Leave the door to your parents’ or grandparents’ home for more than 0.37 seconds during winter, and you’ll likely hear a chorus of, “We’re not paying to heat the outdoors!”
But while leaving a door open long enough to, you know, actually get all the way through it isn’t going to bust your budget, there’s a lot of wisdom to ensuring you’re not, in fact, paying to heat the outdoors.
Heating bills feel a bit too high? Your HVAC unit and slow-entering guests may not be the culprit. To cut down on your heating costs, it’s time examine your home’s current insulation and start considering high-density insulation options.
The first question on your list should be, “Does my home even have insulation?” You would hope the answer would be yes, but it’s best not to assume.
Modern homes should be well insulated, but older homes, especially those with 100 or more years under their belt, often are not. Or worse, you may find your home has some insulation, but it’s made from carcinogenic asbestos.
Due to that whole hot-air-rises phenomenon, the attic should be the first stop on your in-home investigation. An uninsulated attic will suck the warm air right out of your home and deliver it to the undeserving, frigid winter sky. From the attic, you may be able to peer down into the exterior walls to check if they’re insulated. If you can’t get a good look, you might have to cut out a bit of drywall and check that way.
If your search turns up no insulation, the answer is simple — no, you don’t have enough. Beyond that, it will take a bit more research.
Proper insulation depends a great deal on the location of your home. A house in sunny southern Florida will not need the same insulation as one in Alaska.
Insulation is rated by R-value, aka its ability to “resist” — R, get it? — heat passing through. That Florida home could use insulation with an R-value as low as 30 while an Alaskan home may need as high as 60. It all depends on your zone.
Not sure what you’re looking at or where you should add more? Investing in a service like an energy audit can help you identify where your home is losing heat. A professional should be able to guide you through what kind of insulation you have and where you need to add more.
One of the most common and most affordable methods of insulation are fiberglass batts or rolls. You know, the big rolls of pink stuff that looks like cotton candy but definitely shouldn’t be eaten.
These rolls are affordable for a number of reasons:
Fiberglass batts tend to fall on the low side of the R-value scale, but high-density options can improve the R-value for 2×4 and 2×6 walls.
These rolls are typically used in exterior walls or to insulate attic floors or rafters, depending on whether the attic is finished or not. Since the attic will see your biggest heat loss, that’s the best place to start. An unfinished attic is also the easiest for a DIYer to insulate. As for exterior walls, unless you’re completing a remodel that involves ripping your house down to the studs, batt or roll insulation may not be for you. Blow-in or foam insulation may be a better fit, but you’d be best served consulting with a professional.
Simply adding insulation where there was none or where there was too little will make a big difference in the efficiency and cost of heating your home.
Of course, there are other concerns you want to address when insulating:
Improving your insulation will result in long-term savings as the heat you’re paying for stays in your home instead of making a beeline for an attic exit. DIYers can see even greater savings by installing high-density insulation options and sealing small leaks themselves. However, proper installation is the key to savings. If you don’t feel you can do it yourself, hiring a pro will still pay off long-term.
And honestly, at the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather pay a pro than throw away your hard-earned money heating the outdoors?