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According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 50% to 70% of the energy used in homes is for heating or cooling activities. By properly insulating your home you can create a more comfortable, consistent indoor climate while significantly improving your home's energy efficiency. If you live in a home that's more than just a few years old, it's probably worth your time to figure out if your home is properly insulated. This buying guide will help you learn about the different types of insulation used in residential construction, and give you the knowledge and confidence necessary to make the right purchase decision to meet your home insulation needs.
How to select Insulation
1. Determine where you need to add insulation
2. Determine how much additional insulation R-Value you need
3. Determine the type of insulation you need
4. Calculate the quantity of insulation you should buy
Insulation – Where, What and How
Most homes are insulated in all exterior walls as well as the attic and any floors that are located above unfinished basements of crawlspaces. The most effective places to add insulation to older homes are often attics, basements and crawl spaces.
When choosing insulation, one of the most important qualities to note is the R-value, which indicates how well insulation resists heat transfer. R-values vary based on the type, thickness and density of the material being used. Insulation with a higher R-value will perform better than insulation with a lower rating. To determine the amount of insulation you need in each area, see Insulation R-Values.
Where Form Meets Efficiency
The most common insulation types are fiberglass, cellulose and foam. These types of insulation are available in a number of different forms. The type and form you need will depend on the location and R-Value you intend to add.
Blown-in insulation or loose fill insulation is usually made of fiberglass or cellulose (recycled paper fiber). It is blown or sprayed into place with pneumatic equipment and is ideal for use in hard-to-reach areas, such as attics. It can also be used to fill wall cavities and can be installed over existing insulation.
Batts are precut sections of fiberglass or rock wool insulation that are designed for easy handling and use between framing, such as studs and joists. Batts are available either with or without paper or aluminum foil facing. They can be used in floors, walls, attics and ceilings.
Like batt insulation, rolls are available in pre-cut widths to fit between studs and joists, but come in longer continuous lengths ranging from 20 to 40 linear feet. This makes rolled insulation an excellent choice for attics, floors and other areas where longer runs are needed.
Foam board insulation or rigid panels of insulation can be used to insulate almost any part of your home, from the roof down to the foundation. Polystyrene and polyurethane are the most common types of materials used in making foam board. Foam board insulation sheathing reduces heat conduction through structural elements like wood and steel studs.
Latex or polyurethane spray foam is sprayed into place with a spray can or specially designed equipment. Spray foam can be used to fill small gaps and cracks and is ideal for sealing around doors, windows and vents. Special equipment may be needed to apply foam to larger areas. Spray foam sets quickly and can be trimmed, painted or stained.
Housewraps and kraft faced insulation are examples of vapor barriers that help control the amount of moisture that passes through the insulation. If moisture from either direction is allowed to build up within stud or cavity walls, the heat-conducting moisture will cause the insulation will lose its R-value and allow mold and rot to set in over time. Vapor barriers are most commonly used when framing the exterior walls of a house.
First, determine if you already have insulation installed. If you do have insulation, find out the type and compare it to industry standards. Manufacturers determine the value by the "R" value or number; the higher the "R" value, the better the insulation works.
Calculate additional needs. If Industry standard recommend "R-38" and your depth is less than this, subtract the depth you have from 38 to determine the amount needed.
Measure the length of space needing insulation. Rolls and batts of insulation come in 16- or 24-inch widths to fit the spaces between wall and attic framing.
Decide what type of insulation you want to use. Rolls come in lengths of 20 to 40 feet. Manufacturers cut batts into 4- to 8-foot lengths. Once you determine which product to use, divide your total from Step 3 by the length of the product you chose. Find the cost for insulation and multiply one unit by the total you need to complete the job.
Blown-in insulation requires the least amount of work, but requires special tools and equipment and is usually installed by professionals. If installing yourself, determine the number of inches needed by subtracting the existing insulation’s R-value from the recommended R-value.
For more information on estimates and pricing please refer to our online Insulation Calculator. Existing structures may require more insulation than new constructions. Calculations are based on the heat source of your home, the location and the size and square footage of the area to be insulated.
If you prefer to hire a professional The Home Depot Home Services offers free in-home consultations in addition to several types of insulation options to help you choose the best solution for your home.
Another way to control heat loss and gain is by improving the quality of your windows. Low emissivity or Low-E windows do not allow as much heat to pass through, keeping your house cooler when it’s hot and warmer when it’s cold.
Insulate water heaters to prevent costly energy loss. Look for insulating pre-cut jackets or blankets with an insulating value of at least R-8. Adding insulation to your water heater can reduce standby heat losses by 25%–45%. This will save you around 4%–9% in water heating costs.
Wrap pipes with tubular insulation to prevent freezing and help keep water hot. Use quality pipe insulation wrap, or neatly tape strips of fiberglass insulation around the pipes. Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature 2ºF–4ºF hotter than uninsulated pipes allowing you to use a lower temperature setting.
Insulated heating and air conditioning ducts operate more efficiently and vibrate less, reducing noise. Properly insulating air ducts located in unconditioned spaces such as attics, crawl spaces, garages, or unfinished basements can help improve your home's energy efficiency.
Installation Tips and Tools
Batts and rolls are available in widths suited to standard spacing of wall studs, and attic or floor joists. Continuous rolls can be hand-cut and trimmed to fit. Loose Fill or blown-in insulation comes with instructions on the bag. The manufacturer will specify the amount of insulation required to obtain a particular R-value per square foot of space.
As always, it helps to have the right tools for the job. The basic tools you need are: a tape measure, utility knife, straight edge, lightweight stapler, or hammer tacker to secure insulation in place and a putty knife. Additional materials may include a drywall compound and expanding foam sealer.
It's also a great idea to bring a portable light, especially when working in attics and crawl spaces, plywood to stand on, a rake for insulation adjustment, and insulation supports. All these tools and materials will come in handy during your project.
Before You Insulate
First, make sure that your house is properly ventilated. Adequate ventilation is necessary to prevent too much heat and condensation from building up as well as to provide fresh air. Next, plug leaks to prevent air from getting in and out in areas such as around windows and doors. Always fix leaks before installing insulation, as they may be difficult to find after the job is finished.
Working with insulation can cause itching and skin irritation, so make sure you take proper safety precautions. Wear long sleeves and pants, work gloves, safety glasses, and a dust mask or respirator to avoid irritating your skin or breathing in harmful substances. Vacuum your clothing immediately after to help reduce the chances of skin irritation.
Make sure you have all the tools you need to get the job done right, and don’t forget to consult The Home Depot’s insulation calculator to figure out exactly how much to purchase.
The Home Depot Home Services also offers free in-home consultations in addition to several types of insulation options to help you choose the best solution for your home.
Attaching a vapor barrier to your insulation helps prevent the buildup of moisture and condensation. With a barrier in place, mold and mildew are much less likely to accumulate, helping to increase the life and effectiveness of both walls and insulation.
Different types of insulation protect against different kinds of heat. Radiant barriers deflect radiant heat, which can pass through other types of insulation, to further increase your home’s energy efficiency.
Cellulose is an environmentally friendly insulation made from recycled paper. It has excellent sound insulating properties and is fire resistant. Cellulose is also the only insulation that actually controls moisture.
Keep in mind that if insulation is compressed, the R-value will decrease.
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