Thursday, November 18, 2010

Insulation can give you a warm fuzzy feeling not only in your home but also in your pocketbook.

Most homes don’t have enough insulation. According to Simply Insulate, 46 million homes are under-insulated, which means you may be paying more for heating and cooling. Unless your home was built with energy efficiency in mind, adding insulation may reduce your utility bills. In fact, you may save enough money so that the renovation pays for itself in a few years. Now’s a great time to add insulation since many rebates and incentives are available. Check out to see what is available in your area.

Where Should You Insulate?

You should insulate places that are a buffer between interior and exterior.
Common places are:
  • Attics
  • Walls and floors adjacent to an unheated space like a garage or basement
  • Exterior walls
  • Cathedral ceilings
  • Basement and knee walls

You should also insulate any place where you want extra sound-proofing, such as between a below-ground-floor rec room and the floor above it or the interior wall of a bonus room theater over the garage.

How Much Do You Need?
The answer depends on several factors:
  • Where do you live? Colder climates require a higher R-value (The higher the R-value, the better the insulation's ability to resist the flow of heat through it.) So, if you live in the Northeast, you need a higher R-value to keep the heat in the house and the cold out than if you live in the South.
  • How old is your home? If it’s more than 10 years old, you likely need more.
  • What type of home do you have? A single-level house has different requirements that a multi-level structure. So does a home with a basement vs. a home built on a slab. Cathedral ceilings, rooms over unheated garages and sun rooms all need extra attention.
  • How do you heat and cool your home? Whether you have a furnace or a heat pump and/or central air conditioning will all factor in to the amount of insulation you need.

How Can You Tell How Much Insulation Your House Has?
The North American Insulation Manufacturers Association website offers a map showing thermal recommendations based on both the U.S. Department of Energy’s recommendations and the most-recent minimum International Energy Conservation Code levels. Click here.

Once you know how much you should have, you need to check how much you do have.
  • In the attic: Use a ruler to measure the amount of insulation. If you have 6 inches or less, you need more.
  • In walls and floors (adjacent to an unheated space): The structural framing elements (the ceiling joists or wall framing boards) are often exposed, so it’s easier to see whether there is insulation. Use the proper R-value associated with your location.
  • Exterior walls: These are more difficult to inspect since they are finished. You can see inside by removing the cover plate on an electrical outlet. Use caution! Check outside the outlet box to see whether you have insulation in the wall.

Why Add More?
There are a lot of additional benefits to increasing the amount of insulation. You’ll get:
  • Increased energy savings
  • Increased comfort levels
  • Evenly distributed temperatures
  • Increased resale value
  • Better acoustics
  • Moisture control