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According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, there are more than 45 million homes in America that lack appropriate insulation by modern energy standards. Sufficiently insulating a home can substantially reduce household energy bills as well as result in a quieter and more comfortable home.
There are numerous types of insulation materials on the market, and many aspects can impact the type of insulation that should be considered for a home, such as local climate; the size, shape, construction, and age of the home; living habits of the family; and the type and efficiency of the HVAC system.
Fiberglass – Fiberglass is the most common insulation material in new home construction; however, recent additions to the home insulation market are gaining popularity. Fiberglass insulation typically comes in blankets or loose fill or “blown-in” form. Loose fill fiberglass insulation works well for attic floors, wall cavities, and hard-to-reach places. Blankets, also known as batts or rolls, fit between wall studs or floor joists, so they are best to use during new construction or complete renovation.
Open-cell and closed-cell foams – Open-cell and closed-cell spray foams, though more expensive than fiberglass, act as air seals as well as insulators, thereby retaining more of the home’s heated or cooled air. Spray foam insulation is a good solution for hard-to-reach places, and it is mold resistant and impervious to water.
Cellulose – With an increased interest in “green” construction in the US, there is a renewed interest in cellulose insulation materials (a loose-fill material made from paper mixed with flame retardants) particularly when insulation upgrades are being considered in older homes. Cellulose insulation is blown into spaces like its fiberglass counterpart.
Engaging a Professional
A professional insulation contractor will assess the property to see where the most beneficial insulation improvements could be made. In addition, the contractor may be able to perform diagnostic testing to seeif there are any air leaks in the home.Properly sealing the house, along with adequate insulation, can eliminate much of a home’s energy waste.
For mid-Atlantic regions, the US Department of Energy recommends insulating to an R-value of 38 to 60. The R-value is the measure of the thermal performance of the insulation; the higher the R-value, the less thermal energy the material will give up per square inch. Materials can lose R-value as they age, but, especially in newer insulation materials, the loss is fairly minimal. Homes built prior to the 1980s almost always require additional insulation. New insulation can be added on top of oldinsulation, and it’s recommended thatthe new insulation have an R-value of at least 38. If necessary for anyreason, a professional insulation con tractor can handle the removal of old insulation in addition to the installation of the new, but that service should be written into the contract prior to any work being done.