When it comes to insulating your basement, the ideal solution is not always as clear. Some would argue that any insulation is beneficial; in which case insulating the basement ceiling to prevent air flow into the warmer, upper floors of the house would be a good start. But research by the U.S. Department of Energy actually shows that there's not much to be gained by insulating the ceiling alone.
If you are going to go to the expense of insulating your basement, DOE recommends insulating the basement walls - which effectively transforms the area into a conditioned space - over insulating the ceiling. Compared to insulating the ceiling, insulating the walls of a basement requires less overall insulation material and more easily achieves thermal and air leakage boundaries. But insulating the walls of a basement can be an extensive, expensive job, and you also need to take into consideration other factors such as moisture control and insect infestation, to which some types of insulation are susceptible. In the end, a cost-benefit analysis may not always come out in favor of insulation in this instance. According to DOE figures, the annual savings with basement wall insulation for the average U.S. home can range from $250 to $390 depending on the home's climate and the grade of insulation used. In some cases, forgoing basement insulation in favor of other energy efficiency upgrades, such as adding storm windows or weather-stripping your doors, may provide a quicker return on your investment.
For a detailed examination of the advantages and disadvantages of basement insulation, consult the DOE website.
Anthony Stokes Pereira, Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty
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