Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
The goal in winter is to add an extra buffer between you and the harsh elements—in the form of a warm coat, hat, gloves and scarf, for example. While you can’t “dress” your home as such to keep the cold at bay, you can add a buffer of a different sort: insulation, which comes in many different forms, each of which is designed to keep heat within and Jack Frost without.
Chances are, especially if you own an older home, you can benefit from providing additional insulation in key areas.
“Adding extra insulation is akin to wrapping your home in a cozy blanket. It provides consistent indoor temperatures, reducing the workload on HVAC systems. This not only lowers energy bills but also ensures a more comfortable living environment,” explains Josh Mitchell, an HVAC technician and owner of Airconditionerlab.com. “Without adequate insulation, you’re essentially allowing your hard-earned money to escape through cracks, seams and poorly insulated spaces, leading to increased energy costs.”
Additionally, sufficient insulation throughout your home can better control sound and moisture.
“A well-insulated attic is at least 30% more efficient than a non-insulated home,” notes Ron Robbins with Attic Health in San Diego.
Speaking of which, your attic is likely most in need of extra insulation.
“Heat tends to rise and can easily escape through an under-insulated attic,” Mitchell continues. “Also, walls – especially those facing the outdoors – play an important role in maintaining interior temperatures, so these are primary culprits, as well. And crawlspaces and basements, being in direct contact with the ground, can be sources of cold drafts. Properly insulating all of these areas can significantly impact overall home comfort.”
Note that, over time, existing insulation within these areas “can settle, be damaged by moisture due to inadequately vented areas, or be compromised by wildlife,” according to John Jordan, an insulation installer and home services provider.
There are different insulation materials to choose from, including traditional fiberglass roll/batt insulation (often a pink or tan color), spray foam insulation (often used for filling gaps and cracks) and loose-fill cellulose insulation (commonly blown into walls, attics, and crevices). Handy DIYers can often install the first two types themselves, but blown-in insulation typically requires hiring a pro.
“Cellulose insulation is a great choice for attics, as its densely packed fibers block air better than fiberglass. Cellulose is made from wood fiber and newspaper, and its cellular structure is naturally more resistant to the conduction of heat,” Jordan notes. “Fiberglass insulation relies on trapped air for its insulation value.”
It’s important to select the right kind of insulation based on where you plan to add it, your budget and the desired R-value, which is a measure of how well the product resists the conductive flow of heat. The higher the R-value, the better the performance. Different regions of the country have different R-value requirements.
“The building code in Georgia, for instance, requires an R-value of 38, which means 10 to 11 inches of cellulose insulation or 14to 15 inches of fiberglass insulation,” says Jordan.
It’s best to choose reputable brands when shopping for insulation, as inferior products can compromise effectiveness.
“Natural insulation materials tend to outperform synthetic ones in many cases and also can be much more friendly to install. Sheep’s wool is a perfect example – containing no hazardous chemicals, toxic dust, or itchy side effects,” says Austin Trautman, founder of VALI in Phoenix.
It’s best to have insulation installed by an expert. Attempting the job yourself can result in improper measuring and under- or over-insulating a given area. Not enough could leave your home feeling cold and drafty, while too much could lead to moisture problems, including mold and rot.
“While some DIY enthusiasts might tackle the job on their own, insulation needs to be evenly distributed without gaps. Professionals understand how to navigate around obstacles like electrical wiring and plumbing,” Mitchell explains.