your home more comfortable while saving energy with- insulation.

“Insulation?” you ask. “Isn’t that for the winter?” Yes. And summer too. Heating and cooling account for 50-70% of the energy used in the average American home and most existing homes are not insulated to the best level. In the summer, heat flows into your home from outside and your cooling system has to remove it, making it work harder and use more energy. Insulation cuts back on this heatflow. I told you it was for summer too. So how can you add insulation to your home? Here are a few easy steps:

Find out where your home needs more insulation.

A home energy auditor will come to your home and do an insulation check as part of a complete energy audit. They’ll tell you how much insulation you have, how much you need, and will probably recommend other improvements also. Many utility companies will pay for this or at least go halfsies with you so call your utility company. State energy offices might also be able to point you in the right direction.

If you don’t want to wait, you can check the insulation in your attic and basement yourself. It’s not that complicated. In unfinished spaces, the framing is exposed so it doesn’t take a genius to see if there’s insulation there and if there’s room for some more. After all, I’m not going to send you guys blowing foam insulation or ripping open any walls. Let’s not go crazy.

Attack your attic floor.

Before you handle any insulation, please be smart:

  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, safety glasses, gloves and a disposable dust mask. It looks like cotton candy but it’s nasty stuff. So’s cotton candy, come to think of it.
  • Do not cover or pack insulation around hot pipes, electrical fixtures, motors, or any heat-producing equipment like recessed lights – FIRE HAZARD, people.
  • Read the label and follow all the manufacturer’s instructions.

    Also, before you get to insulating, you need to plug as many air leaks as you can. Around the chimney, pack gaps with unfaced rock wool or fiberglass insulation. Do not use any combustible products or insulate hot flue pipes – FIRE HAZARD, people. Pack pieces of insulation tightly into any gaps around pipes or ductwork that pass through the attic floor or out the roof.

    Now you can insulate. Roll out insulation batting between the parallel joists (beams) of the attic floor. Watch where you step in the attic because you don’t want to accidentally end up on the floor of the guest bedroom below. In other words, step only on the joists so you don’t fall through the drywall ceiling. If you have to, you can lay boards across the joists and walk on them. Work from the perimeter toward the attic door. When you’re done with this, you can add even more insulation by rolling batting in the other direction, perpendicular to the joists. Also be sure to insulate the trap or access door, too.

    Get down in your basement.

    This is basically the same as the attic, but upside-down. Now you’re working on the ceiling!

    Plug any air leaks in the walls and basement ceiling with caulk or insulation, then roll batting between the joists in the basement ceiling. Hold the insulation in place with snap-in wire holders available wherever you bought your insulation or with chicken wire that you can tack onto the joists. And remember not to insulate too close to any heat-producing equipment – FIRE HAZARD, people.

    Find your windows of opportunity.

    Even when your windows are closed, you could be letting in air flow. A great way to test for drafts is to hold a lit candle close to the window and if the flame bends, you’ve got a draft. Check the caulking around your windows, too – on the outside. Exterior caulk can dry out, especially in the heat of summer. If you see a lot of cracks and gaps, you should recaulk. It’s not hard.

  • Remove the old caulk with a putty knife. If you’re having a hard time, you can get a caulk softener at the hardware store. You apply it, leave it on a couple hours, then clean out the caulk. Sort of like Easy-Off, for caulk.
  • Cut the tip off the tube of caulk at a 45-degree angle and load it into the caulking gun.
  • Fill in the gaps with a slow, smooth motion. Run over it with a wet finger to give it a smooth finished look.
  • Caulk should set in 12 to 15 hours. How easy is that?

    Give your home the silent treatments.

    While you were outside caulking, did you notice that exterior awnings would look nice on your home? Because guess what? Window awnings can reduce heat gain in the summer by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows.

    Not into awnings? How about interior mini-blinds? When completely closed and lowered on a sunny window, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45%.

    Drapes more your style? Medium-colored drapes with white-plastic backings reduce heat gain by 33% in the summer, if they’re closed on windows receiving direct sunlight during the day. Drapes also block hot drafts that may be letting heat in around the edges of the window frames.

    You get the idea. Think about a way to physically block sunlight and heat from getting into your home, with decorative and efficient window treatments.

    So get to it. With the few steps I’ve outlined, you will soon be feeling cool, cool, cool. And your lower energy bills? They’ll be hot, hot, hot!

    To find out more about the wonderful Sarit Catz, visit her website at

  • / Issue 77 - September 2018
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