How to Insulate Your Home on a Budget

How to Insulate Your Home on a Budget

Insulating your home can help make it more energy efficient and comfortable, while also saving you money on utility bills. With some strategic planning and do-it-yourself installations, insulating your home doesn’t have to break the bank. Here’s how I insulated my home room-by-room without spending a fortune.

Evaluate Your Home’s Current Insulation

Before starting any insulation project, it’s important to understand your home’s current insulation situation. Here are a few things I did to evaluate my home:

  • Checked the attic. I climbed up into the attic with a tape measure to see how much insulation was up there already. This gave me a baseline to understand how much I needed to add.

  • Looked at exterior walls. I turned off the power and removed some outlet covers on exterior walls to peek inside and see if the cavities were already insulated. Most of mine were empty.

  • Consulted my utility bills. I looked back at old utility bills to see how my home’s heating and cooling costs varied over the seasons. Large fluctuations signaled my home was poorly insulated.

  • Hired an energy audit. I brought in a professional to conduct an energy audit. For around $400, they did a thorough inspection and produced a detailed report on my home’s insulation needs. This gave me an insulation roadmap.

Compare Insulation Materials

With an understanding of my home’s needs, it was time to explore insulation options. I compared the pros and cons of various materials:

  • Fiberglass – Very affordable and effective, but can be irritating to install.

  • Spray foam – Seals well but expensive to hire out. I ruled this out given my budget.

  • Cellulose – Made from recycled paper and a good DIY option. I ultimately chose this for my attic.

  • Mineral wool – Made from natural materials but had a higher price tag than cellulose.

  • Insulation blankets – Affordable and easy to install yourself. I used these for my walls.

For me, cellulose and insulation blankets provided the best blend of affordability, performance, and DIY-friendly installation.

Prioritize Your Insulation Projects

With my materials chosen, it was time to decide which insulation projects to start with. I prioritized based on the biggest potential savings:

  • Attic – Since heat rises, the attic is often the biggest source of heat loss. This was my top priority.

  • Exterior walls – Uninsulated walls also represented major energy drains. I focused first on north-facing walls.

  • Windows – Old drafty windows caused discomfort. I caulked and weatherstripped to seal gaps.

  • Doors – Similarly, I sealed exterior doors with weatherstripping to prevent air leaks.

  • Basement – My mostly below grade basement was last on my list. I insulated exposed header and sill areas.

By tackling insulation projects in order of impact, I maximized comfort gains and utility savings.

Compare Costs of Purchasing vs Installing Insulation

To keep my project budget-friendly, I researched whether DIY installation made more sense than hiring out:

Purchasing insulation:

  • Fiberglass batts: $1.15/sq ft
  • Cellulose loose fill: $1.35/sq ft

Professional installation:

  • Fiberglass installation: $1.15 – $1.50/sq ft
  • Cellulose installation: $1.25 – $1.75/sq ft

The materials themselves were affordable, so by opting to install the insulation myself, I avoided high labor costs. Some tasks like the attic required renting blow-in equipment, but overall, my DIY approach saved thousands.

Attic Insulation

My attic was my top insulation priority. After researching the ideal attic insulation R-value for my climate, I followed these DIY steps:

Gather materials

  • Cellulose insulation – 12 bags @ $15 each
  • Rental blow-in machine – $50 per day
  • N95 dust mask
  • Goggles
  • Extension cords

Prepare the attic

  • Removed existing insulation
  • Sealed penetrations, gaps with caulk
  • Installed baffles at eaves for ventilation

Install cellulose insulation

  • Set up blow-in machine
  • Wore protective gear to avoid breathing in cellulose dust
  • Aimed hose into different attic sections and filled evenly to desired depth

Finish up

  • Spread out and smoothed final layer by hand
  • Added R-value marker sticks to indicate insulation depth
  • Cleaned up all supplies and returned rental machine

After a long day’s work, my attic went from nearly no insulation to an R-60 level – a major improvement!

Exterior Wall Insulation

Next up was addressing my uninsulated exterior walls. For this project, I chose affordable fiberglass batt insulation:

Gather materials

  • Fiberglass batts sized for wall stud cavity depth
  • Stud finder
  • Tape measure
  • Drywall saw
  • Utility knife

Prep walls

  • Used stud finder to mark stud locations
  • Measured and recorded heights of wall sections

Cut insulation

  • Used drywall saw and utility knife to cut batts for each section

Install batts

  • Worked methodically from top down
  • Snugly fit insulation into each stud bay without compressing
  • Cut batts to size for spaces like electrical boxes

Finish up

  • Patched drywall holes with joint compound

Insulating my formerly empty wall cavities helped prevent precious heated or cooled air from escaping outdoors.

Weatherstripping Doors and Windows

My last major insulation DIY project was weatherstripping exterior doors and windows:

Gather materials

  • Self-adhesive foam weatherstripping tape
  • Rubber door sweeps
  • Sheet door gaskets
  • Expandable window sealants

Prep openings

  • Removed existing damaged weatherstripping
  • Measured each door and window opening

Seal doors

  • Applied thick foam tape around door frames
  • Installed door sweeps along bottoms
  • Adhered flexible gaskets along door edges

Seal windows

  • Cleaned window tracks and sills thoroughly
  • Inserted window sealant strips into tracks, then trimmed any excess
  • Caulked small exterior cracks and holes

This time investment in weatherstripping my leaky areas immediately reduced drafts and noise.

Prioritize Comfort and Long-Term Savings

Although insulating an older home on a tight budget required time and elbow grease, I’m already reaping rewards. The improvements to my home’s thermal envelope have made it more comfortable while also providing energy bill savings that will continue for years to come.

By first evaluating my home’s insulation needs, researching affordable materials, and methodically tackling high-impact projects myself, I successfully insulated my house on a budget. If your home could also benefit from some insulation upgrades, use my DIY approach to seal air leaks, boost comfort, and reduce your heating and cooling costs over time.