Wall and attic insulation plays a key role in keeping your home comfortably warm in winter and cool in summer. It’s ability to reduce heat transfer into or out of the home is stated as its “R-value”, meaning temperature resistance. High R-value insulation in your home can mean more comfort and energy cost savings!
What’s the Problem?
If you have an older home, built when insulation didn’t exist or wasn’t very effective, R-3 wall insulation was common. Today code-built homes have R-15 to R-21, and super-insulated homes may have R-60!
Any insulation must be installed properly to be effective. Failure to seal air gaps in the attic, walls or around windows during installation reduces R-value and cause drafts.
It’s very important to keep in mind that insulation is only one aspect of your heating/cooling puzzle. Drafty windows, a failing furnace/air conditioner or other systemic issues could be at fault instead. How can you know the true causes?
Solving the Problem with Science
Before you spend money on possibly the wrong solution, hire a Certified Energy Professional to effectively diagnose the problem. The Energy Pro will run tests to understand how leaky your home is, locate the air leaks, evaluate windows/furnace/air conditioner and existing insulation. The result is a “scope of work” plan prioritizing recommended work and defining what type of contractor to hire.
It’s smart to have the Energy Pro return to inspect installation quality prior to replacing interior or exterior finishes. This is the most cost-effective point to address any problems. At this time the Energy Pro will also test for “combustion spillage” - gasseslike carbon monoxide and other pollutants possibly coming from furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces.
Note: Many insulators offer to do pre- and post-testing to locate air leaks and ensure they’ve done a good job. While this is an extremely important step, having the insulator do it assumes that poor insulation is the problem when it could be something else entirely as mentioned above. Getting a home performance assessment from an Energy Pro is your wisest first step!
- Learn about Home Performance Evaluations (energy audits)
- Find a Certified Energy Professional
- Hire a professional contractor as recommended in the Scope of Work
- Review additional resources to build your confidence:
- Most Important Step
- Air Sealing
- Heating and Cooling
- Minnesota Department of Commerce Building Envelope Guide
- Minnesota Department of Commerce Home Energy Guide
- More Than A Beautiful Home