With rising energy costs impacting household budgets, dialing down the thermostat has become the last resort for most. Ensuring your home is energy efficient during warm weather has become even more critical to reducing household expenses. One of the most efficient ways to reduce energy costs is to install insulation in your attic.
Insulation will reduce your reliance on the HVAC and keep you comfortable inside your house on warm days. Shaving even a few degrees off your thermostat will add to a lot of savings over the years.
If your house is old or your attic is unfinished, it might be time to research which attic insulation is best for your home. Getting a good result with your new insulation will come down to understanding more about the type of attic insulation you can use and how it will perform.
This article will go over the different pros and cons of each type of insulation based on the experience of professional insulation contractors.
Before installing any type of insulation, attic cleaning might be in order, especially if you use the extra space for storage, or it’s been a while since you were up there. Prepping the attic before the insulation contractors arrive will save time and money on your installation costs.
The clutter accumulated in attics creates the perfect environment for rodents to make their nests. Once the attic cleaning is complete, a professional rodent removal service will help you get rid of the pests, so they don’t come back after the insulation contractors are finished.
If you don’t know which attic insulation is best for your situation, your insulation contractor will be happy to provide professional advice. However, you can use this quick guide for a rundown on what’s available and when you should use it in your attic.
Installing insulation in some homes could cause severe issues if not done correctly. Many older homes have large gaps between the inner and outer walls. The Gaps in walls are designed to allow enough space for moisture that naturally leaks into a home to dry without causing moisture damage. Filling these spaces with insulation could lead to a loss of structural integrity through wood rot.
Wood-shingled roofs could create similar problems. These old roofs are designed to breathe so they can absorb moisture and dry out. Insulation installed against the shingles will trap moisture and cause wood to rot.
Insulation keeps your home warm in the winter and cooler in the summer, but how effective it is is determined by its R-value.
The R-value can help homeowners choose the best insulation for the climate in which they live. The Department of Energy at energy.gov provides a clear explanation of the R-value:
An insulating material’s resistance to conductive heat flow is measured or rated in terms of its thermal resistance or R-value — the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness. The R-value depends on the type of insulation, its thickness, and its density. The R-value of some insulations also depends on temperature, aging, and moisture accumulation. When calculating the R-value of a multilayered installation, add the R-values of the individual layers.
Let’s now look at your attic insulation options to determine which will be the best for your home.
You can insulate your attic with material available as loose-fill or blanket insulation (batts). You can install both in uninsulated attics or over your old insulation.
Fiberglass blanket insulation material is the most commonly available insulation material. The insulation comes in batts or rolls and is one of the most affordable options. It’s highly effective for the price, easy to lay, and can be installed inside walls and attic floors.
It is also straightforward to install it over existing insulation. Thick pieces of insulation can be cut to size to snugly fit in between wooden frames, pipes, cables, and other infrastructure.
Fiberglass comes in two types: faced and unfaced. A faced batt includes a lining of paper to prevent skin contact with tiny fiberglass particles, while an unfaced batt has fiberglass exposed on both sides.
Fiberglass batts or rolls are an excellent solution for joist and beam attics with minimal obstructions to work around. However, they are not perfect.
It’s not suitable for open spaces because fiberglass particles can float freely and compromise the air quality in your home. Other issues you may encounter with blanket insulation include:
- Vermin loves to chew up fiberglass bat insulation for nests (another great reason for rodent removal)
- It readily absorbs and retains moisture
- Loose particles irritate the air passages and skin
One of the most environmentally responsible insulation types is rock wool, which comes in batts or blanket rolls like fiberglass insulation. The insulation is created from mineral wool and other recycled material.
Rock wool insulation is easier to work with than fiberglass as it is just as easily cut to shape, but it’s heavier, making it easier to get snug fits around obstacles in the attic.
The material’s fire and moisture resistance create an extra layer of safety in your home. Rock wool installation will slow the spread of flames if a fire breaks out, which is part of the reason the material has gained significant market share as the best insulation for an attic.
Loose fill is steadily gaining ground as a preferred material for attic insulation because it’s another eco-friendly option made from recycled paper. Older homes with flat roofs are perfect for loose-fill cellulose insulation. Insulation contractors spray-fill the entire attic space to cover every square inch.
The blown-in material easily settles around obstructions and fills any gaps to significantly cut down on the labor of your insulation contractor, while increasing the insulation’s efficiency.
Unfortunately, loose fill is prone to moisture and will get moldy if left wet for too long. A roof inspection is highly recommended to ensure you don’t have any leaks that could compromise your new insulation.
If you are after a higher R-value per inch rating for proper attic insulation, then spray foam is by far the best option. The spray foam R-value for open cell is 3.5, and 6.5 for closed cell. While it’s often touted as an environmentally friendly insulation material for your attic, this isn’t always true.
From an energy use perspective, spray foam is an excellent choice for reducing your utility bills but the materials that go into it, like polyurethane, are in no way environmentally sustainable.
As with most new attic insulation installations, there is a balancing act in selecting the best option.
If you are looking for a DIY attic installation solution, spray foam is not for you. Professional insulation contractors should be used in every situation, even if you could get your hands on the equipment. Like cellulose loose-fill, spray foam effortlessly fills every nook and cranny in your attic to create the most efficient insulation possible.
Are you considering updating your old insulation, or are you looking for ways to reduce your energy bill? Our professional insulation contractors are available to answer all your questions and provide professional advice to help you find the best insulation for your attic.