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We often notice air leaks in our home around windows and doors and worry about the energy being wasted in those areas. This is particularly true in older homes built before 1995. What you may not realize is that more significant air leaks are actually hidden in the attic, basement or crawl space areas. Sealing and insulating the exterior shell of the home is the most effective method of improving energy efficiency and comfort levels. By stopping air leaks and adding needed insulation, the EPA estimates that a typical homeowner can save up to 10% of their total annual energy bill or up to $6,400 over the life of the heating and cooling units.
In homes with forced air heating and cooling systems, ducts typically lose about 20 percent of the forced air from the ducts due to air leaks and poorly sealed connections. Particularly in older homes, many ducts that run through unconditioned spaces are not fully insulated or not insulated at all. Sealing these connections and adding needed insulation can have a dramatic impact on your energy bill.
If your attic is fully accessible and you are an experienced Do-It-Yourselfer, then there are guides available that provide step-by-step instructions for stopping common air leaks and adding insulation to the attic area. An excellent article is “A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Energy Star Home Sealing,” found at www.energystar.gov under home improvement.
There may be tax credits available for some of your work.  A good reference is www.energytaxincentives.org  or  www.dsireusa.org.