Sealing the envelope and limiting the thermal bridge between inside and outside is the purpose of insulation. Assuring your home has adequate insulation is one of the most important steps you can take in reducing your utility bills. Find out here why it is important and how to install insulation so it is effective and long-lived, and which types of insulation work best for each application.
Attic insulation should take top priority in sealing your structure, no matter the climate. What about wall insulation? Whatever the thickness of your walls, they should be full of insulation in every climate. What about the floors and foundation? Insulation is these areas is mandatory for efficient homes in cold climates, and not a bad idea for warm climates.
Insulation is is measured in R-value for resistance to heat flow. High R-values mean more insulating benefit. However, R-value is only part of the story. Insulation has to be installed just right, no matter what kind of insulation you use, to get really good performance. And sealing up air leaks between the insulation and the inside of your house is essential to make sure that the insulation does what its supposed to do.
The main areas of your home that need good insulation are the attic or roof, walls, and the foundation or floor. Each area uses different materials and techniques; each is important to the whole. Find out more about home insulation basics.
Before deciding where and how much insulation you are going to install, its a good idea to determine what is needed. We outline practical methods of measuring your insulation. Find out more about measuring your insulation.
If you tour the insulation section in a large home improvement store, you'll see many types of insulation. But they are manufactured from only a few basic materials. Fiberglass, cellulose, mineral wool, and plastic foams make up the majority of insulation products. The remaining variations are mostly in shape, size, and density. Find out more about the different types of insulation.
Fibrous insulation is relatively inexpensive and easy to install. If your ceiling or roof has less than 6 inches of insulation ( a resistance level of R-19 or below), adding insulation to a total of 14 to 16 inches (or about R-45) is an excellent investment. If your attic is tall enough, there is no reason not to add enough to total as much as 24 inches (R-60). The payback on this investment will only get better as the price of fuel rises.
Preparing to increase attic insulation is often more work than installing the insulation itself. This is last opportunity to seal many important air leaks through the ceiling before insulating. Spend whatever time and money you need to do a good job. Air leaks through the attic are among your home's most costly energy problems.
Repair roof leaks and other attic-related moisture problems before insulating your attic. If attic-related moisture problems can't be repaired, don't insulate the attic.
If your home has an attic hatch, it should have an insulation dam installed around it. An insulation dam allows the insulation of a thick blanket of loose-fill insulation right up to the hatch, and prevents the insulation from spilling through the hatch into the living space when you next open the hatch.
Next, note the location of all heat-producing devices. These include recessed light fixtures, bathroom fans, chimneys, and exhaust fans.
Attic vents will also require special attention. These vents are intended to remove heat from the attic in summer, and moisture in winter. Baffles, which are cardboard dams, should be installed at the eaves (over cardboard dams, should be installed at the eaves to prevent insulation from spilling out into the overhang and blocking the attic vents.
Vent all kitchen and bath fans outdoors through roof or soft fittings. Use aluminium or galvanized steel vent pipe. Insulate the pipe to prevent condensation during cold weather, or use pre-insulated flexible duct-work.
Most manufacturers of insulation make cardboard rulers which you can staple to the roof framing so you can judge the depth of your new insulation. Once you're installing insulation, this saves you the trouble of stopping the machine to check your progress.
Some homes don't have an open attic to insulate. Homes with flat roofs, and homes with vaulted ceilings, often have an attic cavity no more than a foot deep which has a finished surface such as drywall on the bottom, and roofing material applied directly to the top. Insulation may fill some or all of the cavity, but the total insulation thickness will always be less than can be installed in an open attic.
Wall insulation is one of the most underestimated and neglected energy savers for homes. Most new homes are built with too little wall insulation, and many older homes languish with inadequate thermal resistance in walls because the owners haven't installed retrofit wall insulation. New and existing homes need insulation within the cavities and insulated sheathing installed on the wall's exterior.
Many houses have no floor or foundation insulation at all. While this is not as important in hot climates, homes in cold climates need foundation insulation, floor insulation, or both in order to be energy efficient. Since floor insulation tends to be inexpensive it is cost effective in all but the warmest climates.
Mobile homes can be some of the most inefficient buildings that people live in. They are usually elevated off the ground and not on a foundation. The heat ducts lay on the ground within the elevated cavity, and are very subject to leakage. The walls of the home are very thin and made of the cheapest materials that are highly flammable. The windows are of cheap quality and not only are single ply, but typically don't close completely. We could go on with the sub-prime building quality of mobile homes, but will stop here. Having said that, one advantage of mobile home's simple construction methods, is that they are easier to retrofit to improve their energy efficiency.
A good place to start would be the craw space under the home. Open a piece of panel that encloses the craw space and check for holes in the insulation under the floor. These holes may indicate water leaks. If your buying an older mobile home, you'll want to make sure you or the seller purchase a home warranty. For $300 -$400 per year, a home warranty can save you thousands of dollars in Mobile home repairs. Make sure the plumbing is good before repairing or replacing the insulation.
Next, consider replacing the windows with double pane, quality, sliding frame inserts. Then, you may want a take a serious look at your heat ducts under the mobile home. If the unit is more than ten years old, the ducks probably have holes and worn points that are leaking air from your furnace. The ducks may also be resting on the ground because the under floor supports had worn out. After that, may may want to upgrade your furnace, and then re-wrapping your walls and ceiling with new fiberglass insulation.
We have opened the door to do it yourself installing insulation with the dialogue above. Some areas of your home are best left to the professionals. Other areas that are accessible non-invasive can be pursued by the home owner. Some areas you can consider insulating, upgrading, or improving are the attic, the attached garage, pipes, and ducts.
The attached garage is probably the easiest way to cut your teeth on because it is readily accessible. You can start by wrapping the water heater in a blanket. Next, since the garage is not insulated like the living portion of the house, consider making the garage cooler in the summer. You can do this by installing an thermal-coupled exhaust fan or evaporative cooler on an exterior wall of the attached garage. Next, install temperature reflective foil on the outer walls and garage door. Another suggestion is when you drive home from work in the hot summer afternoon, let your car's engine cool down before parking it in the garage or leave your large garage door open until the late evening.
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