Insulation: A Smart, Behind-the-Scenes Investment
If you live in a home that’s more than a few years old, it’s probably worth your time to figure out if it’s properly insulated. With the right insulation, you can create a more comfortable, consistent indoor climate and significantly improve your home’s energy efficiency.
1. Determine where you need to add insulation. The most effective places to add it to older homes are usually attics, basements and crawl spaces.
2. Determine how much additional insulation R-value you need.
3. Determine the type of insulation you need.
4. Calculate the quantity of insulation you should buy.
5. Choose whether you want to undergo a DIY insulation project or get insulation professionally installed.
R-value measures how well certain building insulation materials, such as foam insulation, can resist heat. The higher the R-value, the greater the performance of the insulation. Keep in mind that if insulation is compressed, the R-value will decrease.
The most common types of insulation are fiberglass, cellulose and foam. These types of insulation are available in a number of different forms depending on the location and R-value you intend to add.
Step 1: Determine if your home is already insulated
If you have insulation, find out the type and compare it to industry standards for R-value. Remember: The higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation.
Step 2: Calculate any additional insulation needs
If, for example, industry standard is R-50 and your depth is less than this, subtract the R-value depth you have from 50 to determine the amount needed to top up.
Step 3: Measure the area needing insulation
Measure the length of space needing insulation. Batts of insulation generally come in 16- or 24-inch widths to fit the spaces between wall and attic framing.
Step 4: Determine the type of insulation to use
Decide what type of insulation you want to use. Manufacturers cut batts into 4- foot lengths. Once you determine which product to use, divide your total from Step 3 by the square footage per bag. Find the cost for insulation and multiply one unit by the total you need to complete the job.
Another way to control heat loss is by improving the quality of your windows. Low emissivity (or Low-E) windows do not allow as much heat to pass through, keeping your house cooler when it’s hot and warmer when it’s cold. Shrink film and weatherstripping are low-cost alternatives.
Hot Water Heater Insulation
Insulate water heaters to prevent costly energy loss. Look for insulating pre-cut jackets or blankets with an insulating value of at least R-8. Adding insulation to your water heater can reduce standby heat losses and save you water heating costs.
Hot Water Pipe Insulation
Wrap pipes with tubular insulation to prevent freezing and help keep water hot. Use quality pipe insulation wrap, or neatly tape strips of fiberglass insulation around the pipes. Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature, allowing you to use a lower temperature setting.
Vent Duct Insulation
Insulated heating and air conditioning ducts operate more efficiently and vibrate less, reducing noise. Properly sealing air leaks using metal or sealant tape and insulating air ducts located in unconditioned spaces such as attics, crawl spaces, garages, or unfinished basements can also help improve your home’s energy efficiency.