Because you live in an older home or one with poor insulation, it doesn’t mean you have to shiver through the winter or roast during the summer. Homes built before 1980 rarely have enough insulation, and even newer homes can lack enough to be truly efficient.
Adding insulation to meet current standards not only will make your home more comfortable throughout the year, but the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces and accessible basement rim joists.
You could save even more—that’s just an average. The amount of savings you will get depends on many factors, including where you live, what type of heating system you have and how much insulation you add.
Picking the Right Insulation
On each type of insulation, a label states the R-value per inch, which is a measure of resistance to heat transfer. The more effective the insulation, the higher the R number.
In Fairfax County, the recommended R-values are:
- Walls – R15.
- Floors – R19.
- Basement – Use R-10 when applied continuously against the wall; use R-13 when applied between studs or furring strips.
- Crawlspace – Use R-8 when insulation is applied to the exterior; use R-13 when insulation is applied on the interior.
You want to add enough insulation, but too much is just a waste of money. The U.S. Department of Energy offers a zone map that serves as a guide to insulation R-values.
Insulating the Attic
To get your insulation groove on, start in the attic. Adding insulation there is quick, easy and quite cost effective. To make any insulation upgrade more cost effective, it’s a good idea to have your contractor look for and seal air leaks first.
To determine how much to add, look up the recommended amount for your area, then subtract the value of your existing insulation using this handy online home energy audit tool.
There are two ways to improve attic insulation:
- In an unfinished space, you can add layers of insulation to what is already there.
- If you want to finish the attic, put the insulation against the roof. This is also the better method if your heating and cooling ducts pass through your attic or if you live in a humid climate and want to mitigate musty smells from the attic.
When you hire a contractor, ask for their recommendations as to the fill type, but loose-fill cellulose or fiberglass fills crevices better.
Your contract will probably use foam polyurethane if it’s decided to insulate the roof, because it molds to rafters, blocks water vapor, and has a high R-rating per inch.
Bonus: A federal tax credit is available for up to 10% of the cost of qualified energy efficiency improvements and the amount of the residential energy property expenditures paid or incurred during the taxable year up to a maximum of $500.
Insulating Walls on the Main Floors
If you have no insulation in your walls, it’s easy to add. Your contractor will drill small holes through the inside or outside wall and blow in material. Depending on your budget, the contractor will use loose-fill fiberglass, cellulose or rock wool. Polyurethane foam is much more expensive but insulates about twice as well.
If your walls already have some insulation, to add more, your contractor will have to tear into the drywall or plaster, which isn’t cost effective unless you’re remodeling. If you have a house with siding, when you replace it, you can have insulation added underneath it before the installation.
However, talk with your contractor. Depending on the construction of your home, they may be able to work out a solution.
Insulating the Basement or Crawl Spaces
We all know that warm air rises, but homes lose heat in all directions. This means that in addition to insulating the attic and walls, you need to insulate the bottom of your home. Did you know about one-third of energy loss can occur from your basement and crawl space?
Just like the attic, you have two choices:
- Insulate under the bottom floor, and treat the crawl space or basement as outdoor space.
- Insulate the walls, and treat the area as indoor space. Close off all exterior vents except those that are needed for combustion air or exhaust.
Though floor insulation is more common, wall insulation has a number of advantages, including a lower cost. It takes about a third less insulation for the walls of a 36-by-48-foot basement than to insulate the subfloor above.
Your contractor can also place a layer of rigid foam insulation against the foundation to keep moisture from condensing against the cold walls if this was not added when your home was built. If you decide to finish the basement, the foam can be covered with a stud wall, filled with unfaced fiberglass insulation and covered with drywall.
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Our price, craftsmanship and serious attention to detail mean that our customers return to us again and again with new projects. Contact us today for a free consultation and no-obligation quote. We also offer discounts for senior citizens and military members.