INSULATION – Doing More than Just Keeping You Warm

doing-more-than-just-keepingInsulating does more than protect you against the cold — it protects your most valuable asset when costs rise.

With energy costs increasing every year, insulating your home could be an excellent way to save natural resources and ease the strain on your pocketbook. The project sounds simple: add a little insulation, and the savings roll on. However, this is not the case. Modern homes are complex, interactive systems. Insulation must be added with a lot of thought and planning.

Done right, insulation reduces heat loss and increases the comfort of your home. Done incorrectly, it will not increase energy efficiency; instead, you will waste your money and might even cause serious damage to your home. So where should you start?

Because our homes consist of complex systems of many interrelated components, numerous interactions push or pull air through our homes. Some are easy to understand, such as wind blowing against our home pushes its way in. However, some air movement is more subtle.


doing-more-than-just-keeping2For instance, warm air rises, creating a stack affect; pushing  air through any penetrations into the attic. The same stack effect can draw air up a chimney when the fireplace damper is open while a fire is burning. The chimney attached to any gas-burning appliance constantly draws air up and out of the home.

You want to stop these pesky air leaks, and you want to invest in your sealing and insulation dollars where you will have the biggest improvements in comfort and payback.

Start with simple insulation projects. Check your attic first:

  • Make sure that the insulation level is appropriate for your climate.
  • Close any leaks or air bypasses into the attic.


Survey the attic for potential air leaks through the thermal boundary to your home. Common culprits include the following:

  • The area around chimneys
  • Plumbing vents
  • Wire penetrations
The trap door or stairway to the attic can also be a major channel. “Can” lights that penetrate the insulation also create a big problem. You may need a professional to help address these leakers.
To find an air bypass into the attic, lift the fiber insulation around the hatch door or near the plumbing or electrical wiring. If you see darkened insulation. You have just found and air leak into the attic. The fiber insulation is blackened because it is filtering out dirt as air passes into the attic.
When insulating your attic, you can definitely add insulation over the top of existing insulation. However, you will want to avoid any air gaps, and the insulation should fit tightly to the existing insulation.
Part of adding insulation to the attic is maintaining adequate attic ventilation or improving ventilation above the insulation. In most cases, there should be 1 square foot of free-vent space for every 300 square feet of attic space.


doing-more-than-just-keeping3When insulation is added, it is very important to keep the areas above the soffit vents clear for air movement. If you block these areas, you can create moisture problems. In older homes, these areas should be checked, because often they are blocked with insulation.

You can also consider a professional energy evaluation of your home. Home evaluators are trained to check all systems and components of the home and provide a prioritized list of energy improvements with energy-efficiency payback for each item.

It is a good idea to have a professional evaluate the condition of your home and do most of the insulation work. If you re considering blowing in insulation or addressing “can” lights, you definitely need professional help. A professional will be a big help with details and climate specific information as well.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to consider the type of work that will be most beneficial to your home and plan for the specific work that needs to be done. Done right, improving the insulation of your home can save money and natural resources while making you and your family more comfortable this winter.


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