How to Evaluate Your Attic Insulation
Attic insulation is, perhaps, the most effective way to improve home energy efficiency. The natural tendency of warm air to move toward cooler air can make interior climate control difficult. Since this heat transfer is responsible for up to 70% of home energy costs, preventing it is essential. Properly installed attic insulation can reduce annual energy costs by nearly 30%.
Approximately 40% of home energy loss occurs through an un-insulated or poorly insulated attic. Even adequate attic insulationcan lose effectiveness over time due to compression or deterioration caused by water or rodent damage. The best way to determine the status of your attic insulation is simple visual assessment. If your insulation leaves any portion of your ceiling joists exposed, you need to add more. If you can’t see any exposed ceiling joists and the insulation is evenly distributed with no low spots, your coverage is probably sufficient and adding more will not be cost-effective.
Options in Attic Insulation
Insulation efficiency is rated in terms of thermal resistance, called R-value. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation is able to prevent heat transfer. For attics, experts recommend from 14 inches
(R-38) to 19 inches (R-49) of insulation. Attic insulation may be installed by hand using rolls or batts, or may be blown-in by machine.
Roll insulation comes in a variety of R-values and is extremely labor-efficient when covering long, unobstructed attic areas. Usually made from a fiberglass material that looks a bit like pink or yellow cotton candy, roll insulation is available in un-faced, paper-faced and poly-encapsulated forms. The most comfortable to work with are the faced varieties, with poly-encapsulated insulation offering the added bonus of plastic facing which acts as a vapor barrier.
Batts are pre-cut panels of insulation made to fit within the standard spaces between floor and ceiling joists. Available with and without facing, batts used in attic spaces are generally fiberglass material with a paper-facing that has been treated with vapor retardant. Rigid foam insulation (styrofoam) is also available in batts.
Blown-in insulation is loose fill or spray foam that is applied by machine. Loose fill comes in fiberglass or cellulose, a paper product treated with flame and vapor retardants. Foam spray is a special chemical compound that has the consistency of thick whipped cream. During application, the foam completely fills the area, then hardens to a solid state. Unlike rolls and batts, the R-value of blown-in insulation is not determined by inches of material installed, but by the amount of material needed per 1,000 square feet based upon the net area to be insulated and the blow rate necessary to achieve the desired density and depth of coverage.
Properly applied, each of these types of attic insulation is effective in reducing heat transfer and wasted energy. The type you choose should be based upon thorough research into the pros and cons of each, the weather conditions in your location, and the construction of your home.
Reasons to Call a Professional to Install Your Attic Insulation
While cost is certainly a factor in any attic insulation project, a choice based on that factor alone can compound existing problems and leave you with poor interior air quality, moisture issues and drafty rooms. The following are just a few issues to consider before deciding to go cheap with attic insulation.
Do your attic rafters or floor joists show signs of warping or rotting? Does your existing insulation feel wet? Is there mold in the attic or on the ceilings of the rooms below? Do your household utility vents blow moist air into your attic instead of outdoors? These are all indicative of moisture problems that can damage new attic insulation.
If your home was built before 1930, is there old, ungrounded wiring, like knob and tube, in the attic? Do the bare metal shells of lower-level recessed lights extend into the attic? These are potential fire hazards that must be addressed.
Does your attic lack appropriate ventilation? Are there unsealed areas, like trap door openings and wiring holes that can allow drafts? Adding insulation alone will not necessarily stop air leakage from these openings.
Are you adding to existing insulation? What kinds of attic insulation are compatible with what you already have and how much should you add?
Feeling a bit overwhelmed? All of these issues can be easily addressed by a qualified attic insulation contractor. While the initial cost may be somewhat higher than a DIY project, hiring a professional will guarantee a long lasting, quality installation that meets all regulatory guidelines. Add the significant savings in energy costs, and your new attic insulation will quickly pay for itself.
Looking for the right professionals to install you attic insulation? Casa Mechanical has been providing quality heating, cooling and insulation services to the residents of central Texas for over 10 years. Our extensive knowledge of the industry and our use of innovative, green technology allow us to offer the best solutions to your attic insulation problems.