Intro to insulation for your home

Everyone is familiar with insulation, especially the pink fiberglass stuff, and that it helps keep your home warm, but we often don’t understand how this usually works.

The average home uses 50% to 70% of its energy to heat and cool the home. Any waste of energy in heating and cooling can be very expensive.

Insulation is a layer of material that hold air in an area. This air will keep heat from transferring easily. That allows the home to stay cool when it’s cooled and warm when it’s heated. It can also keep heat and cold from entering the home.

This article reviews the types of material, how insulation is rated and insulating your home against the elements.

Different Types of Insulation

Insulation is made from many different materials. Through the centuries, people have used all types of materials for insulation – newspaper, cloth, soil, and much more. Today, we use a few other materials.

  • Densely packed cellulose – Among the most popular materials is densely packed cellulose and fiberglass. A relatively new method of insulation, packed materials don’t settle the way that looser materials do.
  • Blown-in insulation – Fiberglass and cellulose are simply blown into an empty space. Using an air pump, these materials can be injected into hard-to-reach spaces. Attics, walls and basements can be insulated easily and effectively.
  • Spray foam – Latex or polyurethane can be injected into walls and open spaces. The foam is a thick liquid so it will fill small cracks and space. Once it has hardened, the foam will keep the home well-insulated.
  • Batts – This is familiar form, but most people simply know it as rolled fiberglass insulation. Often made of rock wool or fiberglass, these are materials that are backed with paper and a vapor barrier.
  • Vapor barriers – A vapor barrier is a water and air impervious material. Usually, plastic or kraft paper with a waterproof coating, vapor barriers are used in conjunction with other forms of insulation.

This article explains the Top 10 Benefits of Effective Home Insulation .

Choosing the Right Type of Insulation

What is R-value? R-value is a measure of thermal resistance. Okay, maybe that’s not terribly helpful. What it really means is that a material resists transferring heat or cold. R-value is a measure of a materials thickness and its resistance to transferring heat. There is a fancy mathematical formula, but what you really need to know is the higher the R-value, the more the item will insulate.

Note: More insulation is not always better. There is a break-even point where insulation is simply thicker, but doesn’t really provide more thermal protection.

If you are building new or replacing walls, you can use batts, or rolled, fiberglass insulation. The insulation is attached to studs on the house as you build, then sheetrock is put over it. Most often, the batts have their own vapor barrier, but most contractors and home owners will put a vapor barrier against the outside wall, then put the batt on, with its attached vapor barrier on the inside.

If you are working with existing walls, an injected insulation, like blown-in recycled paper or foam insulation, will be best. You can drill holes in the walls and ceiling and blow the insulation. In an older home, foam might be the best choice. There are often tiny nooks and crannies that need to be filled. In a newer home, the spaces are likely to be more uniform and easier to fill, so any insulation will work.

For new construction, densely packed cellulose is ideal. This type of insulation takes up less pace, making walls thinner. Because of how it’s made, these materials often act as their own vapor barrier and will include a thermal barrier on the outside.

Adding insulation to your home can save you thousands. Here is an article on precisely how to do it.

How to Choose the Right Insulation Specialist

During a construction or remodel your contractor will install insulation. For a remodel, they will most often use batt insulation because it’s inexpensive, easy to work with, and very effective. If you are doing an addition, it can be very easy to use densely packed cellulose.

For insulation that is blown-in, like foam or cellulose, there are some excellent contractors who specialize in insulating homes. There are some steps that need to be taken in order to make your home warmer, cooler, and safer.

  1. Search at www.QualitySmith.com for a contractor in your area. Using your postal code, they can help you sort through thousands of contractors from across the country.
  2. As soon as you have chosen two or three contractors, start by asking them for proposals. They should be able to give you detailed written proposals that will explain exactly what they will do and what the end result will be. Of course, it will detail the costs you can expect.
  3. After you have narrowed your choices down to one or two contractors, you need to ask them for more information.
    • Contractor’s license – Every contractor must have a license from their state or province. Ask for their license number. Call the state or province authority, or check online, and verify that their license is active and in effect. If not, then don’t work with them. Unlicensed contractors are the number one reason that homeowners get burned. They simply have no legal recourse to these contractors.
    • Liability insurance – Ask for their liability insurance policy number and agent’s contact information. Speak to the agent to make sure that their liability insurance is fully in effect and meets the minimum state standards. Again, if they don’t have insurance, you don’t work with them.
    • Worker’s compensation insurance – If anyone other than the owner is going to work on your property, the contractor must have worker’s compensation insurance. If they don’t and an employee is hurt on your property, you can be found financially and legally liable. Your insulation can cost you your home.
    • References – Naturally, they will give you references that like them, but, by asking the right questions, you can learn a lot. Ask if the contractor completed the work on time, if they cleaned up after themselves, or if there were any unanticipated costs associated with the project.
  4. Look at online reviews – Remember that only the happiest and unhappiest clients will post online reviews. Don’t worry about individual complaints, but look for trends. If everyone says that their project was completed late or not at all, there is likely a problem.
  5. Interview them – This person might be working on your home for days or weeks. If you don’t like them, it might seem like years. Make sure that you like their personalities when you meet them.

Here is an article that details how insulation can save you money. There are also some federal, state, and local tax credits that you might be able to tap into. Talk to your local energy company to see what they can tell you about government assistance that can save you money.

When to Insulate Your Home

When you are wondering if you should insulate you home, there are a few simple questions to ask:

  • Does your home cool off too quickly in the wintertime?
  • Does your home heat up too quickly in the summer?
  • Do people in newer homes near you pay less for their energy bills?
  • Is your home more than 50 years old?
  • Does your attic let in drafts?
  • Does mold grow on your walls or ceilings?
  • Can you feel moisture on the walls or ceilings?

These might seem like simple questions, but they can lead you to the conclusion that you need to insulate your home.

Do you need a contractor?

You will need a contractor if you are going to use blown-in insulation. This isn’t negotiable. There really isn’t any way to do this type of project for yourself. Many of these contractors can do the work in a day or two.

If you are doing your own remodel or expansion, you can put up your own insulation fairly easily. Using batten fiberglass and a heavy-duty staple gun, you will be able to insulate almost any wall. Be sure to include an exterior vapor barrier. Without it, it’s likely that moisture will get into the wall causing mold.

Figuring out how much insulation you need: Your contractor will be able to tell you this, so you can go with what they say. Another place to ask is your local building inspection office. They will not only have guidelines, but might also have local rules regarding how much insulation (what R-factor) you need in your home. Your power or gas company can also help you with this.

A free inspection is probably available from your gas or electric company. They will give you a detailed report of what you need to do and how much insulation you need. This report can tell you almost anything you need know about making your home more energy efficient. Most of them will do it for free for the asking.

Helpful Articles

Remodel your garage: Insulation options – This article details ways that you can insulate your garage. One of the mistakes that people often make is to remodel their garage, but not properly insulate it.