Home Insulation Explained

From on February 05, 2014 in General

​As a homeowner it is important to understand your house from top to bottom, including the parts rarely visible, for example, your insulation. Proper insulation in your attic or basement makes a home more energy efficient and can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 30%. There are many benefits of quality insulation. Understanding how insulation works, what it does in your home, and when it should be replaced, are all essential for homeowners to know.

home insulation

How Does Insulation Work?

​Insulation provides resistance to heat flow. In the winter this means that the warm air from your heater stays inside because insulation decreases heat flow and prevents it from leaving. In the summer your insulation does the reverse and prevents outside heat from flowing in and counteracting your air conditioning. In both cases a properly insulated home stays comfortably warm in the winter and cool in the summer.​

​Your heater works to replace lost heat and your air conditioner works to remove heat. As a result, having effective insulation will lessen the amount of heating and air conditioning you need, therefore reducing utility expenses.

​The effectiveness of insulation is determined by how well it resists heat flow. This is called its R-value. A higher R-value means better insulating effectiveness, and depending on where you live, your home insulation will require a different R-value.

Insulation Options and Choices

​There are many different types of insulation materials but the most common are fiberglass, cellulose and foam. Fiberglass insulation, made from plastic and fine fibers of glass, is lightweight and strong. Cellulose insulation, one of the oldest types of building insulation, comes from recycled fibers. Foam insulation, made from polystyrene or polyurethane, has a high insulating value for its thickness.

​There are also many types of green insulation that are eco-friendly and can save homeowners money while reducing your carbon footprint. Most green insulations are made from recycled and 100% natural materials and are free of harmful substances.

​Insulation can be loose and blown into hard to reach areas, installed in rolls or batts for larger spaces such as attics and ceilings, or sprayed to seal small gaps around doors or windows. Rigid panels of insulation called foam board can also be used to insulate and are effective for basements and exterior walls.

Should My Insulation Be Replaced?

​If your home starts becoming too cold in the winter or warm in the summer, it could mean that your insulation needs to be replaced. Professional energy auditors and HVAC companies can check to see if your home needs more insulation or if it should be completely replaced. You can also make some of your own observations by checking exposed insulation in your attic to see if there are any gaps, discoloration or signs of moisture which could mean your insulation needs evaluation. Generally speaking, insulation in homes more than 10 years old could be less effective and not up to recent standards since insulation tends to lose effectiveness over time. Be sure to consult a licensed and reputable contractor to make sure you choose the right insulation and have it installed properly.