You may be surprised to hear that the attic is one area of your home that can actually offer significant energy savings. Without the proper amount of attic insulation in place to hold the air in your home, the money you’ve invested in utility bills might as well be tossed out the window, or more accurately...out the roof.
Why Insulating Your Attic Matters
You may be wondering how an area that is only used for storage purposes can be so important to your home’s energy efficiency. Adequate attic insulation and ventilation play major roles in controlling the temperature and total comfort level in your home all year long. Attic insulation is a critical component of keeping cool air in your home during the hot months and warm air in your home throughout the heating season.
How Attic Insulation Works
If air is escaping through your attic, your HVAC system has to work longer to heat or cool your home, necessitating more energy. Putting in additional or higher quality attic insulation will help in keeping the air in the home and stop your heating/cooling system from having to work as long or as often, saving energy and money by decreasing your utility bills. Cost savings fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including residents’ habits, whether you have a smart thermostat, and the type of heating/cooling system you have. In general, it is estimated that homeowners can save up to 20% on energy bills with the right amount of attic insulation. No matter where you live in North America, proper attic insulation helps in reducing the general wear and tear on your heating and cooling system.
Types of Attic Insulation
Now that you understand the importance of a properly insulated attic, you may be considering what type of attic insulation is appropriate for your home.
Insulation is rated in terms of thermal resistance, known as R-Value. The higher the R-Value, the better the insulating power. The amount of insulation recommended for your home is primarily dependent on where you live, but as a general guideline, homes in a cold climate should have a minimum of R-49 in the attic and warmer climates only require an R-38. Here are the three main types of attic insulation available:
- Roll-on insulation is generally the least expensive kind of attic insulation because it is relatively simple and quick for professional contractors to install. It is flexible, allowing it to fit securely between studs, rafters, etc., and the tight fit helps keep the air trapped in the home.
- Blown-in insulation is thought of as more efficient due to the loose-fill because it allows the insulation to fill smaller crevices where air could conceivably leak out. Blown-in attic insulation is also moisture resistant, which helps keep mold and odor from developing in your home.
- Spray foam insulation is regarded to be the most energy-efficient type because it expands and tightly seals all holes where air could possibly leak from. Not only does the spray foam attic insulation create an air-tight seal, but it generally works longer than other types of attic insulation.
The recommended level for most attics is to insulate to R-38 or about 10 to 14 inches, depending on insulation type.
Signs Your Attic Insulation Needs Replacing
- If you are feeling a draft, it’s coming from somewhere, usually because of cracks and uneven air pressure. Noticing chilly drafts throughout the house can be a strong clue that your attic is in need of fresh installation.
- People often think of the attic as being an area that’s stuffy and hot, but attic space is actually quite susceptible to moisture-related issues. Over time, attic insulation can become worn, leaving cracks or holes that can make for easy access points for moisture to enter in. A damp attic can attract the growth of mold and mildew. If you see any signs of water leakage in your ceiling or wall, this could signify exposure in your attic’s insulation.
- Attic insulation can create a comfortable spot for rats and other pests. If your attic is in need of a cleanout, it can be vulnerable to rodents, insects, and even birds. Old attic insulation in need of replacement makes a model material for such creatures to create nests and dwell in.
- The problem that is perhaps the easiest to notice is high energy bills. If your utility bills seem high, it could be a sign that your HVAC system is working harder to compensate for energy loss somewhere in the house. Small leaks tend to cause small increases in your bills, while larger leaks could quickly start costing you hundreds of dollars.
- If you notice odd temperature changes throughout your house, chances are that the insulation is not sufficient and should be replaced. A easy way to test is to open all the interior doors and vents to allow the temperature to even out. Walk through the house, checking for areas of significantly warmer or colder temperatures.
How Often Should You Have Your Insulation Inspected?
Many homeowners think of their home’s insulation as a “one and done” event. It’s true that under perfect conditions, your home’s insulation has a life expectancy of 100 years or more. But as your insulation ages, it experiences changes. Most experts, including those at the U.S. Department of Energy, recommend that you have your insulation examined at least once a year. If your roof has had to be repaired or replaced because of leaks, you should definitely make sure to have an attic insulation inspection. If your attic is currently insulated, you may want to ascertain when the insulation was installed to ensure it meets the EPA guidelines for energy efficiency. Also, if the product has compressed, it could be ineffective.
If you need to have attic insulation installed or would like to have your current insulation checked out, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning can provide a free assessment.