For many homeowners, the topic of insulation is an out-of-site, out-of-mind discussion. If a room is cold we generally just turn up the heat, put plastic over the windows, or throw on an extra sweater. Poor insulation almost never catches a bad rap because it is hidden behind a wall and most people don’t know what, if any, kind of thermal resistance is in their walls.
The truth is millions of dollars have been spent installing Energy Star windows, upgrading a furnace, or powering a space heater when in fact those projects are useless because of underlying insulation issues. When you left the door open as a kid you heard, “are you trying to heat the whole neighborhood” when in essence poor insulation is in itself an open door.
The real tricky question comes in knowing whether or not your current insulation is adequate. It’s one thing to rip into wallpaper and drywall to conclude, but it creates a whole new problem in itself. Instead, follow these tips on determining what you have for insulation and then what your options moving forward are:
Where Should Insulation Be?
It’s important to remember that insulation is not only for keeping cold air outside during the winter, it’s also crucial for blocking out hot air in the Summer. The obvious spots for insulation are in every exterior wall from floor to ceiling. One of the areas where many homes have inadequate insulation however is in an attic. Temps can approach 150° in an uninsulated attic as heat from the roof is absorbed into the home, making air-conditioners work harder and driving up energy bills.
Is My Insulation Adequate?
Many homeowners are faced with the conundrum of having insulation but not knowing whether it is sufficient or not. Energy Star has laid out a map of eight different insulation zones and the recommended R-Value of the attics, walls, and floor (R-value is the amount of thermal resistance). The best places to start searching are the attic, which should have 12” of insulation and putting batting between floor joists in a crawl space or unfinished basement.
Checking Wall Insulation
The reason attics and basements are recommended to upgrade insulation first is because they are easy to access. Attics can have insulation blown into them and basement joists are usually exposed. Walls however are covered up by drywall or plaster and what lies behind them is mostly a mystery. Upgrading wall insulation is expensive because it involves demolition of the finished walls (or drilling multiple holes) and rehanging sheets after improving the thermal resistance – that being said in an old house that is a sieve for heat and A/C loss it could be a worthwhile investment.
Insulation Upgrade Options
If you’ve determined that your existing insulation is doing nothing but draining money on utility bills and making your home uncomfortable, the next step is to determine what type of upgrade you want to have performed. Popular insulation types include:
- Fiberglass batts – come in 16” or 24” wide rolls that fit nicely into the space between wall studs. Requires open access to that area, however (removed drywall, unfinished rooms).
- Polystyrene foam board – can be installed from the exterior to provide high insulation value compared to the thickness, especially when combined with improved interior insulation.
- Loose-fill cellulose – blown-in material that can be sent into an enclosed wall needing more insulation and attic floors.
- Polyurethane spray – can be sprayed into enclosed areas or exposed attic floors but works when pressure-sprayed into an exposed wall.
Please contact us to schedule an inspection of your existing insulation setup as well as for more information on which insulating options work best regarding your home’s layout.