Insulation is a very important part of heating and cooling your home — it acts as a barrier to heat loss and gain and adds to energy-efficiency. It helps regulate a home’s temperature and can be made with many different materials these days, as manufacturers are working to make homes more efficient.
Home insulation is made up of different materials. Fiberglass insulation is the most common and is used in most areas of a home. Other options include blown-in or loose-fill fiberglass, cellulose, and spray foam. Blown-in or loose-fill fiberglass is typically used for unfinished attic floors, finished walls, or hard-to-reach places. Cellulose is insulation consisting of recycled newspaper, paperboard stock or wood and is chemically treated to make it fire resistant. The foam insulation is usually sprayed into walls and attics and over rafters. In addition to helping your home maintain more comfortable temperatures, insulation also can act as a sound barrier.
While insulation can work in different ways, the goal is to find the best materials possible that can trap air in pockets. By dividing the space in our walls, floors or ceilings, these tiny pockets work together to insulate our homes. Each pocket is warmed individually as heat tries to move through the material, slowing the transfer of heat throughout your home to make it more energy efficient and comfortable at the same time. Adding insulation to any home, whether it be older or newer, allows for the maximum use of natural resources.
How do you know if your home needs more insulation?
Simply do a touch test. Do interior walls, ceilings or floors feel cold? They should feel close to the temperature of the room if there is an adequate amount of insulation.
Does your home feel cold, drafty or damp? Do some areas feel cold in the winter and hot in the summer? When these are common occurrences in your home, it’s time to add insulation, replace old single-pane windows, and repair and seal leaks. Make sure that any unheated or uncooled area in your house has enough insulation, and that ductwork extends into the basement, attic, and other drafty places.
You can determine what places need more insulation by doing a home energy audit — an inspection of your house to determine where there is energy loss. A large amount of energy loss can lead to a loss of money. An inspection is often the first step in making your home more efficient, thus saving you money.
The results of the audit can help you find the problems and work to find the best solutions. Call in a professional – or an energy auditor – to conduct the audit, often called an energy assessment. It will determine how much energy your home consumes. Oftentimes, simple and inexpensive measures can be taken to help save energy and money. Then, call in the pros to insulate problem areas of your home.
How much insulation should you have?
The Department of Energy recommends levels of insulation needed for homes. Older homes built under earlier code enforcement laws need an increased amount of insulation to meet current recommendations. Homes built more recently are required to follow current levels. Therefore, depending on the age of your home, you may need to add more insulation to walls, ceilings, and attics, and to the lower levels of your home. It’s always a good idea to add insulation to an attic space, where much of the heat is lost during colder months. Bonus: adding insulation to any home can make an HVAC system run more efficiently.