Insulation helps keep your home a steady temperature inside, despite the weather outside, so it’s important to properly insulate your home. How do you know if you’re using the right amount of insulation, and what’s up with these R-values you hear so much about?
When someone explains that R-values are the measure of thermal resistance, do you scratch your head and ask, “Huh?” Many of us do.
Putting it in simpler terms, R-values are your insulation’s ability to prevent the transfer of heat. Think of it as the way heat travels, so in winter heat flows out and in summer heat flows in. With the right insulation acting as a barrier, heat flow is reduced, so you use less energy to heat more efficiently and save money on energy costs.
The higher the R-value, the better the insulation works to prevent heat loss, keeping your home comfortable all year.
Understanding what R-values are can help you choose the best insulation for your home. The amount of insulation or the R-value your home needs depends on where you live. Different R-values are recommended depending on climate, so areas with cooler climates need higher values to keep heat loss low.
What R-value you need also depends on the area of the home you are insulating. For example, that attic needs a higher value than the walls. Heat rises, so the attic is one place where your home can lose warm air all winter. The attic is also closest to the roof. Sun beats down on the roof all summer, and attic insulation protects your home by blocking the heat, keeping your home cooler.
The type of insulation and the R-value you need varies by the type of home you have, the age of your home and how you heat and cool it. Taking the time to learn more about these factors can help you choose the right insulation for your home.
Proper insulation is one of the most affordable home improvements you can make to increase energy efficiency and conserve power. Just follow these tips:
Fiberglass batting, cellulose and foam board are the most common type of insulation sold. Foam board offers the highest R-value and is more costly. You can choose the type you need based on your home and where you live.
Go for the highest R-value recommend for your home to ensure you are getting the most out of your insulation. Also, buy insulation with little or no pollutants because you must live in the home with these products.
Insulation does its job, so you need to do yours and find any leaks where air can escape or come into the home. Leaks are often found around windows, doors and sometimes walls. Electrical outlets, pipes and vents can also be sources of leaks. You can try a few tests to find leaks in your home.
The paper test is simple. Shut a piece of paper in a door or window and try to pull it out. If it pulls out without ripping, you have a leak.
The flashlight test requires two people to do and must be done at night. Shine the flashlight where you suspect the leak and have someone on the other side look for light coming through. If light can get through, so can air.
The incense test is quite simple, too. Turn off your heat, air conditioning or any fans in the home. Hold the incense next to suspected leaky areas, and if the smoke is sucked or blown away, you have a leak.
Weather stripping works well to fix leaks around doors and windows where you’ve found leaks. Spray foam or caulk around electrical outlets, pipes and vents where the air is seeping in or out.
Heating and cooling ducts are also sources of leaks in many homes. You can lose up to 30 percent of your warm or cool air through duct work. You can use sticky putty to plug the leaks. Don’t use duct tape because it loses its stickiness over time, making it less effective.
If you are unsure about insulation and have the money to do so, consider hiring an energy consultant to take a look at your home. A consultant can evaluate your home and suggest solutions you may not have thought of or even know about.
One simple way you can find a qualified consultant in your area is by using a free service that lists possible matches near you.
One thing to remember is that insulation is essential if you want an energy-efficient home. You can do your part for your home and the environment by making sure it’s properly insulated.