home with heat map

How To Keep Your Home Warm This Winter


I thought I would break away a bit from talking plants, turf, and fertilizers and dive into making your home more energy efficient and saving you money before winter sets in. 

Before embarking on your home insulation journey, it's crucial to identify areas of heat loss. A heat loss thermometer, available on Amazon for less than $25, can help pinpoint these problem spots. This simple tool aids in locating potential heat escape routes, which could lead to increased heating costs and a less comfortable home environment.

infrared gun

Here's how you can utilize one:

  1. Purchase a Heat Loss Thermometer: They are typically sold in hardware stores or online and resemble a small handheld device with a digital screen.
  2. Power up the Thermometer: Most of these thermometers operate on batteries. Simply press the "on" button to activate it.
  3. Aim at the Test Area: Position the thermometer a few feet from the area you wish to examine. This could be a window, door, exterior wall, or even an outlet.
  4. Check the Temperature: The device will show the temperature of the area you're targeting. Lower temperatures may suggest heat loss.
  5. Contrast Temperatures: To ascertain if there's substantial heat loss, compare the temperature reading with other parts of your house. For instance, if a window records a much lower temperature than the surrounding wall, it's likely a heat escape route.
  6. Spot Problem Areas: Use the thermometer to scan all potential heat loss sources in your house, including windows, doors, walls, and floors.

Bear in mind that while a heat loss thermometer can help detect problem areas, it won't provide solutions. Once you've located the sources of heat loss, you might need to insulate those areas, seal gaps, or take other measures to enhance your home's energy efficiency and protect those indoor plants.  Please note that this is a general instruction guide and the exact procedure may vary depending on your heat loss thermometer model. Always consult the user manual for precise instructions.

Insulating and Sealing Your Attic to Combat Severe Winter Cold

Winter can pose challenges, particularly if your home lacks proper insulation. The attic is often a major source of heat loss in homes. Fortunately, insulating and sealing your attic can help preserve warmth, decrease energy usage, and cut down on utility expenses. Here's an exhaustive guide on how to insulate and seal your attic against the biting winter cold.

Seal Air Leaks Air leaks are another significant source of heat loss in the attic. They occur when warm air escapes from the house into the attic, causing the heating system to work harder to maintain the indoor temperature. To seal these leaks, you can use expanding foam or caulk around openings such as plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires and remember to wear gloves and be careful not to get expanding foam on your skin as it can be challenging to remove.

attic air leak graphic

Insulate Your Attic Once you've sealed all air leaks, it's time to insulate your attic. Spray foam insulation is an effective method as it provides both a moisture barrier and a sealant set, spray foam expands to fill gaps, preventing cold air from entering. If you prefer a DIY approach, you can plug open stud cavities and cover open soffits with insulation   However, if your attic has a complicated layout, it might be challenging to seal and insulate. In such cases, consider hiring a professional to ensure the job is done correctly.  Maintaining Your Insulation After installing your insulation, it's important to maintain it properly to ensure its effectiveness. Check your insulation regularly for signs of damage or degradation. If you notice any issues, address them immediately to prevent further heat loss.

In conclusion, insulating and sealing your attic is a crucial step in preparing your home for winter. By doing so, you can stay warm, save energy, and reduce your utility bills. It's a win-win situation! Remember, if you're unsure about any steps in the process, it's always best to consult with a professional. They can provide expert advice and ensure the job is done correctly.

Choosing the Ideal Insulation Material

There's a plethora of insulation materials available, each boasting unique characteristics. The key types include fiberglass, cellulose, and spray foam. Fiberglass is a popular and cost-effective option, available in rolls or batts, and simple to install. Cellulose is an environmentally friendly choice with superior thermal efficiency. According to my research, top manufacturers of fiberglass insulation include Johns Manville, Guardian, Knauf, and Owens Corning, among others.

A standout product for attic insulation using fiberglass roll is the Owens Corning EcoTouch. This product features advanced fiber technology that allows swift installation and is readily available at home improvement centers. If you're considering blown-in insulation, the US Greenfiber R60 Blown-In Insulation Sound Barrier comes highly recommended. For those preferring batts or rolls, the Owens Corning R-38 Kraft Faced Fiberglass Insulation is a preferred choice.

insulation in attic

Spray foam insulation, which expands to fill spaces and provides both an air seal and insulation, can be installed with relative ease if you follow the appropriate steps and guidelines. It's sprayed as a liquid and then expands into a foam, filling in gaps and creating a barrier against moisture and air. However, it can be a messy job for DIY enthusiasts, so it's advisable to hire a professional unless you're highly skilled or adept at following detailed instructions or watching professional demonstrations on YouTube. When using spray foam insulation, don't forget to wear suitable protective gear to avoid potential harm. Spray foam insulation should never be applied to a damp surface, so ensure the area is dry before beginning. If your home already has insulation, it may need to be removed before installing spray foam insulation; this isn't required for new constructions. During application, fill the void gradually, moving along the gap as you spray. The spray should be continuous, with no gaps or interruptions. Before commencing, make sure the workspace is properly prepared, which may involve cleaning and clearing the installation area. While spray foam insulation can be a DIY project, always consult with a professional if you have any doubts.

Remember that the "best" insulation depends on various factors, such as your home's location, the climate, and your home's specific requirements.

The R-value is a parameter that quantifies a material's resistance to heat flow, with the 'R' standing for 'resistance.' The greater the R-value, the more effective the insulation is. It's suggested that attics in colder climates have an R-value ranging from R-38 to R-60.  However, different parts of your home necessitate different R-values. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Attic: R-30 to R-60
  • Walls: R-13 to R-23
  • Floors: R-25 to R-30
  • Basement walls: R-10 to R-15r-factor chart

These values can fluctuate based on your location. Homes in colder climates, for example, require higher R-values to retain heat, while homes in warmer climates may not need as high an R-value.  While a high R-value often implies superior insulation, it's not the only factor to think about. The correct installation is vital to fully benefit from the insulation. Even the most efficient insulation will not function properly if it isn't installed correctly.  Moreover, insulation with a high R-value is usually more costly. Therefore, you need to weigh the initial cost of the insulation against the long-term energy savings it will provide. Also, remember to check local building codes for minimum R-value requirements before adding or replacing insulation in your home.  It's also crucial to seal all air leaks as they can severely hamper the effectiveness of insulation. Use caulk or spray foam to seal around plumbing vents, electrical wires, and light fixtures. For instance, if you have an attic lift like a Versalift, insulation tape can be used on the ceiling cover to help seal it off.

Lastly, protecting your attic against moisture while maintaining proper ventilation is a critical aspect of home maintenance. Ensuring proper roof ventilation can control condensation. Ventilation also reduces attic lift temperatures, which can help limit condensation. Sealing, insulating, and ventilating are three important steps to address heat and moisture issues in the attic. Keeping a constant airflow can prevent dampness caused by warm air getting trapped in your attic.

To maintain a desirable humidity level in your attic, it's essential to keep the rest of your home dry. This simple step can significantly reduce excess moisture in your attic.  Ensuring proper ventilation in your attic is crucial in averting issues linked with heat and moisture accumulation, particularly during the colder months. However, remember that each home has its unique features, so what proves effective for one may not apply to another. Therefore, it's always advisable to seek professional advice to ascertain the best strategies for your specific circumstances.

Moisture can harm your insulation and lessen its efficiency. While moisture may be good for your indoor plants, Installing a vapor barrier, such as a plastic sheet over the insulation, can hinder moisture infiltration. Even with insulation in place, your attic requires adequate ventilation to avoid moisture accumulation and ice damming. Ensure your soffit vents are not obstructed by insulation, and consider fitting a ridge vent to enhance air circulation.

Regular Maintenance and Inspection

To keep your insulation functioning optimally for an extended period, regular inspections and maintenance are vital. Be vigilant for signs of dampness, mold, or pests, and promptly address any arising issues.  Insulating and sealing your attic ranks among the most economical ways to boost your home's comfort and energy efficiency. Although you can undertake this task yourself, hiring a professional ensures it's done accurately and safely - especially if your home is older and may contain asbestos or other potential hazards.

inspector with lady homeowner















By properly insulating your attic, you can stay warm, save on energy costs, and enjoy your cozy, comfortable home this winter!  Bear in mind, every home is distinct. What works best for one may not be suitable for another. Thus, take time to comprehend your home's needs and make informed choices.

Stay warm, conserve energy, and relish the snug comfort of your well-insulated home this winter!