Category: Major Systems


Chimneys 101

The chimney might not be a part of your home you consider very often, but keeping it in good working order is a critical part of ensuring a safe and healthy home.

How a Chimney Works

Photo: shutterstock.com

Why would Kris Kringle choose to squeeze his considerable girth through one of the narrowest and most soot-covered passageways in the home? The answer: Who the heck knows? One thing is certain, however. For those homeowners with a fireplace, safe and hassle-free evenings spent around the hearth depend not only on a proper understanding of how a chimney works, but also on a commitment to maintaining the chimney. Santa’s entrance comes in two styles:

Related: Fireplace Maintenance Checklist

Built of either brick or stone, traditional masonry chimneys include a firebox (where the wood burns) in addition to a flue, which is the air shaft running through the interior of the chimney, from the firebox up through the roof. At its top, a chimney of this type features a crown to deter critters and prevent water damage.

Prefabricated chimneys have a firebox and cap, but they vent through a simple pipe (not through a flue set within a chimney). Compared to a traditional installation, prefab chimneys are more affordable but less durable. Plus, repairing them can be complicated once component parts are no longer available.

How a Chimney Works - Diagram

Photo: thechimneyguysma.com

Dampers
Whether traditional or prefabricated, all chimneys are fitted with a damper—that is, a moveable metal plate. When open, the damper allows smoke from the fireplace (along with heat and harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide) to exit the house. During the summer or on cold winter nights when you are not using the fireplace, the damper closes in order to help maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.

A standard throat damper installs above the firebox and is operated by a handle, while a top-sealing damper mounts at the top of the flue. The latter opens and closes by means of a stainless steel chain, extending down the chimney. When closed, the top-sealing damper serves double duty, not only keeping in heated air, but also keeping out animals, loose debris (e.g., leaves), and precipitation.

Draft
Rising heat creates an air current that carries heat, smoke, and toxic gases with it along an upward trajectory. Known as drafting, this fundamental principle of convection prevents your house from filling with smoke and hazardous exhaust. Larger flues create stronger drafts, generally speaking, but in any case, eliminating creosote deposits and other clogs ultimately safeguards against chimney problems.

Flue Liners
Mandatory in some states, flue liners enhance the safety and performance level of chimneys in a couple of ways. One, they prevent the overheating of combustibles adjacent to the chimney. Two, they make the chimney more resistant to the corrosion typically brought about by byproducts of burning wood.

There are three main types of flue liners:

  1. Clay tiles, commonly used in masonry chimneys, are inexpensive but known to split apart under intense heat. Those cracks must be repaired, as they enable toxic gases to enter the home.
  2. Especially with owners of old homes, stainless steel or aluminum flue liners are a popular choice today, because they are easily installed even in chimneys where an older liner already exists.
  3. Highly effective but labor-intensive (and thus more expensive), cast-in-place liners are the product of heat-resistant concrete applied against the walls of a chimney or an existing flue.

Chimney Fires
Without regular cleaning, a highly flammable substance known as creosote may build up within the flue, making the chimney vulnerable to high-heat fires. Burning at temperatures around 2,000°F, chimney fires are capable of extending beyond the chimney itself and into other, more flammable parts of the home. Though prefabricated chimneys are built to withstand very high temperatures, they can be so damaged by chimney fires that replacement becomes necessary.

Keeping the chimney clean prevents house fires. For that reason, if you frequently make use of the fireplace in your home, it’s highly recommended that you employ a certified chimney sweep on an annual basis. Many homeowners remember to make an appointment when turning the clock back during mid-autumn.


Quick Tip: Fireplace Doors

Find out how easy-install fireplace doors can reduce your wintertime heating bills.

You can lose a lot of heat through your chimney, even with the damper closed. Installing fireplace doors is a great way to eliminate that draft. They’re easy to install. Most models attach by tension, with simple hardware that doesn’t require drilling or damaging your fireplace brick.

For more on fireplaces, consider:

Hot Fireplace Inserts
Fireplace Maintenance Checklist
Quick Tip: Make Your Fireplace More Efficient


How To: Troubleshoot Your Furnace (in 9 Quick Steps)

The next time your gas furnace stops pumping out the heat, before you call in the pros, try to troubleshoot the problem yourself using this handy checklist.

Furnace Troubleshooting - Diagram

Photo: onehourairconditioningcharlotte.com

Now that winter’s nearly here, it’s time for a pop quiz: You wake up in the morning and there’s ice on the dog’s water dish. What do you do?

If you had trouble with that one, it’s time for a quick lesson on furnace troubleshooting. Here are nine easy tasks you can perform yourself, before you call in a repairman, to try and get your gas furnace—the nation’s most popular type—to start kicking out the heat again.

Step 1: Make sure the thermostat is set to “Heat.”
“This sounds obvious, but it’s true: a lot of people don’t have their thermostat set right,” says Bobby Difulgentiz, director of product management for Lennox International. So the first step in troubleshooting your furnace is to double-check that the thermostat is set correctly. “Many thermostats have to be physically set to “Heat,” says Difulgentiz. That switch can easily get moved—say, during dusting. He also advises to make sure the set point is at a temperature that will actually turn on the furnace.

Give the furnace a minute or so for the fan and the heat to kick on. If it’s still not on, set the thermostat to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. That way it won’t turn on and off repeatedly while you’re troubleshooting.

Step 2: Filter out trouble.
Filter-related failures are probably one of the most common furnace problems out there, primarily because homeowners forget about the filters, says Difulgentiz.

Filters clean the air headed into the furnace and the heated air sent back into the house. A dirty, clogged filter limits the airflow, eventually causing heat and pressure to build up in the furnace. Newer, more efficient furnaces are sensitive to the problem and will often shut down before a dirty filter causes more trouble. For other units, the furnace will continue to run but with less heat output and reduced efficiency, he says.

Furnace Troubleshooting - Filter

Photo: familyhandyman.com

How do you know if this is your furnace’s problem? First, check your filter for obvious dirt. Don’t try to skimp by cleaning and reusing cheap hardware-store filters, says Mike Bonner, a heating and cooling technician and instructor with 35 years of experience who now offers helpful advice at Gray Furnace Man. They have been sprayed with an oil that catches dirt, and once saturated they are no longer effective. “I recommend that homeowners replace their filters once a month,” says Bonner. “A monthly routine will be much easier to remember than every two months—and it’s that important.”

Related:  Gas vs. Oil—Which Furnace Is Better?

Another way to determine that you may have a filter failure: Listen for a whistle. If the furnace can’t get enough air through the filter, it pulls air through any opening it can. A whistling sound is an indication of a problem.

Step 3: Change the batteries? 
Some thermostats are wired to the house’s electrical system, while others use batteries. How is yours powered? Sometimes those that use batteries will flash a low-battery symbol when they need a replacement, but the signal often goes unnoticed, says Bonner.

Step 4: Do you have juice? 
You need to know if the furnace is getting electricity, so check. Most thermostats have a switch for the fan that says either “On” or “Auto” (which means that the fan turns on when the equipment comes on). Throw the switch to “On.” “If the fan comes on, then you know you’ve got power to the furnace. If it doesn’t, you know you’ve got other problems,” Bonner says.

Step 5: Find that circuit breaker.
Still haven’t found the problem? Here’s the next step in furnace troubleshooting: Go to your home’s breaker panel and look for the circuit that controls the furnace. You’re looking to see whether it’s thrown to the “Off” position, or whether it’s in the middle. (In some panels the switch shows red.) Some electricians do a poor job of labeling—or correctly labeling—appliances in the house. Don’t see the furnace listed? “You’re looking for the one switch that seems in a different position from all the others,” says Bonner. “To fix it, throw it all the way off, then back on.”

Furnace Troubleshooting - Switch

Photo: hammerzone.com

Step 6: Throw ANOTHER switch.
Furnaces have another switch, simply known as the “furnace switch.” It’s a power switch that often looks like a regular light switch. It can be located either on the unit or—because electricians often work before the furnace is installed—on a wall nearby. Often this switch is unlabeled. If installed correctly, the switch in the up position is “On.” Unfortunately, this switch can sometimes be mistaken for a light switch and accidentally turned off. Throw this switch and give it a few minutes, as some furnaces have a few minutes’ delay.

Related:  Is It Time to Replace Your Furnace?

Step 7: Break the code.
Furnaces built about 1990 or later have a tiny window where a light shows through. That light can not only tell you whether the furnace has power, it can flash a code to help you know what’s going on.

If you’ve flipped the furnace switch off, then back on, note the sequence of the flashing light. Then open the furnace’s access panels (there are usually two). Inside one will be a key that tells you what the code means. That meaning will be useful information to tell a technician if the furnace still won’t start after you replace the panels.

Step 8: Follow the light. 
“If your furnace has a pilot light—anything less than 20 years old won’t—there are instructions in your owner’s manual for how to relight the pilot,” says Bonner. A modestly capable homeowner should be able to do it. You’re dealing with fire, however, so don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with.

Step 9: Now you’re desperate: Check the gas valve
If all else fails, check the furnace’s gas valve to make sure that it hasn’t somehow been turned to the “Off ” position. Any gas furnace has a “gas cock” that has to be located within six feet of the furnace, Bonner says. This is usually never touched, but you could check it. Another way to double-check: If you have more than one gas appliance, find out if it’s working. If it is, you know that the gas line into the home is OK.

Looking Forward
So when should you give up troubleshooting your furnace yourself and call in the cavalry? That point varies for every homeowner. “When you get uncomfortable, call somebody,” Bonner says.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: Lennox’s Difulgentiz recommends that someone come out twice a year—in spring to check on the air conditioner before it gets a workout, and in autumn to make sure the furnace is running efficiently: “Typically it’s not that expensive,” he says of such maintenance visits. “It’s a good thing to do, with such a high-dollar item in your house.” For about $100 or so, a technician will eyeball the system, oil the motors, run a safety check, and clean the flame rod on the newer furnaces to make sure the flame is there.

Adds Bonner: “If your furnace is located in a laundry room, I would definitely service it every year, because we have chlorine and phosphates and all sorts of odd chemicals in the laundry room. They get into the flame and the flame chemically changes them” and the resulting chemicals can damage the guts of the furnace, like the heat exchanger, he says. Also, there’s substantial lint in a laundry room. If a heat exchanger breaks, carbon monoxide could leak into a home, Bonner points out.


Radiant Surfaces: Heat Where You Least Expect It

In existing homes, it's easier to install radiant heating in the walls and ceiling than under the floor, yet it offers the same—and in some cases even better—benefits.

Warmboard

Photo: Warmboard

Think “radiant heating” and you’re likely to think of floors. But did you know that radiant heat panels can also be installed in your ceiling and your walls to offer the same clean, quiet, even heat for which the floor system is known? In fact, in the 1950s and ‘60s, electric radiant ceilings were quite popular. As the price of electricity climbed, however, these panels became too costly to operate. Fortunately, there are new systems out there, like those from Warmboard, Inc. Warmboard radiant panels hold flexible tubing that carries warm water from your home’s gas furnace or oil burner and transfers that heat to the interior of your home.  The result is exquisite comfort.

A Smart and Affordable Retrofit
For existing homes, it is often cost prohibitive to install radiant floor heating because of the labor and materials involved in ripping up and replacing the floor. For homeowners wanting to keep their existing tile or hardwood floor, but still benefit from radiant heat, wall and ceiling applications can be installed less intrusively and for a lower cost.

Related:  Radiant Floor Heating 101

wainscott

Photo: fanaticfinish.com

Warmboard panels are particularly suited for wall and ceiling installations because of their compact size and efficiency. The company’s Warmboard-R panel is just 13/16 inch thick, so it doesn’t take up much additional space when it’s installed. For wall retrofits, all that is generally required is removal of the original drywall, installation of the product, and reinstallation of the drywall. If this causes the wall to move out too much, homeowners oftentimes create a framed panel on the wall or install wainscoting to add decorative appeal.

Warm Walls
To get a nice, enveloping heat in any room, you can install radiant panels in the bottom four-foot section of your walls. If you have a room with high ceilings, however, you can extend the range of the installation up to eight feet. It’s important to insulate properly behind your radiant walls, so be sure your contractor is familiar with this requirement and installs the system properly.

Also, when planning the location of your radiant panels, remember that the system works best with a “line-of-sight” layout. This means you’ll be most comfortable with the least number of barriers between you and the wall in which you install the system.

Warmboard Ceiling Installation

Photo: refracthouse.com

Warm (and Cool) Ceilings
To get the most out of radiant ceiling heat, it’s recommended that the system be installed on flat ceilings that are between 8 and 12 feet high. While Warmboard offers better-than-average conductivity, panels installed on the ceiling must also be properly insulated.

A secondary benefit of installing radiant panels in your ceiling is that in the warmer months, your system can be designed to pump cool water through the tubes, lowering the temperature of your ceiling to about 60 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit. As warm summer air rises, it will hit the ceiling, cool, and fall, creating a natural convection cooling system. With this setup, in order to avoid condensation, it is recommended that a dehumidification system be put in to lower the humidity of the air.

Related:  6 Things You Didn’t Know About Radiant Floor Heating

Overall Benefits
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, radiant panels have the quickest response time of any heating technology. Because the panels can be individually controlled for each room, that quick-response feature can result in cost and energy savings when rooms that are infrequently occupied are suddenly put into service.

In addition to this benefit, radiant heat also provides even heat, unlike the on-and-off blasts from forced hot air systems or electric baseboards; heat that is quiet, which is not the case with clanging radiators; and heat that contributes to an allergy-free environment, because there are no ducts or fins to gather dust and other substances that can irritate airways.

Note: People worry about hanging things on walls in which radiant panels are installed. While keeping radiant panels installed below a 4-foot height generally reduces the concern, taller installations will require some planning.  To make sure you don’t puncture tubes when nailing picture hangers into a radiant-heated wall, take a photo of the system before the finishing drywall is put up, so you know where the tubes are. Then, use a tape measure to mark their locations and annotate the distances on your photo. Then you’ll be able to stay warm and comfortable in a truly artful way!


Water Heaters 101

When it comes time to replace your home’s water heater, you’ll have hundreds of models from which to choose. To make the right decision for your family, consult this primer on the many water heater options available today.

Types of Water Heaters - Maintenance

Photo: shutterstock.com

The water heater is the home’s unsung hero, reliably operating behind the scenes to make possible many of the modern conveniences we take for granted—hot showers, washing machines, dishwashers, and more. If your existing water heater has outlived its useful life and it’s time to replace it, consider the virtues of a high-efficiency model, typically designated by an Energy Star rating. Not only does an efficient water heater conserve H20 (good for the environment), but it also saves energy (good for your wallet). While installation is best left to the professionals, one job that you can certainly do yourself is choosing among the different types of water heaters on the market.

Conventional Storage Water Heater
This, the most common type of water heater, includes an insulated storage tank that holds a quantity of heated water, anywhere between 30 and 80 gallons. What powers the appliance? That depends largely on the services already present in your home, but any of the usual suspects—natural gas, liquid propane, oil, or electricity—can be the fuel source for this type of water heater. Inside the tank, a gauge reads the temperature of the water, and when it drops below a preset level, the unit kicks on to bring the water temperature back up. That process of continual heating goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even when you’re sleeping or away on vacation. So, in effect, you’re paying to heat water that isn’t used. But whenever you do need hot water, it’s there waiting and ready in sufficient supply. Conventional storage water heaters come in many sizes; a small tank suits the modest needs of a bachelor, while larger tanks meet the demands of a family with multiple children.

Maintenance
Upkeep administered in periodic, regular intervals can optimize the performance and significantly prolong the life of a water heater. Routine maintenance tasks include:

  • Draining and flushing the water heater twice a year to eliminate built-up sediment and minerals.
  • Testing the pressure relief valve to ensure it is in good working condition.

Before you begin any work on the water heater, remember either to turn off the power supply or to set the gas switch to the pilot position.

 

Types of Water Heaters - Tankless

Photo: rinnai.com

Tankless (or Instantaneous) Water Heaters
In comparison with conventional water heaters, the tankless variety promises significant energy cost savings, because it heats water only upon demand. In other words, the only water that you end up paying to heat is the hot water you actually use. Sounds great, right? The downside is that tankless heaters are dogged by a low flow rate: Moving only two to five gallons per minute, a tankless cannot accommodate more than one household use simultaneously. So if you are running the dishwasher, you can’t take a hot shower. For that reason, many homeowners have installed multiple tankless units (feasible thanks to their compact design), each devoted to a different set of appliances and/or fixtures. Whereas a conventional water heater lasts 10 or 15 years, a tankless can be expected to function reliably for 20 years or more. That longevity comes at a cost, however; tankless heaters sell for about double the price of conventional models.

Maintenance
Hire a licensed plumber to flush the unit regularly (at least once a year) to eliminate accumulated mineral deposits.

 

Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters
Powered by electricity, this type of water heater works to intensify the heat it draws from the air, transferring that heat to a quantity of water contained within its storage tank. Because it works in concert with the environment, an electric heat pump system performs best in hot climates, where the technology can be up to three times more energy efficient than a traditionally designed unit.

Maintenance
For an electric heat pump water heater to operate at peak level, its air filters must be cleaned regularly. Otherwise, recommended maintenance is no different than with a conventional storage water heater.

 

Types of Water Heaters - Solar

Photo: shutterstock.com

SOLAR WATER HEATERS
A free and limitless energy source—the sun—powers solar water heaters, which are practical in any climate, contrary to popular belief. This type of water heater features two parts: a solar collector and an insulated storage tank. Sometimes, the unit installs on the roof; other times, in the yard. Active solar water heaters distribute water by means of a pump, while passive models rely on the force of gravity, not on manmade mechanics.

There are two types of active solar water heating systems…

- Direct circulation systems: A pump circulates water through solar collectors and into a storage tank (suitable for regions with no extreme cold).

- Indirect circulation systems: A pump circulates an antifreeze solution through solar collectors and a heat exchanger, the latter of which heats the water (popular in regions where temperatures reach freezing).

Passive solar water heating systems are less expensive, and there are two basic types…

- Integral collector storage systems: Solar collectors in the storage tank heat the stored water, which then flows into the home’s plumbing via gravity.

- Thermosyphon systems: Solar collectors heat from below, causing the heated water to rise, from which point it travels naturally into the home.

Maintenance
Assuming that a solar specialist provides routine maintenance every three to five years, you can expect this type of water heater to run for 15 or 20 years. With a solar hot water system of any kind, there are a number of inspection and upkeep tasks that homeowners can do themselves:

  • Regularly clean dusty or soiled collectors
  • Monitor the connections between a storage tank and its piping
  • Look for damaged insulation covering pipes, ducts, and wiring
  • Check the tightness of all nuts and bolts responsible for securing the collectors in place
  • In an active system, verify that the pumps are operating properly

There have never been more types of water heaters for a homeowner to consider. But if you reflect on your needs, determine how much you wish to spend, and weigh your level of commitment to energy efficiency, you should have no trouble choosing the right model for your home and family.


Quick Tip: Rumford Fireplaces

Rumford fireplaces boast a uniquely efficient design, resulting in more heat for those seated around the hearth.

Fireplaces are a nice feature in any home. Count Rumford fireplaces, known for their heat efficiency, are tall and shallow, reflecting heat back into the room. Constructed from fire bricks and refractory mortar, they will tolerate very high temperatures. The distinctive throat design connecting the firebox to the flue wastes less heated room air.

For more on fireplaces, consider:

Gas Fireplaces 101
Firewood Primer: Which Wood Burns Best?
10 Accessories for the Fashionable Fireplace


How To: Join Copper Pipe

Though PEX and other plastic products are more and more commonly used, homeowners continue to encounter projects that require one to know the basics of joining copper pipe.

Here is the best way of joining copper pipe yourself. First, use fine sandpaper to clean the inside of the fittings and the ends of the pipes. Then brush flux onto your fittings. Join the pipes together and use a propane torch to heat the fitting (not the pipe). That pulls the solder into the joint. If the copper turns black, it’s too hot. Now wipe off the excess, and that’s all there is to it.

For more on plumbing, consider:

Joining Copper Pipe (VIDEO)
How To: Solder Copper Pipe Fittings
Bob Vila Radio: PEX Tubing vs. Copper Pipe


How To: Choose a New Boiler

If you're looking to update your boiler before winter sets in, make sure you take into consideration your boiler's size, efficiency, and venting requirements.

Boilers

Photo: SupplyHouse.com

Feel that chill in the air? Winter is coming. Now is the time to assess your heating system and replace any aging or malfunctioning components. The first thing to look at is your boiler—the most common heating source in any water- or steam-based system. Boilers use natural gas, oil, electricity, propane, or wood to create hot water or steam that heats your home through radiators, baseboard convectors, radiant floors, or fan-forced coils.

There are several different types of boilers available, including high-efficiency units designed to help homeowners rein in high heating costs. If your heating system is more than 10 years old, you may be able to achieve substantial savings by switching to a newer model.

“While the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ certainly still applies, older boilers were often grossly oversized for the heating load of the house,” explains Daniel O’Brian, technical expert at online retailer SupplyHouse.com. “This leads to a dramatic drop in efficiency and an increase in heating bills and maintenance visits. A heat loss calculation can determine whether your current boiler is properly sized for your home. It’s a good first step in deciding whether or not to replace it.”

THE RIGHT SIZE 
Boiler capacity is measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units. This figure represents the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Every building has a unique BTU requirement based on its geographical location and climate, the number of windows and doors in the home, and the quality and amount of insulation in the walls and ceilings.

An easy rule-of-thumb for BTU requirements is to figure that you need about 50 BTU per square foot of interior space in a cold climate; 35 BTU per square foot in a moderate climate; and 20 BTU per square foot in a hot climate. As an example, if you have a 2,000-square-foot house in a moderate climate, you need a boiler that can produce approximately 70,000 BTUs. Use this handy BTU calculator to determine what size is appropriate for your home.

EFFICIENCY MATTERS
A key factor when shopping for a new boiler is the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. This rating shows how effective the unit is in converting fuel into heating energy. “Replacing your boiler with a high-efficiency unit may seem like a no-brainer, however, these units require different operating conditions to reach their efficiency ratings,” comments O’Brian. “A straight-up trade may not net you much in the way of fuel savings without adjustments to the heating system.”

Any boiler with an AFUE rating of 85 percent or more is considered to be a high-efficiency boiler; many of these are Energy Star-certified, which means they meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Most new oil furnaces today have AFUE ratings of between 80 percent and 90 percent, with their gas equivalents rating between 89 percent to 98 percent. Condensing boilers can reach ratings of over 95 percent when used with an outdoor reset modulation feature that accounts for outdoor temperatures. Electric boilers are nearly 100 percent efficient because they produce no waste gas; they can be a good option in areas of the country where electricity costs are low.

VENTING REQUIREMENTS

Direct vent vs Power Vent boilers

Diagram: SupplyHouse.com

Another consideration when shopping for a new boiler is selecting a venting system that will work within your home. Chimney-vented boilers exhaust naturally through a chimney, while power- and direct-vent boilers use fans to push exhaust through a roof or side wall vent. Since power-vent boilers use air from inside they can be installed only in open rooms, not in tight closets or crawl spaces. Condensing boilers have special venting requirements due to the acidity of the condensate that they produce.

To learn more about boilers and how to choose the one that’s right for your home, watch the video below, or visit SupplyHouse.com.  And, if you are in the market to buy, take advantage of the company’s annual Trade Tuesday event, December 3, 2013, for 5% site-wide savings.

This post has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com.  Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Snake Wire

To a snake a wire between floors in your home, why not try using this painless technique?

Anyone can snake wire in a wall between floors. Here’s how. From a hole in the floor below, push a wire snake with a taped loop on the end up inside the wall to the position you want. Use another wire snake with a hook on the end to catch the loop and pull it through the hole. Now securely tape the wire to be pulled through onto the loop and pull back down.

For more on wiring, consider:

The Electrical Rough-In
Electricity in the Modern Home
Bob Vila Radio: Electrical Ground Rules


Bob Vila Radio: Finding the Right Insulation R-Value

If your insulation isn't as effective as it could be, consider upping your R-value.

Autumn’s falling temperatures get many of us thinking about apple cider, trick-or-treating, and… R-values. If your home isn’t well insulated, these chilly nights may remind you to start thinking about upping your R-value.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FINDING THE RIGHT INSULATION R-VALUE or read the text below:

Insulation R Value

Photo: Department of Energy

The R stands for resistance, and R-value is the way we measure how effective insulation is—the higher the R-value of a material, the better it is at insulating your home. But how much does your home need? The answer depends on where you live, how much insulation you already have, and what part of your home you’re insulating.

The Department of Energy has divided the country into climate zones that help you get started. The warmer your climate, the lower your number, so the southern tip of Florida is in Zone 1, and the northern plains and most of Alaska are in Zone 7. Not surprisingly, you need higher R-values in the colder zones.

R-values are given per inch, so the lower the R-value per inch, the thicker the layer of insulation you need. Attics and cathedral ceilings require the most insulation, walls and floors the least.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.