Importance of Insulation
According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, over 45 million American homes lack sufficient insulation by modern standards. Adequate insulation can reduce energy bills and make a home more comfortable.
Types of Insulation
Batts, rolls, and blankets. Fiberglass insulation is available as precut batts, rolls, or blankets. Batts are strips specifically sized to fit between wall studs. Fiberglass rolls can be rolled out on attic floors. Blankets are commonly used to insulate basement or crawl space ceilings. Mineral wool insulation, an eco-friendly insulation product, is also available in blankets.
Loose fill. Loose fill is convenient for use in attics because it can be blown in, fitting easily around pipes. Both cellulose and fiberglass loose fill can be added to existing insulation. Loose fill products should be installed by a pro who knows how to maximize their insulating ability.
Foam insulation. Closed-cell foam insulation has the highest R-value of all insulation types. Various forms of foam insulation can be used in all areas of a structure, including in wall cavities, under roof decking, and around in-ground concrete slabs. Foam insulation comes in expanding and nonexpanding varieties. Nontoxic and soy versions are also available. Some types are highly resistant to mold, cannot be damaged by water, and easily fill irregular spaces.
Cellulose. Cellulose insulation is a loose-fill material made from paper mixed with flame retardants and pest-deterring borates. Most cellulose insulation contains an average of 75 percent recycled materials. Cellulose insulation is blown into spaces.
Radiant barriers. Radiant barriers are foils or films that are engineered to reflect radiant heat toward the heat source. Radiant barriers can be installed in several areas in the home but are often installed in the attic on the underside of the roof rafters.
Signs of Poor Insulation
High utility bills. When a home is poorly air sealed and inadequately insulated, air escapes through any small opening. In turn, the HVAC system must run more, which shortens its lifespan and equals more energy usage and higher utility bills.
Ice dams. A house that lacks sufficient insulation will lose a great deal of heat in the winter through the roof. The warm air melts snow on the top of the roof, which then refreezes at the edge of the roof, causing ice dams and icicles. Ice dams can damage shingles and gutters and cause roof leaks.
Dusty rooms. Inadequate insulation in a house can allow too much air to flow in and out, which may lead to elevated levels of dust in the home.
Hot and cold spots. Uneven indoor temperatures and humidity levels can signal inadequate insulation. Uninsulated spaces and poor-quality fiberglass insulation used in the corners of rooms are common culprits. An insulation contractor can recommend possible solutions.