Insulation is a great way to save money on your electric bill. It keeps heat from escaping from your home in the winter and entering in the summer. It provides resistance to heat flow. The more resistance, the lower your heating and cooling bills. By nature, heat moves from warmer areas to cooler areas. That means, in the winter, heat moves from your living area to the unheated areas, your attic, garage, basement or outside. Heat flows through your ceiling, walls and floors. During the summer, heat enters your home from the outside. Insulation plays a major role in how hard your heating and cooling system has to work to maintain comfort. Adding insulation, especially in your attic, can lower your energy bill significantly.
Determine what you have: Determine the type(s) of insulation in your home. And, remember, just because one wall is insulated, doesn’t mean they all are. Measure the thickness of your insulation with a ruler to determine your R-value.
Where to begin: In this region, R-38 is recommended for the ceiling and attic. R-11 to R-13 would work well for the walls, floor, basement and crawl space. For instance, you can reach R-12 using 4 inches of insulation with an R-value of 3 or 2 inches of insulation with an R-value of 6. Attics are one of the easiest places to insulate and can have the biggest impact.
A few tips:
• Standard fiberglass insulation is effective for blocking heat flow from your living space to the cold attic during the winter. It is not very effective for blocking the radiant heat from the roof. Heat from the roof penetrates through the insulation to the ceiling below. The best method to block the majority of this heat is by installing reflective foil underneath the roof along with adequate attic ventilation. The foil will block the path for the radiant heat to the ceiling below. The attic ventilation will cool the roof and carry the excess heat away by natural air flow (hot air is less dense and rises).
• Doug Rye, an energy expert, recommends cellulose insulation saying it’s the “best and cheapest.” He adds that foam is fine, just more expensive.
• Spray foam acts as a seamless insulation making it more efficient than any other material used in the industry. It is lightweight, versatile, fills small gaps and adheres to most clean surfaces.
• Spray foam insulation is considered to be more expensive than most standard insulation however it cannot be compared to other types. When using the spray foam, it acts as insulation and air sealant. It also eliminates problems with moisture, mold and mildew and condensation problems inside the walls.
• Materials that could be damaged by moisture should not be used to insulate a basement. Rigid foam works well against basement walls.
Keep safety in mind:
• You can check for insulation in your walls by removing the cover from outlets and using a flashlight; however, be sure to turn off the power to your outlets first.
• Every home needs fresh air both for the furnace and appliances that burn fuel and to get rid of the excess moisture. Controlling this air exchange is called ventilation. Make sure insulation does not block existing vents. Install proper ventilation to slow the movement of air and water vapor, limit moisture and help prevent mold and mildew.
• Wear a breathing mask and gloves when installing insulation. Even with fiberglass insulation, you do not want to inhale any small glass fibers into your lungs.
• Allow proper clearance and install metal flashing around heat-producing equipment such as chimneys, flue pipes, exhaust fans and light fixtures to prevent overheating and avoid the risk of fire.
• Cellulose insulation is made from newsprint fibers. It is treated with certain chemicals (safe to humans) to make it insect, rodent and fire-resistant. However, consult a professional for installation to maintain this safety rating.
• If you think you have vermiculite insulation in your attic, there’s a chance it could contain asbestos. Don’t disturb vermiculite insulation. When adding or upgrading insulation, hire a contractor certified to handle and remove asbestos when dealing with this type of insulation.
• Insulate knee walls (vertical walls with attic space directly behind them).
• Insulate and air seal your attic access if it is located in a conditioned part of your home.
• Be sure to distribute insulation evenly.
• If you do not heat your basement, be sure to insulate between exposed floor joists.
• Put foam outlet insulators behind all switchplates located on exterior walls.
• Some materials settle after installation, reducing its R-value. Take this into consideration.
• If you’ve experienced a leaky roof or a wet basement, repair those problems and replace your insulation. Wet insulation is ineffective and can damage your home.
• Add weather stripping and caulk.
Consider an EnergyWyse loan from Adams Electric Cooperative for major energy efficiency projects including geothermal or air-to-air heat pumps, insulation, weather stripping and upgrading windows and doors.