Missing or insufficient attic insulation could significantly hike your heating and cooling bills. You could spend hundreds of dollars in wasted energy every season. Consider the following options for attic insulation. Some you can do yourself, while other insulation projects are better left to a professional.
Why Add Attic Insulation?
Installing good attic insulation is like putting a hat on your house – it keeps the heat out in the summer, and holds the heat in during the winter. Adding insulation slows the transfer of heat between the inside and outside of your home, and between the living spaces and the attic. If you’re not sure whether your attic can benefit from extra insulation, consider getting a home energy audit for a comprehensive look at how you can improve home efficiency.
Importance of Fixture Barriers
Recessed lighting fixtures often protrude up into the attic space, but they’re not meant to have insulation around them. Insulation set too close to lights can be a serious fire hazard. Before you add extra insulation, take the time to set up barriers made from wire or sheet metal around every fixture. These should have enough extra space to allow good airflow to prevent overheating while the lights are in use.
Popular Insulation Options
The exact type of insulation you choose depends on your budget, what R-value (thermal resistance) you’re trying to reach, and the layout of your attic. Three of the most common choices for attics include:
- Fiberglass batts are the easiest to install, and are the time-honored choice in attics. All you have to do is roll the insulation out over the floor, avoiding fixtures, and you’re done.
- Loose-fill insulation provides better coverage, but may require professional installation. This type of insulation is blown in to completely cover the floor or fill the entire attic space.
- Spray foam and foam board insulation tends to be a bit more expensive, but both offer a closed-cell layer of insulation that adds tremendous R-values. Foam board is a good candidate for DIY installation, but spray foam may require a professional, as it can damage your home if it’s installed improperly.
Check the recommended R-values for our area to get a basic idea of how much insulation your attic should have overall. In general, small attic spaces require insulation with higher values because there’s less room for multiple layers than in large attics.
Know When to Call a Professional
While most attic insulation jobs can be done yourself, there are a few indicators that you need a professional to do the work. These include:
- Insufficient ventilation. Stale air is more than just unpleasant – it can be toxic. Attics with poor ventilation may have bad enough air quality that prolonged exposure is dangerous. In addition, some types of insulation may release toxins while they’re being installed and absolutely require proper airflow.
- Household vents in the attic. Your bathroom, kitchen and clothes dryer have vents to direct warm, moist air away from your living spaces. These should open into the outdoors, but some may dump that air into your attic and cause a multitude of problems. The problem must be fixed before you install new insulation.
- Wet or musty insulation. If the existing insulation has spots that smell musty or are moist to the touch, it must be removed and the source of the moisture identified before adding new attic insulation.
- Mold or significant water spots. Inspect the rafters, joists and any other exposed wood in your attic before you add insulation. If spots are moldy or show signs of water damage, your roof and/or gutters may be damaged or you may have some other moisture issue. These problems must be addressed immediately.
- Pre-1930 wiring. “Knob and tube” wiring went out of use in the 1930s, but it’s still used in some older houses. Though other parts of the house may have updated electrical circuits, knob and tube wiring may still hide in out-of-the-way areas such as your attic or basement. It presents a fire hazard, especially around insulation, and should be professionally evaluated.
A properly insulated attic should have effective ventilation as well, to disallow dirty air from concentrating in the attic space. If you’re unsure about fire safety or ventilation considerations, always consult a qualified professional technician to make sure it’s done right.
For more information on adding attic insulation to your home, please contact us at Goose Creek Heating & Air. We provide top-quality services to Goose Creek, Awendaw, Charleston and the surrounding areas.
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