For those living along the shores of the Great Lakes like here in Cleveland, the cold fall and winter weather can have an enormous impact on monthly energy bills. The cold rolls in off of the Lake, causing an extended season of snow and chill. We combat this by powering up our furnaces for more than half the year, which can drive up energy consumption. There are many ways to reduce your home energy costs, from installing programmable thermostats to properly maintaining your heating and cooling system. One of the smartest things you can do as a homeowner is to ensure that you have sufficient insulation in your attic, walls, and crawl spaces.
If you have some insulation, you may think that’s enough. However, there are many benefits to upgrading.
To improve the overall comfort of your home, upgrading your home’s insulation will go a long way toward achieving this goal. For example, placing it in your ceiling will help reduce the heat entering your home during the summer and the cold berating your home during the winter; and wall insulation minimizes any air infiltration of your home. Adding it to your floors as well will keep them warm year-round.
Hearing noise bleed into your house from outside your home or between rooms is annoying, to say the least. Adding insulation can also help reduce the noise level in your home – not only from outside your home, such as from cars and airplanes passing by, but also the noise that travels from room to room.
Thanks to its density, sound waves bounce off, muffling these noises a great deal; and due to the millions of interconnected pockets of air that make up the insulation, sounds can also be absorbed, lowering the noise even further. Without sufficient protection, the solid surfaces in your home (beams and plaster walls) can transmit noises into and around your home. Insulation helps to muffle the sounds.
Upgrading insulation saves energy costs
Upgrading your home insulation is a smart long-term investment that could pay for itself quickly in reduced energy costs. Everyone wants to save energy and money. Upgrading home efficiency can ease the pinch on your pocketbook and make your home more comfortable. One of the many significant aspects is that it’s good for the life your home, as long as it doesn’t get damaged.
Much of your heat loss is through your ceilings and walls, especially if you have a poor level of insulation. This means that one-quarter of the money spent by these homeowners on heating and cooling is going up in smoke. Heating and cooling your home can add about 38% of your monthly utility bill – it’s a drain on resources and your pocketbook.
Insulation is one way to help lower these costs by holding in the heat or cold provided by your HVAC unit and keeping it from leaking out. In this way, it helps maintain the house’s temperature which translates to less energy used and a lower energy bill. It’s an investment that can pay rich dividends over the years.
And fiberglass isn’t the only option for insulating your Cleveland area home. Though fiberglass is the most common by far, and the one most people are familiar with, cellulose is an inexpensive alternative available on the market today.
There are some similarities and some differences between the two kinds of insulation. When trying to determine if you should install fiberglass or cellulose in your home, consider these important points:
- Cost: Cellulose and fiberglass are usually the two least expensive options on the market.
- Easy to install: Both cellulose and fiberglass are generally easy to install. Blown-in cellulose for the attic requires an insulation blower and instructions on how to do it properly. If fiberglass is installed incorrectly, it’s not as effective.
- R-value: The R-values of both fiberglass and cellulose are comparable at around 3.5 to 3.7 per inch.
- Air leakage: Neither act as an air barrier. They both allow air to pass through them and should always be paired with an air barrier.
- Moisture: Both cellulose and fiberglass can retain substantial amounts of moisture. This is especially a problem in high moisture areas such as basements where a vapor barrier is also used.
- Air leakage: Though neither one acts as an air barrier, densely packed cellulose will stop most airflow, where fiberglass will not and will actually decrease in R-value due to airflow.
- Flammability: Fiberglass isn’t flammable; however, the kraft paper lining is ignitable. Though early forms of cellulose insulation were combustible, the modern-day version is treated with flame retardants which also act to keep out pests.
- Extreme cold: Here in Cleveland, your home is no stranger to cold weather; fiberglass loses heat, and its R-value drops in extreme cold. Cellulose doesn’t have this problem as much in comparison.
Upgrading the insulation in your home is an efficient way to prevent heat loss and give energy savings a big boost. As you plan your project, you’ll need to make a decision about which type you’ll use. Foam, loose fill, or batts are three common types of insulation that are effective in a variety of applications.
Types of Insulation
Foam insulation gives homeowners a lot of bang for their buck. This type is generally highly efficient (meaning it has a high R-value), without being bulky or thick. It can be used in a variety of locations, including unfinished walls, floors, ceilings and foundation walls.
If you use foam, check with a professional so you follow safety regulations. It must be paired with an approved fire prevention material when installed indoors and with weatherproofing materials when installed outdoors.
Loose-fill can easily fit into tight spaces; therefore, it’s a good material to use if you’re adding insulation to existing walls or hard-to-reach areas.
Loose fill is typically blown into locations, so the tiny particles reach into cracks and crevices. The force of the air from the blower causes the particles to build up and create a dense, impenetrable barrier. Typical applications for loose fill include walls, new spaces, and attic floors.
Batt insulation is a useful material of choice for new spaces, as it is easy to install in large, obstacle-free locations, such as between studs and joists. Typical applications include unfinished floors, ceilings, and walls. This easy-to-use type of insulation is also a good choice for do-it-yourself jobs.
Use foam, loose fill, or batts for your next home project, and you’ll be investing in improved home comfort and energy savings.
However, there are a lot of myths floating around, so choose your installation contractor wisely and avoid the following myths.
If It Gets Wet, Let It Dry Out – It Will Be Fine
One of the most common types of damage insulation suffers is moisture damage. Whether fiberglass or cellulose, damp or wet insulation should be replaced.
Wet insulation invites mold, and no one wants toxic mold growing in the attic or walls. Let the damp attic space or wall cavity completely dry before installing new insulation.
Adding It to Exterior Walls Is too Intrusive
Unless you’re completely renovating your home or specific rooms, it doesn’t make sense to gut walls to install fiberglass or cellulose insulation. The best option is to install spray-in foam insulation.
A few small holes are drilled through the wall, and the spray-in foam is pumped in to complete the installation. The insulation expands to fill wall cavities completely and dries.
It Stops Air Infiltration
New homes are generally constructed with air barriers, regardless of what type of insulation is used. Insulation materials are designed to prevent heat conduction, not air leaks. Air leaks usually occur through cracks and holes near windows, doors, and wall penetrations from pipes and wiring. Before you upgrade your insulation, make sure you seal air leaks with caulk and weatherstripping.
R-Value Only Matters in the Attic
Attic insulation is essential in Greater Cleveland, though it doesn’t mean that wall or basement insulation aren’t important. Sun-struck walls take on a lot of heat during the summer, and north-facing rooms can be difficult to heat during the winter without ample wall insulation. Insulate walls to R-18, basements to R-11, and crawl spaces to R-19.
If you have any questions about this topic, please feel free to contact Stack Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric. Our staff of highly trained and courteous professionals will be more than happy to help you.