"We added denim batts."
Bryant and Stephanie Pearson, Portland, Oregon

How They Work: Like all insulation, recycled denim batts help to block drafts and curb heat loss. They offer about the same R-value protection as fiberglass but take less energy to produce, since they're made with scrap fibers from textile mills and garment factories. The material is treated with nontoxic borates to make it insect- and fire-resistant. As with any insulation, denim batts can cut energy costs by up to 30 percent.

What These Homeowners Did: When it came time to insulate the family's 900-square-foot basement, Bryant reached for a soft, familiar material: denim. "I come from a construction family," says Bryant, "and the worst job on any work site is having to put up fiberglass insulation. It gets everywhere." He chose instead UltraTouch denim batts, made by of Chandler, Arizona, and installed them in a day. (Finishing the drywall was another story.)

What They Learned: "Denim insulation throws off a lot of dust," says Bryant, who wore goggles and a mask, and vacuumed frequently.

Keep in Mind: Recycled denim batts cost 15 to 20 percent more than comparable fiberglass—worth it, says Bryant, to work with no-itch, formaldehyde-free cotton.

Payback Period: 2 to 3 years
Their Cost: $800, with DIY installation
Yearly Savings on Gas Heat: $300
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