Insulation and Weatherization
June 2nd, 2010 | Published in Energy Tips
Checking your home’s insulating system is one of the fastest and most cost effective ways to use a whole house approach to reduce energy waste and maximize your energy dollars. A good insulating system includes a combination of products and construction techniques that provide a home with thermal performance, protect it against air infiltration, and control moisture. You can increase the comfort of your home while reducing your heating and cooling needs by 30% by investing just a few hundred dollars in proper insulation and weatherization products.
Should I insulate my home?
The answer is probably “yes” if you:
Have an older home and haven’t added insulation.
Are uncomfortably cold in the winter or hot in the summer. Adding insulation creates a more uniform temperature and increases comfort.
Build a new home or addition, or install new siding or roofing.
Pay excessive energy bills.
Are bothered by noise form the outdoors.
Are concerned about the effect of energy use on the environment.
First check the insulation in your attic, ceiling, exterior and basement walls, floors and crawl spaces too see if it meets the levels recommended for your area. Insulation is measured in R-values, the higher the R-value, the better your walls and roofs will resist the transfer of heat. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends ranges of R-values based on local heating and cooling costs and climate conditions in different areas of the nation.
Although insulation can be made from a variety of materials, it usually comes in four types – batts, rolls, loose-fill, rigid foam boards, and spray in place foam. Each type is made to fit in a different part of your house. Batts are made to fit between the studs in your walls or between the joists of your ceilings or floors. Batting is usually made of fiberglass or rock wool. Fiberglass is manufactured from sand and recycled glass, and rock wool is made from basaltic rock and recycled material from steel mill wastes. Rolls or blankets are also usually made of fiberglass and can be laid over the floor in the attic. Loose fill insulation, usually made of fiberglass, rock wool or cellulose, is blown into the attic or walls. Cellulose is usually made from recycled newsprint treated with fire-retardant chemicals.
Rigid foam boards are made of polyisocyanurate, extruded polystyrene (XPS or blue board), expanded Polystyrene (EPS or bead board), or other materials. These boards are lightweight, provide structural support, and generally have an R-value of 2 to 7 per inch. Rigid board insulation is made to be used in confined spaces such as exterior walls, basements, foundation and stem walls, concrete slabs, and cathedral ceilings.
The easiest and most cost effective way to insulate your home is to add insulation in the attic. To find out if you have enough attic insulation, measure the thickness of insulation. If there is less than R-22 (7 inches of fiberglass or rock wool or 6 inches of cellulose) you could probably benefit by adding more. Most U.S. homes should have between R-22 and R-49 insulation in the attic.
If your attic has ample insulation and your home still feels drafty and cold in the winter or too warm in the summer, chances are you need to add insulation to the exterior walls as well. This is a more expensive measure that usually requires a contractor, but it may be worth the cost if you live in a very hot or cold climate.
You may also need to add insulation to your crawl space. Either the walls or the floor above the crawl space should be insulated.
For new construction or home additions, R-19 to R-28 insulation for exterior walls is recommended for most of the country. To meet this recommendation, most homes and additions constructed with 2 X 6 walls require a combination of wall cavity insulation, such as batting, and insulating sheathing, or rigid foam boards.
Warm air leaking into your home during the summer and out of your home during the winter can waste a substantial portion of your energy dollars. One of the quickest dollar saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal, and weather-strip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside. You can save 10% or more on your energy bill by reducing air leaks in your home.