What is the best insulation for a home?
Leaves are starting to lose their color, Starbucks holiday cups are out, and temperatures are dropping quickly. Winter is almost here.
Before you pull out those snow boots, puffy jackets, and hot chocolate recipes, ask yourself: is your house ready for winter? Anyone remember last year’s Arctic blast?
The first step to making sure your home is ready for the winter onslaught is making sure your home is properly insulated. Chances are pretty high that it is not. According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA), as much as 90 percent of existing homes are under-insulated.
“People don’t see insulation, so they don’t think about it,” said Curt Rich, president and CEO of NAIMA. “They see windows and doors so they think about those items. The reality is that insulation has a three times greater impact on the average home’s energy and comfort than windows or doors do.”
Windows, doors, roofs, and even siding all play a major part in your whole-home insulation system. Updating and improving your home’s insulation is one area where a little bit of investment can make a big difference in increasing your family’s comfort and reducing your energy bills.
Selecting the right insulation
Homeowners have a lot of different options when it comes to choosing the best insulation for a house, and each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.
This is the most common type of insulation method. Relatively inexpensive and sold at just about every hardware store, blanket insulation comes in batts or rolls that are pre-measured to work with standard stud and joist spacing. It can also be cut to fit, making it the favorite option for do-it-yourselfers. Blanket insulation is available in all types of materials, the most common being fiberglass, rockwool (a man-made material consisting of natural minerals like basalt or diabase), plastic fibers, or natural fibers, including sheep’s wool, cotton, or blue jeans.
Loose-fill insulation is made up of small particles of fiber, foam, or other materials. The most common materials used in loose-fill insulation are fiberglass, rockwool, and cellulose (made from recycled paper products, primarily newsprint). Thanks to their small, loose structure, loose-fill insulation can fit into existing finished spaces, awkwardly-shaped spaces, or hard to reach areas.
“These are rigid panels of insulation that can be used to insulate almost any part of your home, from the roof down to the foundation,” according to the Department of Energy. “They are very effective in exterior wall sheathing, interior sheathing for basement walls, and special applications such as attic hatches.”
HowtoHomeInsulation.com says liquid spray foam is the best insulation for a house, hands down. “Only one kind of insulation… creates an air-tight seal in your floors, walls and ceilings. This insulation is known as spray foam insulation and it is as revolutionary as insulation gets,” according to the website.
Spray foam, which is typically made with polyurethane, comes in two types, the less expensive open cell, which is filled with air and has a sponge-like texture, and the denser, closed-cell foam, which is filled with a gas that helps the foam expand to fill the spaces around it. Mixing and applying liquid foam is a job best left to a professional who has the specialized tools necessary for this type of project.
What is the best insulation for a house? Two factors to consider
The amount and type of insulation you need for your home varies depending on a number of factors:
Where you live
Different climates require different insulation R-values. R-value refers to an insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. So, if you live somewhere cold, like the Northeast, you’ll need a higher R-value of insulation than you would need if you live in the desert Southwest. EnergyStar.gov has a map that shows you the suggested insulation R-value for the best energy savings and comfort.
Your home’s age
If your home is more than 10 years old, you likely need more insulation. There are many ways to retrofit a home with insulation, according to the experts over at ThisOldHouse.com, including loose-fill, batts, spray foam and foam board. “If your house has some insulation in the finished walls but not enough to keep out the cold, you’ll need to remove it before you can add more, because the old stuff can get in the way and lessen the effectiveness of new insulation,” says general contractor Tom Silva.
Conversely, if your home is new construction or in the process of being built, now is the time to consider installing structural insulated panels (SIPs), insulating concrete forms, and insulated concrete blocks. “All of these materials are considered insulating materials as they are manufactured with the purpose of increasing R values on a building,” writes theBalance.com author Juan Rodriguez.
There are a variety of ways that energy escapes your home, so it’s important to make sure the insulation on all your entries and openings are optimized and working at their best.
Heat rises, and when an attic isn’t properly insulated, it rises right through attic and heats the roof. In fact, according to the Department of Energy, properly insulating the attic can save you 10 to 50 percent on a typical heating bill. Long Roofing uses the Integrity Roof System, which includes a high-quality roof deck, a Diamond Deck high performance underlayment, and a ventilation system to encourage air movement on the underside of the deck.
Windows and doors
Check existing windows and doors for leaks and caulk or weatherstrip where needed. EnergyStar recommends using non-expanding foam sealant spray, fiberglass strips, or caulk to ensure a good seal. Or, consider replacing windows and doors that are in poor condition. Long Roofing only installs top-of-the-line, all-weather windows and doors that are certified ENERGY STAR and U.S. Green Building Council products.
Your home’s exterior siding is the ultimate barrier against cold weather seeping in and zapping your home’s energy. Make sure your siding is in good condition, with no cracks, ripples, or missing planks. Long’s Solid Wall vinyl siding system features the thickest EPA foam insulation available — up to 1.5 inches. It also comes with a lifetime warranty.
Insulate your whole home this winter
Don’t wait until you feel that icy cold wind blowing inside of your home or see your energy bills skyrocket. By insulating your home in now, you can start saving money before winter sets in. Contact Long Roofing or request an estimate to find out if your home is ready for the next Arctic blast.