There are very few homes out there (even newer ones) that were designed with pure energy efficiency in mind. Unfortunately, owners may be surprised at just how much heated or cooled air is going directly to the Great Outdoors or into unused spaces of the home (e.g., an attic or basement.) See when it's a good time to add more insulation, what to consider before adding it, and how to get the right materials for it.
The Basics of Insulation
Most homeowners aren't inspecting the state of their insulation on a regular basis, so it comes down to context clues. If utility bills are starting to climb higher and higher every month or ice dams are constantly forming on the roof, it may be time to add additional insulation to the home. Insulation isn't necessarily a difficult job, but it can be difficult to achieve proper efficiency.
The first thing homeowners should do is to seal up all air bypasses in their home. Air will automatically rise, fall, and move based on its temperature, and sealing up the air passageways makes it easier to control that movement. These bypasses can be found anywhere from the chimney to the wiring in the home, and they're often hidden from view. Consider hiring an energy professional to identify the bypasses. When filling in the bypasses, use foam sealant because it expands to fill all of the tiny nooks and crevices in the home.
Choosing the Insulation
Most people opt to add insulation to their attics first, specifically starting with the rafters and then moving to the ceilings, joist space, and walls. When it comes to choosing different types of insulation, each product is rated with an R-value. The R-value refers to the level of padding and corresponds with how well the insulation will stop air from making its way into the home. Look for R-38 insulation, unless you live in a particularly mild or harsh climate.
Those who live in mild climates can opt for lower-grade insulation, while those in very cold areas may want to spring for R-49 insulation. Experts recommend loose-fill insulation when it comes to getting the best results. It's not expensive and it can be more effective than alternative types of insulation. The only caveat to loose-fill is that it can be more difficult to install.
Adding the Insulation
Fort Hunt homeowners should know that insulation installation can become dangerous quickly if it's a DIY job. It may force a homeowner to work around old wiring or into tight, high spaces in their attic. It's also important for an owner to understand how ventilation works when it comes to insulating different spaces in the home. A cathedral ceiling will need a different insulation treatment than a low, flat ceiling.
For insulation to be effective, it needs to be thick enough to handle the air flow but ventilated enough to fend off condensation from that air. At least an inch of space needs to be kept between the sheathing of the roof and the insulation to reduce the chances of dangerous water damage or rot. Use sheet metal between the brickwork and the woof of the chimney, and high-temperature caulk for the flashing surrounding the chimney. Always choose fire-blocking sealant for additional protection. Finally, if the home still isn't retaining hot or chilled air the way it should, homeowners may need to call in a professional to add more insulation to the exterior walls.