A building industry trade association has some bad news for homeowners looking to stay warm and toasty this winter: Roughly 90% of existing U.S. homes don't have enough insulation.

Based on new research, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA) says these underinsulated homes waste energy and money and sacrifice owners' comfort. This estimate is derived from information in the 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Survey, using methods to estimate insulation levels developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and applied by Boston University researchers as part of a study supported by NAIMA into the energy savings and emissions reductions possible with increased insulation levels in U.S. homes.

"If all U.S. homes were fitted with insulation based on the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), residential electricity use nationwide would drop by about 5% and natural gas use by more than 10% ," says Jonathan Levy, professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health and lead researcher on the Boston University team that investigated the subject. The study focuses on how increased insulation across the U.S. housing sector can decrease energy use as well as cut carbon dioxide and other pollutants. It will also provide estimates of the resulting public health benefits. These estimates will be developed and provided through a forthcoming series of peer-reviewed articles.

Curt Rich, President and CEO of NAIMA, emphasized the importance of these findings at this time of year. "The fall is when many homeowners around the country begin thinking about home improvements to increase comfort and reduce their energy bills as temperatures drop come winter. Research like this should reinforce our message to homeowners, and to policymakers, that added insulation has real and significant benefits."