Insulation is one way to ensure that your home remains energy efficient. Most of us give little thought to insulation, but it is important to realize that without the right amount, type, and efficiency level, you could be wasting energy in your Charleston-area home. Used effectively, insulation prevents heat transfer, or thermal loss or gain, throughout your home.
How Insulation Works
Because heat always seeks to move to a cooler place, heat flows out of air-conditioned spaces in the winter and into these spaces in summer. When you reduce heat flow, you reduce the need for energy to heat and cool. Insulation resists this thermal transfer.
While insulation will prevent some air infiltration, most airflow resistance in modern homes is provided by gypsum board, sheathing, siding or house wrap. Generally, insulation must be supplemented with caulking and sealing around window sills, recessed lighting, doors, pipes, ducts, flues, electrical boxes and any other areas that might be susceptible to air leaks. Insulation by itself, no matter the type, will not prevent air infiltration.
What R-Value Means
The key to understanding how well home insulation performs is to understand R-value, which is the measurement of how well insulation resists heat transfer. The higher the R-value, the better it resists heat flow. Most insulation comes with the R-value printed on the labeling.
When you install home insulation, you should make sure that it is the right R-value for your climate. Efficiency levels will differ for attics, cathedral ceilings, walls and floors, crawl spaces, slab edges and basement exteriors interiors.
Where to Install Insulation
Insulation is mainly installed in attics and walls, but there are other spaces where it should be added, including basement walls, floors above vented crawl spaces, walls of an attic space used as a living area, sloping ceilings and walls of attics used as living areas, vaulted and cathedral ceilings, around slabs, and on ceilings with unheated spaces above them.
Choosing the Type and Material
You can choose from many types of insulation. It comes as batts or rolls for blanketing; foam board or rigid board for unfinished walls, floors and ceilings; loose fill and blown-in for existing or new wall cavities or unfinished attic floors; and sprayed foam for unfinished attic floors, enclosed existing walls and open cavities in new walls. There are a number of other types, primarily used in the construction of new homes, as well as reflective systems of foil-faced paper or plastic film for radiant barriers.
Batts and rolls for blanketing are the types most familiar to the majority of homeowners installing insulation as a do-it-yourself project. They are relatively inexpensive and are mainly fitted between joists, beams, and studs.
Loose-fill and blown-in insulation are sometimes installed by homeowners, but they can require special equipment. These types are commonly added to areas with an irregular shape or around obstructions.
The primary choice among insulation materials is fiberglass, with cellulose second, but some homeowners opt for foam, cotton or mineral wool. You should research the varying qualities of each material, such as resistance to moisture, how well it resists settling, fire safety, permanence, thermal performance, R-value, and cost. The type you select should also be determined by where you want to install it. Generally, fiberglass is considered resistant to moisture and settling, and is also fire-resistant, although some building specialists counter that some types of cellulose also have these properties.
Regardless of which type of insulation you choose, it should be installed correctly to get the maximum benefit. A home performance evaluation or a home energy audit is one way to identify areas in your home that could benefit from insulation.
Learn more about home insulation, as well as about our other HVAC services, and how you can increase energy efficiency in your home. Goose Creek Heating & Air, Inc. has been providing service to North Charleston and surrounding areas since 1990. Call us today at 888-880-1131 for more information about upgrading your insulation, or to schedule an appointment. We look forward to serving you.