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The average American household plunks down about $650 on heating and cooling each year. Smart use of insulation can help you cut corners while keeping your house airtight.

Everyone loves to save money -- and saving energy in the process is a particularly exhilarating feeling. That's why we've been enjoying sharing energy-smart tips with you each week as part of our Energy Savings series, courtesy of our friends at Green Home Guide. Sadly, the summer is coming to an end, and we must start looking toward ways to prep our homes for dropping temperatures. So today, we're spotlighting a few smart ways to use insulation around the home, and keep warm (and cool) air inside where it belongs.

1. Insulation Saves Major Green
Forty-four percent of energy used in the average home is used for space heating and cooling, says the Department of Energy (DOE). That's a major drain on your wallet. Reduce your yearly heating bill by up to 30 percent by installing a few hundred dollars' worth of insulation in your home.The insulation will pay for itself in no time. To calculated an estimated payback period for your home, use this formula by the DOE.

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2. Choose Materials by Climate
The array of insulation types might blow you away -- from fiberglass and cellulose to wool and plastic foam -- but there's an easy way to determine which insulation material is right for you. Use your geographical location as your gauge. Visit the Department of Energy's website to see estimates of the total R-value (resistance to heat flow) that certain areas of your home should have, based on your region's climate.

3. Choose Blown-In Insulation Whenever Possible
If you're trying to choose between blown-in or batt insulation, choose blown-in insulation as often as possible. When insulation is blown in, it expands, providing a more foolproof coverage of gaps. But keep in mind that blown-in insulation can cost 2 to 3 times more than batts. A good compromise is to look into having a blower door test done and thermal image taken to find out where major points of heat loss are; these are the places in which you may want to splurge for blown-in.

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4. Use Green Insulation
Looking for a nontoxic alternative to traditional insulation? Cotton batts and formaldehyde-free batts are a great option, especially for crawl spaces. Cotton batts are a bit pricier than typical fiberglass batts, but their health benefits are worth the investment. Cotton batts won't taint air quality at all; in fact, you don't even need to wear a mask to install them.

This information is courtesy of the U.S. Green Building Council. For more tips on saving energy and greening your home, visit USGBC's Green Home Guide.


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