When homeowners look for insulation contractors in Grand Rapids or insulation contractors in Holland, they usually have the same thought in mind: that their home could be both more comfortable and more energy efficient with more insulation. But how much more? And how do you measure a worthwhile investment?

When you’re evaluating an insulation project, you may want to know how long it will take to recoup your investment. You can always come up with your own equation, or you can try a quick and easy automatic calculator to estimate how long it will take to recover your original investment. Fine Homebuilding’s simple payback estimator for an insulation upgrade just requires a little information up front – the type and amount of insulation you currently have, square footage of the area, recent utility bill, and a quote from your insulation contractor – and then will come up with the payback period with the click of a button.

Of course an online calculator has a few limitations, such as the fact that it only includes a subset of available insulation types, so it may not include the type of insulation most suitable for your space. Still, it can give you a general idea and allow you to compare scenarios. If you need to get more specific to your situation, you can use the equation that the calculator is based on, which is a fairly comprehensive formula developed by the Department of Energy.

The DOE’s formula takes into account a number of factors, including the amount of insulation you currently have, the amount you plan to install, R values, efficiency of your heating source, and the number of heating days per year. It also incorporates both the cost of the insulation and the cost of energy in $ per Btu (which can be the most complicated part to figure).

Of course, neither a simple online tool nor a DOE equation can account for all the factors that affect energy usage and savings over time. Critics would point out that the cost of energy changes over time, or that air sealing greatly affects the effectiveness of any insulation. Really, no calculation can be perfectly predictive, but at least you can get an idea of what projects are most worthwhile.

Calculating your savings can be a big help in choosing what insulation projects to pursue.

Photo: Steve Mueller