Home insulation 101
BY Family Features
Monday, September 10, 2012
Homeowners spend a lot of time and money making their homes comfortable, inviting places to live. But if you’re not putting some of that effort into what’s behind the walls, you could be missing out on comfort and savings.
Insulation is key
Heat naturally flows from warmer spaces to cooler spaces. Proper insulation decreases the heat flow and helps you keep your home at a comfortable temperature.
“Good insulation can do a lot for your home and your family,” said Ed Reeves, building scientist with Icynene spray foam insulation. “It can improve indoor air quality, protect your home from winter damage and, ultimately, save you money.”
Proper insulation can help with:
• Indoor air quality — Moisture can build up in your walls, causing the interior to slowly rot. Not all insulations can prevent mold, however. Spray foam insulation forms an air barrier, which protects your walls against moisture.
• Protection from ice dams in winter — In winter, as warm air from your home comes in contact with the inside edge of your roof, snow melts on that section. As it slowly trickles down, it refreezes, causing ice to build up. Water can then leak into your home, causing damage. Closing any insulation gaps with the right insulation can prevent ice dams from forming.
• Saving money — Air leakage can run up your energy bills significantly. Making sure you close air leaks with weather stripping, caulking and insulation helps reduce your heating and cooling bills. The U.S. Department of Energy says that floors, walls and ceilings account for 31 percent of the air leakage in most homes. So good insulation is a must for lower energy bills.
There are a number of different insulation types to choose from. They all have what’s known as an R-value, which is the measurement of insulation’s resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation.
Older insulation types such as fiberglass can settle or compact over time, decreasing their insulation properties. Compressed insulation won’t keep its full R-value.
Spray foam insulation has great long-term benefits. “The others may have a cheaper up-front cost, but in the long run, spray foam protects better, lasts longer and can reduce your energy bill by up to half as much as with older insulations,” Reeves said.
He recommends asking these questions to make sure you’ve got the right insulation for your home.
• How well does the insulation control air leakage without the use of extra finishing materials (tape, gaskets, plastic wrap) and labor?
• How quickly will the insulation pay for itself? Could the monthly savings outweigh the monthly cost of financing?
• How does it compare in reducing air leakage in hard-to-insulate areas without extra materials?
• Will it improve the air quality in your home by minimizing air infiltration to help keep out allergens, dust and other outdoor pollutants?
• Can the insulation shift with the home as it settles and lose its R-value?
• What happens if it gets wet? How well will the insulation dry out? Will it keep its insulating properties?
• Can it help make your home quieter, suppressing plumbing, between-room and street noises?
To properly insulate a new home, you first need to know where you need to insulate and the recommended R-values for each of those areas. Use the U.S. Department of Energy’s Zip Code Insulation Calculator (www.ornl.gov/~roofs/Zip/ZipHome.html) to determine where you need to insulate and the recommended R-values based on your climate and type of heating and cooling system, etc.
Learn more about insulation and how you can choose the right one for your home at www.energysavers.gov.
Proper insulation can improve indoor air quality in addition to the comfort of your home interior. Courtesy of Getty Images
Air leakage can run up your energy bills. Make sure you close air leaks with insulation, weather stripping and caulking.