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A Guide to Home Insulation Basics

Published on: August 30, 2012

Energy is the single greatest expense for an average person living in the developed world. Even though the light bill can account for a significant amount of that expense, especially if you don’t follow energy efficient protocols, HVAC service or heating and cooling systems can gobble up to 40 percent of that expense and can vary from season to season. Improper insulation, particularly attic insulation, can make energy costs even worse when HVAC service has to work harder to compensate for inadequate insulation.

Insulation Basics in Dalton, GA

People tend to take for granted insulation, but insufficient insulation is a crucial factor in combating high energy costs, if not the crucial factor. Inadequate attic insulation, for example, will easily allow cooling and heating energy produced from your HVAC service to escape through the upper walls and ceilings, which will result in your system working longer and more often than it has to.

Proper attic insulation with the right amount of material would be required to prevent energy lose from occurring. Whole-house insulation will not only reduce your energy expense, but allow your HVAC system to work less hard, which may also have an added benefit of reducing parts replacement and professional service and maintenance costs.

Types of Insulation

The variety of insulation material is categorized by R-values. Different insulation materials are resistant to heat in different ways, so the R-value is a numerical resistance rating system according to how the material withstands heat as it passes through it. Popular insulation material might include the following:

• Cellulose
• Fiberglass
• Perlite
• Polystyrene
• Polyurethane
• Rock wool
• Vermiculite

All of these materials have different R-values. The higher the value, the greater the material is capable of retarding heat flow, which allows it to function much more effectively as an insulation source. There are also basic R-value requirements for certain insulation material. For example, twelve inches of cellulose or fiberglass would rate at about a R-38, which is the minimum recommendation for attic insulation according to American building codes. Attic insulation can have a maximum of R-50.

Local climate conditions and building codes in different areas can also determine minimum and maximum R-value insulation requirements and how much HVAC service is required in each area. Insulation materials consist of a great deal of variety in terms of flammability, practicality and ease of installation, so selecting insulation material isn’t always a matter of choosing one with the highest R-value.

Indoor Places to Insulate

When it comes to energy efficiency, a HVAC service professional will most likely recommend attic insulation as the first priority for an indoor environment because this is typically the most practical space to insulate, especially during the winter. Heat rises, so the attic is where most of the indoor heat will likely escape during the winter; and a place where heat will collect during the summer.

Of course, it doesn’t just stop with attic insulation. The ultimate goal of proper insulation is to completely cover the entire indoor living space with insulation, particularly areas that are most vulnerable to energy leaks. Windows should be next on the list of insulation priorities, which can account for up to 25 percent of indoor heat loss. Both ease of installation and cost provides a variety of options, such as weather stripping, energy panels, polyurethane foam materials or just drapes, all of which can be beneficial in saving energy.

Weather stripping insulation should also include doors. If budget allows, storm doors are a great way to ensure insulation. Chimney insulation can include chimney balloons, a upgraded flue damper or glass door sealer. Gaps between wall studs can also be filled with loose insulation material. Some of these projects can be a bit tricky for those with less experienced home improvement skills and may require the experience of a professional technician.

HVAC service Insulation

Competent and experienced HVAC service contractors know that adequate insulation is a crucial component to energy savings and system efficiency, which is why some companies also provide both insulation planning and installation. Often times adequate insulation will serve as an alternative to replacing your central heating and cooling system. Full insulation service from a professional contractor should include the following:

• A complete inspection of all areas that require insulation
• Free evaluation and insulation estimates
• Recommendation for the most efficient and least expensive upgrade
• Full installation if necessary

Central heating and cooling systems will only go so far as your insulation will allow. Even the most expensive, advanced state-of-the-art unit won’t operate at full potential if there are too many energy leaks. For those who live in harsh climate regions, insulation isn’t just a method to cut energy costs, but is a must. In most cases, better insulation is one of the best alternatives to an energy efficient solution.