Adding home insulation is the single most cost-effective way to reduce home heating costs in winter, and cooling costs in summer. Insulation preserves comfort, controls moisture, and improves your indoor environment.
The Money Pit Guide to Insulation highlights the best insulation options to help you make the best choice for your home. Download the entire guide above or read on for a summary of the best ways to save energy and eliminate chilly drafts!
Insulation is critical component of new builds, and also one of the most important improvements you can make to an existing home. What’s more, the quality of your home’s insulation impacts every other energy-saving improvement you’ll tackle. Plus, tending to common household air leaks is the finishing touch, because such cracks and gaps can add up to an air escape the size of a basketball. For these reasons and many more, it’s important to make smart insulation and sealing choices now for comprehensive, energy-saving results that will last for years to come.
The type of insulation you choose depends on the location of the application within your home, the format needed, the age of your home, and the insulation R-values recommended for the area in which you live. R-value is a measure of thermal resistance—that is, resistance to heat flow—and the higher the R-value of the insulation, the more insulating power you’ll get. As you assess your home’s insulation needs, you’ll find that varying R-values are required for different areas within your home, from attic to basement and crawlspace versus exterior walls.
FIBERGLASS, CELLULOSE & MINERAL WOOL INSULATION
Whether you’re choosing insulation for new construction or upgrading the insulation in your current abode, get to know these common insulation solutions. Some applications can be do-it-yourself projects with the right equipment and protective gear, while others require the help of a trained technician.
SPRAY FOAM INSULATION
Spray foam insulation can be sprayed, poured, injected or even foamed-in-place for lightweight but intensive coverage and high R-value results. It adheres to surfaces so it avoids many of the pitfalls of air-permeable insulation. It’s usually available in two formulations, closed-cell and open-cell. Closed-cell foam insulation has high-density cells that are closed and filled with a gas that causes the foam to expand and fill spaces to be insulated.
HOW MUCH INSULATION DO YOU NEED?
The amount of home insulation you need depends on where you live, the age of your home, what parts of the home need to be insulated, and even what kind of heating and cooling system you have. According to regional differences alone, a home in the Northeast calls for much higher insulation R-values than one in the Southeast or on the West Coast. So, start by knowing your home insulation zone, as set out by the Department of Energy. They’ve divided the United States into eight zones, mapped at www.energystar.gov.
CASE STUDY: SOLUTION FOR A CENTURY OLD HOME
In renovating their nearly 130-year-old family home, Money Pit host Tom Kraeutler and his wife, Sue, sought to add value while providing optimal comfort and performance for generations to come. Over its history, the home had undergone several improvements, including a 1901 addition now functioning as the kitchen. Fiberglass insulation was added throughout the home back in the 1980s, but over time, the material left the home drafty and cold, and the kitchen addition could be as much as 15 degrees cooler than the rest of the house.
Seeking even, effective insulation and indoor comfort, the Kraeutler’s chose to install Icynene in the addition, two flat roof spaces, a second-story attic, and box beams at the foundation perimeter. On the flat roofs, all existing insulation was removed, and Icynene Classic spray foam was applied, followed by re-sheathing and re-roofing. The roof of the addition was then cleared of sheathing and Icynene open-cell, light-density spray foam was installed into the open bays and across the ceiling of the kitchen area. Two weeks later, the insulation makeover was completed with Icynene in the upper attic and box beams.
CASE STUDY: THE RESULTS
The Kraeutler’s felt it immediately, the day after the kitchen roof application. The main living space and addition were equally comfortable and maintained the right temperature, and ever since, the home has remained comfortable and drafts have been eliminated. There’s also continued proof in the family’s monthly energy bill, with a notable reduction in heating and cooling costs thanks to the air sealing and insulating qualities of Icynene.
Tom’s utility company confirmed the dramatic impact Icynene Spray Foam Insulation had on his century-old home’s energy efficiency, taking it from one of the least energy efficient to among the top 19% most energy efficient homes in his neighborhood.
WHERE TO INSULATE
For maximum comfort and minimal utility bills, focus on improving insulation in key areas around your home, including sneaky sources of leaks. Here are the top targets for improved insulation.
Attics: Your attic offers the greatest potential for home energy savings, and also happens to be the easiest area to improve.
Whichever home insulation material you choose for this space, make sure to maintain proper attic ventilation. It’ll protect insulation from the dampness of wintertime condensation, which can cut insulating power by one third and introduce a host of structure-threatening moisture problems.
Exterior walls: Make the most of this home insulation opportunity for even temperatures throughout indoor spaces, protection from air pollutants, and enhanced soundproofing for your home.
Basements and Crawlspaces: These areas too tend to be easily upgraded as many homes are uninsulated below grade. Care must be taken to provide a thermal barrier on the interior (typically ½” thick gypsum wall board is sufficient) to protect the insulation from fire and other damage.
Windows and doors: Choosing windows and doors with built-in insulation is a great investment in your home’s energy efficiency and comfort. But even if you delay such upgrades, you can make an immediate difference by caulking and sealing around windows and doors—inside and out—and tightening door hinges, upgrading door hardware, and adding weather stripping and a door sweep.
Around outlets, switches and lighting fixtures: Wall openings around outlets and switches can let in blasts of outdoor air, so fit them with specially designed foam gaskets, and attack bigger gaps with a quick application of expandable foam. Can ceiling lighting is another well-disguised source of household drafts, so insulate fixtures by following manufacturer and National Electric Code guidelines, which typically require three inches of clearance to prevent overheating.
Ducts: In forced-air heating and cooling systems, the ductwork that distributes home comfort can lose about 20 percent of its payload through faulty connections and other leaks. Stop ductwork drafts with duct sealant (a.k.a. duct mastic) or UL 181 tape, which looks like silver foil but, unlike mis-named duct tape, doesn’t degrade, crack or lose its bond with age.
All of these draft-deterring efforts make for easy weekend projects, enhancing overall insulation effectiveness and raising your home’s energy efficiency profile in the process.
INSULATING FOR THE FUTURE
With the proper home insulation investment, you’ll feel the difference indoors and see the difference in your home energy bills. Icynene can help you create a healthier and more comfortable living environment, insulating and sealing in one step. The results are immediate and lasting: fewer drafts, more even temperatures, quieter and more tranquil living spaces, and improved air quality year-round.