Keeping your home insulated seems like such a no-brainer when you stop and think about it. After all, who doesn’t want to save on expensive energy bills, keep the scorching summer heat or frigid winter cold at bay, and avoid those annoying drafts that always manage to sneak through cracks and make you shiver? Proper insulation really pays for itself in the long run – and your future self will thank you down the road when the utility company doesn’t drain your bank account every month.
But unless you’re a building science expert, insulation can also be a super confusing topic. There are so many types of materials, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. And places you can install insulation? The list feels endless between the attic, walls, basement, and more. Where do you even begin? Have no fear – this article breaks down the need-to-know facts about home insulation so you can make the best decision for your space.
Why Insulate Your Home?
Before we dive into the different materials you can use and installation spots, let’s cover the key reasons why insulation is so important in the first place:
It Improves Energy Efficiency
Insulation creates a barrier that prevents warm or cool air from escaping. So your HVAC system doesn’t need to work as hard fighting against temperature changes and drafts – meaning you get to keep more money in your wallet every time you pay utilities. It’s a no-brainer!
It Keeps Temps Comfy and Consistent
There’s nothing worse than freezing in your own home during winter or sweating through your clothes in summer. Proper insulation helps maintain steady, comfortable temps year-round so you can enjoy being home no matter the weather outside.
It Reduces Moisture and Condensation
Excess moisture in the air can lead to mold, mildew, and other problems you definitely want to avoid. Insulation helps manage humidity so condensation doesn’t form as easily in places like your attic or walls.
Types of Insulation Materials
Now that we’ve covered the key benefits, let’s explore the different types of insulation materials you can choose from:
Fiberglass is probably the most common and budget-friendly option. It’s made from melted glass spun into super fine fibers, then infused with plastic or wax to hold its shape. Fiberglass insulation does a great job preventing heat transfer. Just be sure to wear long sleeves and pants when installing it though – those tiny glass fibers can be itchy!
For a more eco-friendly choice, there’s cellulose insulation made from recycled paper fibers and treated with fire retardant. It excellently blocks airflow and regulates humidity. Just keep in mind it tends to settle over time, so you may need to add more material later to keep insulation levels up.
Mineral wool comes in several natural fiber forms like rock wool or slag wool made from volcanic rock or manufacturing slag. It stands up to high heat, moisture, and fire really well. But again – make sure to suit up to avoid skin irritation during installation.
Polystyrene (also called EPS) foam is an insulating material made from solid petroleum-based beads. The rigid boards provide insulation and structural reinforcement. Just keep in mind polystyrene is flammable and not the best for environmental impact.
Polyurethane spray foam is applied as a liquid that expands into a rigid insulation. It does a stellar job sealing up cracks and gaps. But use a mask during installation, and be aware it can off-gas for awhile as it cures.
For a greener option, you could try materials made from natural fibers like cotton, cork, cellulose or wool. Though costs are typically higher than synthetic materials.
Where to Install Insulation
Now let’s explore all the potential spots to install insulation around your home:
That attic space above your living area lets loads of heat escape in winter or seep in during summer. Focus on packing insulation between and over the ceiling joists – this will help keep attic temps under control so your living space stays comfier.
Don’t forget about those exterior walls! Adding insulation to wall cavities prevents heat loss in winter and overheating in summer. Even if you already have some insulation, it can settle over time and use a boost.
Unfinished basements are prime spots for heat transfer. Stop the waste with insulation on foundation walls and floors – rigid foam boards are a great solution. This also helps control moisture and condensation.
Crawl spaces allow air leaks too. Insulate walls to protect from moisture, and add batts or rigid foam to flooring for thermal and sound insulation. Your floors will feel cozier and your HVAC system won’t need to work as hard.
Choosing the Right Insulation
Picking the perfect insulation solutions for your home depends on several factors:
Your local climate determines recommended insulation R-values (its resistance to heat flow) and ideal installation spots. The needs of hot southern climates versus cold northern regions vary quite a bit. Check local building codes for climate-specific guidance.
Keep the unique pros, cons, and costs of each insulation material in mind. Certain types work better for certain applications – like blown-in loose fill for attics versus rigid foam for basement walls. Select the right one for each location.
Get the biggest bang for your buck by focusing first on areas prone to the greatest heat loss or gain. For most homes, the attic and exterior walls have the most impact. A little time spent mapping out priority areas helps maximize savings.
Prices range widely for materials, professional installation, and DIY time and effort. Evaluate fiberglass batts, spray foam kits, and other options to find the best solution fitting your budget. You can always start with the most important spots and expand insulation over time.
Whew, that covers a whole lot of need-to-know information about home insulation! Now you’re equipped with knowledge to evaluate your home’s unique needs and make the best decisions to keep your space comfortable while saving energy and money. Just don’t forget your handy dandy insulation cheat sheet for future reference. Stay cozy!