Home Insulation Problems?
Keeping It Green – Wasting Money, Literally Because You have a Poor Seal and are Low on Insulation
Insulation – it’s something you rarely see or think about. But it could be costing you hundreds of dollars a year in utility bills. The hot air is sucked out into the cold during the winter and the hot air from outside will come in during the summer. Did you know that before 1980 most building codes didn’t require insulation in exterior walls? And many older homes have no insulation at all!
Before we talk about the different types of insulation and the pros and cons, let’s first address what the purpose of insulation even is. Insulation is meant to stop the transfer of air from one location to another. If it is colder outside your house than inside, the purpose is to keep the hot air in and the cold air out. The air around us is always trying to be exactly equal. That’s why if you take a hot coffee in an open mug outside, the hot air will rise out of the mug and cold air will take it’s place. The air transfer will stop once the contents of the mug reach the exact same temperature as the air outside the mug.
This is exactly what is happening in your home. If it is 75 degrees in your home and 50 degrees outside, the natural tendency of hot air would be to leave your home, allowing cold air to come in, until your house reaches 50 degrees. Insulation is a barrier to stop the movement of that air. The exact opposite happens in the summer. The cooler inside air will want to switch places with the hot air outside. The purpose of all insulation is to stop that transfer, although some do it better than others.
Here are the three main insulation options:
BATT AND ROLL BLANKET INSULATION:
Most common type of insulation. Made of a fibrous material (fiberglass, plastic, wool), in widths made for between studs and joists. The fibers create air pockets that trap air, great slowing air transfer.
- Cheapest option available
- Quick and easy to install
- Some have fire resistance and provide sound insulation as well
The fibers can cause irritation for the skin and lungs during installation
Not as effective as other types of insulation
LOOSE FILL/BLOW IN INSULATION
Loose fill made of fiberglass or cellulose that gets blown in and allows for coverage of areas with lots of nooks and crannies.
- Provides good coverage, especially in attics
- Can be put in after walls have already been covered up with drywall
- Often made of recycled materials
- Usually provides higher insulation value than batt/roll insulation
- Very dusty application
- Can compress over time, thus loosing insulating value
- Requires the use of a machine
SPRAY FOAM INSULATION
Liquid foam is sprayed onto walls, attics and floors. It then dries, leaving a hard and permanent barrier.
- Most efficient form of insulation
- Provides the most weather-tight barrier available for stick built homes
- Most expensive
- Must be applied by a professional
- Once applied, it is very difficult to remove
One more thing to consider when talking about insulation. A major source of air leakage in homes, particularly older homes, is gaps. You may have the best insulation available in your walls, attic and floors, but if you have gaps around your doors and windows, the air can just pour in and out of your home. It has the same effect as leaving a window cracked open. Finding and sealing these cracks is often the cheapest and easiest solution to improving the insulating value of your home. Depending on the situation you might want to apply caulking or spray foam (typically around windows) or a rubber seal (usually around doors).
Many utility companies offer free energy audits of your home.
So if you think your house might be low on insulation, or if you feel a draft of cold air, it’s definitely worth your time, and money, to take a closer look.
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