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Home insulation is one of the first things homeowners think of to keep their home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And for good reason. Insulation is one of the most important tools we have to regulate our home’s temperature. When used in conjunction with proper air sealing (sealing the air leaks in a building’s exterior “shell”), insulation can make a dramatic difference in your indoor comfort and your home’s energy efficiency.
Many Types of Home Insulation
When most people think of insulation, they think of pink fiberglass insulation, which has been used to insulate many homes across the U.S. and around the world. This is called “batt and roll” or blanket insulation. But there are many other types of insulation that have superior characteristics, depending on the type of application. Here are some of the more common types of home insulation.
Batt and Roll / Blanket Insulation
Batt and roll insulation is very popular because it’s an inexpensive option and easy to install. It simply needs to be put in place, and can be cut to fit into pre-defined spaces. During installation, the insulation must not be compressed or it loses insulating value. Also, with this type of insulation you must have the area air sealed before installing the insulation, in order for it to be effective. Otherwise, air leaking through cracks and gaps will infiltrate the home and pass through the insulation, limiting the insulation’s effectiveness.
Loose-Fill / Blown-In Insulation
While batt and roll insulation is easy to install in an attic or a new addition, loose-fill (also called blown-in) insulation can be even easier to install and can provide better insulation qualities. Like the name suggests, blown-in insulation is blown in. The home insulation contractor uses special equipment attached to a hose which blows the insulation into the required area. One advantage is how quickly this can be done. Another benefit is that it can provide even coverage in irregular areas. For example, with batt and roll insulation, the insulation fits between the studs, leaving the studs un-insulated. With blown-in insulation, the studs are covered with insulation.
Blown-in insulation is also useful when adding insulation to inaccessible areas, such as inside a wall cavity that’s covered with drywall. There’s no need to rip out the drywall to add insulation. Your home insulation contractor can simply make small holes in the drywall and blow the insulation in. The holes can then be patched very quickly and easily.
As with blanket insulation, loose-fill insulation is only PART of a solution which requires air sealing BEFORE the insulation is applied. Otherwise, the insulation will simply cover the problem areas, but your home will still be losing energy. To effectively insulate your home, you need to hire a professional air sealing and insulation (weatherization) contractor that understands how the house functions as a system. Otherwise, your house could be sealed too tightly, which can lead to a host of issues, including poor air quality (which can lead to, or aggravate, asthma, allergies, bronchitis and other conditions). Air sealing must be balanced with proper ventilation in order to have an energy efficient and safe home.
Spray-foam insulation is a liquid that’s usually sprayed on to a building’s surface (it can also be poured or injected into cavities or crevices). Within seconds, the liquid expands into a foam which hardens to form an insulating barrier. This type of insulation is ideal for insulating irregularly shaped areas, around obstructions or for existing finished areas. The expanding foam is able to seal cracks and gaps so additional air sealing is not necessary to prevent air infiltration. Spray-foam’s air and water resistant properties provide superior protection and energy savings. Most spray-foam products are also fire-resistant for added peace of mind.
With all of spray-foam’s benefits, be aware that there are different types of spray-foam insulation. While they all work in a similar fashion, some types can be not so friendly to the environment. Ask your weatherization contractor or your home energy auditor to explain the differences and help you choose the insulation best suited to your needs and your values.
Radiant Barriers / Reflective Systems
Radiant barriers use a different type of technology than the standard types of insulation. These systems provide a barrier that reflects heat away from the home. Radiant barriers are often used in attics to keep the heat from entering the attic and the home below. They are often used in conjunction with other types of home insulation for added insulation value. Radiant barriers come in various types, including foils, plastic films, polyethylene bubbles and treated cardboard.
This is a simplified overview of some of the most popular categories of insulation. Within each category are various types of materials, each with different characteristics and insulating values. To get the best results and energy savings, schedule a home insulation audit today!
We were unaware of what was involved in an energy audit and your audior took the time to explain everything. We were impressed with the report which told us the areas in which we need to take action on. He never pressured us to use any particular contractors, he just suggested that we go to the Building Energy Pros web site to select contractors of our own choice. He did an excellent job and we HIGHLY recommend the Building Energy Pros. We already have recommended them to several of our neighbors. Again, EXCELLENT JOB!
The Building Energy Pros auditor was very knowledgeable. I was VERY HAPPY with him. He promptly E-mailed my energy audit report to me and I will consider all of his recommendations.
We found out that our house really has no energy problems. We are happy to know that we
I was very satisfied with your energy auditor. He was very qualified and spent a great deal of time with me. The energy audit was very informative.
The energy auditor was very good and helpful. He keeps in touch with me to answer any of my questions.
I was very satisfied with my energy audit. The auditor gave me some tips on attic insulation that were very helpful.
I was very satisfied with my energy audit. Thank you!
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I was very happy with the energy audit. THANKS!
My energy audit was very helpful. Joe Dempsey, your auditor, identified some structural problems that I was not aware of and explained to me why I need more insulation.
The auditor was EXCELLENT! He spent ALOT of time with me. I am going to take 3 to 4 of his suggestions and correct these small items to save on my energy bills.
The auditor did a GREAT JOB! He knew a lot about older homes, which we have. The report was very comprehensive. Thank you!
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The auditor did a TERRIFIC JOB! The report was FANTASTIC! I will make all the repairs he suggested. I will definitely recommend him to everyone I know that could benefit from a home energy audit.
Steve Sleigh, Chevy Chase
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I was very satisfied with the auditor. He was great and gave me some very valuable information. I will refer him to people I know who may need a home energy audit.
Your home energy audit proved to be very informative and helpful. I was not aware of the updraft created inside our walls because of the balloon framing construction. You said that that can cause heat to be pulled out of the house with the draft going up inside the walls and should be re-mediated. You also said that the attic insulation was insufficient and that fiberglass batts can leave spaces for around the edges causing heat loss and that it should have blown in insulation on top of what was there to seal the whole attic and increase the r factor. After going over your findings and telling me how you would fix the problems you told me how I could do it myself with stuff from the Home Center and for a quarter of the cost. Well, I did. I went into the basement and filled the bottom of the wall joist with unfaced insulation where they set on the sill plate. I then cut one inch foam board the size for each space and set it in and the sealed the edges of that with expanding foam as well as the sill plate to the foundation. I also sealed the sill plate to the foundation where the joist ran along it, as well as the top of those joist where it made contact with the subflooring. Next I went to the home center and rented their blown insulation machine and got ten bales of the insulation. I filled the attic on top of the batt insulation with about six inches giving another r-19 factor on top of the r-19 that was there. You said that the blown in would also help seal the heat loss around the edges of the batt. The work in the basement cost $144.00 and the work in the attic cost $328.00. After the 30% federal energy tax credit it will end up costing me about $330.00, which you said I should recover in savings in the first year. Thank You for all your advice and expertise. You made me aware of things I should consider and did.