Seal Up Leaks First
If your home has significant drafts, you need to seal up the leaks in your home before installing new insulation.
If you think you have air leaks in your home, but you can't identify where they are coming from, you may want to visit with a home energy auditor. A certified energy auditor can test your home's envelope and identify air leaks.
After a chilly winter day, the comfort of your warm house makes you feel at home. However, if your home struggles to stay warm while your energy bills skyrocket, it may be time to get new insulation. There are several home insulation materials to choose from when deciding to upgrade your defense against the elements.
Keep reading to learn more about when you need to install new insulation, home insulation types, home insulation costs and installation tips.
HOME INSULATION TIPS: WHY SHOULD I INSTALL NEW INSULATION?
If your home is uncomfortably hot or cold even though your thermostat is set at an adequate temperature, or you notice your heating and cooling system running more often than it should, you may need new insulation for your home. Remember, the purpose of insulation is two-fold:
- Insulation protects the home from harsh weather and air leaks.
- Insulation should increase the comfort of your home while reducing your heating and cooling system’s run time.
Insulation can lose its effectiveness after years of wear and tear. It may be time to replace your insulation if:
- Your insulation is getting old, which causes it to lose its shape and sealing effect
- The insulation is dirty due to air leaks
- Animals have chewed on the insulation
- Mold is growing in the insulation due to excessive moisture
While modern insulation lasts longer due to better production and home construction methods, you will need to replace older lining due to depletion or the use of potentially dangerous material.
HOME INSULATION MATERIAL: WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
BATTS AND BLANKETS
Batts and blankets are, as the name suggests, a large, flexible blanket of fiberglass or rock wool that can fit between the studs, joists or beams of your house.
This type of insulation is usually installed in drywall during a home's construction or is placed in the attic.
This is an easy type of insulation to install on your own and tends to be on the lower side for cost. But remember, you get what you pay for.
Fiberglass batts and blankets are one of the least effective types of insulation. The biggest problem with fiberglass is that it is subject to convective air movement, resulting in a tremendous degradation of the cumulative R-Value. In basic terms, the air just flows right through it. This insulation type can also irritate the eyes, skin and lungs if the installer doesn't have proper protective gear.
LOOSE-FILL AND BLOWN-IN
Similar to batts and blankets, loose-fill insulation can be made of fiberglass, rock wool or cellulose. Instead of being laid into thick sheets, tiny fibers are blown across the insulated area's surface.
You can add loose-fill to virtually any space that needs new insulation. Loose-fill insulation is also generally produced from recycled waste materials:
- Cellulose is made from recycled newsprint
- Fiberglass containing 40-60% recycled glass
- Mineral using 75% post-industrial recycled content.
You can also perform a DIY installation of loose-fill insulation if you take time to research the process and rent equipment from a reputable vendor.
Loose-fill is more expensive than batts and blankets and requires a few days to dry before it's completely settled. Loose-fill's exact R-value can be more challenging to determine.
SPRAY FOAM OR FOAM-IN-PLACE
Spray foam insulation can be sprayed into open wall cavities. Spray foam fills and insulates difficult-to-reach areas for other insulations. It comes in two forms, open and closed cell, which allows more or less water vapor to move through.
Spray foam doesn't just insulate; it can also seal air leaks in the wall, keeping conditioned air from escaping your home. Like loose-fill, it's great for filling in hard-to-reach areas, and it expands after placement. Spray insulation is long-lasting and known for withstanding the elements better than fiberglass insulation.
While you can technically install your own spray foam insulation, it's best to hire a professional to spray it in your home. Spray foam installation requires precise application and a complete set of safety gear to prevent negative health effects from the insulation's chemicals. On top of the tricky application, spray foam is more expensive than loose-fill and batts and blankets insulation.
FOAM BOARD OR RIGID FOAM
Rigid foam boards usually provide insulation for exterior walls. You may have seen this type of insulation on new homes that are being constructed. It goes between the home’s walls and exterior weatherproof material.
Rigid insulation is excellent for acoustic insulation and adding structural strength to a wall. It's generally used during construction and can be cut to fit specific needs. It also blocks thermal conduction through structural elements. Rigid insulation is known for having some of the highest R-Values per inch.
This type of insulation requires expert installation and must be covered by drywall or other structural elements.
MAKING A FINAL DECISION
When you are deciding which insulation to use, there are a few questions you need to ask.
WHERE DO I NEED INSULATION?
Start with the area of your home that is lacking adequate insulation. Different parts of your home have different insulation standards. The best way to determine if and where you need to add insulation is to have a whole-house energy audit. Your local electric cooperative may offer free or reduced-cost audits, so be sure to contact them first.
HOW MUCH INSULATION DO I NEED?
This question will depend on what part of the house needs more insulation. Attics and ceilings have different R-value needs than exterior walls or floors. Always check the EnergyStar R-value map to see how much insulation you need before starting a DIY project.
WHAT IS MY BUDGET FOR INSULATION?
As mentioned earlier, some forms of insulation are more expensive than others. Look at the R-values of the insulation types you are interested in and determine how much R-value you are getting per dollar. Keep in mind it may be better to purchase a small amount of very effective insulation and work on making areas of your house better over time, versus buying the cheap and less effective insulation for your whole house. Additionally, your local electric cooperative may offer rebates for insulation and other weatherization improvements in your home.
CAN I INSTALL IT ON MY OWN?
Some types of insulation require expert installation, while ambitious DIYers can install others. If you want to take on a project yourself, make sure you know the requirements before purchasing.