Did you know that nearly half of your home’s energy costs come from heating and cooling it? According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, a whopping 90 percent of U.S. homes are under-insulated. Insulating your home is essential to keeping the temperature comfortable and your energy bills low. Insulation decreases incoming heat when it’s hot, and also traps heat inside in cold weather.
With a well-insulated home, homeowners can save 15 percent on their annual heating and cooling costs (EPA estimate), about $200 a year on average! Most homes are already insulated in the attic. Your home’s above ground, finished floors are also typically insulated. The most effective place to add insulation is to exterior walls, attics, basements, and crawl spaces.
Insulating Your Home: What is R-Value?
Insulation is rated by its R-value, which measures an insulation’s level of resistance to heat flow. The higher R-value, the better temperature control and energy efficiency for your home. R-values vary based on the type, thickness, and density of the insulating material. Keep in mind, though, that your home may not need insulation with the highest R-value. The Department of Energy recommends different insulation levels based on where you live. R-value requirements also vary based on the part of your home you’re insulating.
Types of Insulation
The most common insulation materials are fiberglass, cellulose, foam, and wool. Home insulation can come in the form of loose-fill, batts, rolls, foam board, spray foam and radiant barriers.
Fiberglass is the most common insulation material. It’s made from fine glass fibers and is most often used in batts, rolls, and loose-fill insulation. Fiberglass insulation offers many advantages. It is cost-effective ($.30 – $.50 per sq. ft.), offers sound absorption, and is more fire-retardant than other types of insulation. Often, it is made from recycled materials. On the downside, it only lasts about 25 years and is vulnerable to mold and moisture. Fiberglass is a skin and lung irritant (you’ll need protective gear around it).
Cellulose, a loose-fill insulation, is made from recycled paper products with added borate for fire and insect resistance. Its R-value is quite high, it’s reasonably-priced ($.30 – $.50 per sq. ft.) and it works well in tight or unusually shaped areas. On the downside, it is much heavier and prone to dust. You may have trouble finding a qualified installer.
Foam insulation may be made from polystyrene, polyisocyanurate or polyurethane, which are all types of plastic, or a cement-based version. Foam insulations can be sprayed or installed in rigid foam boards. Spray foam Insulation is more effective than the other insulation materials and it lasts a very long time (80+ years!). It also offers great sound absorption and is easy to use in finished or oddly-shaped spaces. Unfortunately, spray foam insulation is quite flammable and more expensive than the other options ($1 – $3 per sq. ft.). It requires professional installation.
Mineral wool can refer to either rock wool (man-made from natural minerals) or slag wool (also man-made material but from a waste product of molten metal). This type of insulation is the best in terms of flame resistance as it can withstand higher temperatures than the others (up to 1,800°F). It is also durable, moisture-resistant, and blocks sound well. However, it is harder to work with/install and can be very dangerous if inhaled. It’s more expensive as well ($.60 – $1 per sq. ft.)
Insulation can also be made from other natural materials, such as cotton, sheep’s wool, straw, and hemp, treated to be fire, mold, and insect resistant. Denim insulation is made from recycled jeans and post-industrial denim cotton. It is non-toxic and non-irritating, but typically more expensive than fiberglass or other insulation materials.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking to reduce your energy costs and have a more comfortable temperature in your home, consider further insulating your home. Many options are available to homeowners, depending on their needs and budget — and who is installing it!
If you need a recommendation for a handyman or contractor, let us know. We are always happy to help!