Insulating Your Attic
If you live in a house that is located in a state that gets cold temperatures and winter storms, your heating bill can be very expensive. The Department of Energy predicts that prices for natural gas and heating oil will rise again this winter compared with last—and that's after a year in which heating-oil prices rose sharply in most parts of the country. A lot of people choose to turn down the thermostat to try to conserve energy and save money during the winter. Sometimes this can be beneficial but other times it can cause major problems. If you've got an unfinished attic, giving it proper insulation is one of the simplest ways to keep your heating bill down this season while also ensuring you do not suffer damage from frozen pipes. The Department of Energy estimates that a properly insulated attic can shave 10 to 50 percent off your heating bill. And it works the opposite way for warm climates; in summer, it helps stabilize your house's indoor temps to keep cooling needs in check. In a perfect world, you'd hire an energy auditor, such as Mass Save, to tell you exactly how much protection you're getting from the few inches of attic insulation you may already have and to pinpoint things like air leaks that you can seal to make sure your insulation will do its job well. Mass Save doesn’t cover your service provider and can’t afford to hire an energy auditor? Here is some information about air sealing and insulation that may help you choose the right contractor. 1. Do not use your attic as storage space. Why? Because the simplest and cheapest way to insulate an attic is to add material to the floor. But if the floor is covered in plywood, you can't stuff the right amount of insulation into it to do a proper job. 2. There are three attic insulation options you can choose from when air sealing and insulating your home. These are loose fill, batt or spray foam insulations. Loose fill and batt can be added to uninsulated attics or layered over existing material. Foam insulation should be used with caution as it can cause a hot roof situation. This is normal but may mean the installation of a mechanical system will be needed. 3. Assess your current insulation and find which insulation is good and which needs to be replaced. Any material with water damage, that is compressed, moldy or stained needs to go. If you have a home that was built prior to 1990 and the insulation has a shiny, grainy loose look, exit the area immediately and hire a professional to remove it. This insulation is commonly known as vermiculite and may contain asbestos. 4. Figure out what R Value is right for you. The Department of Energy recommends different minimum R-values for unfinished, unconditioned attics. The numbers are based on your house's location and climate zone. Not sure where you fall? Call your local building inspector or go to the Department of Energy’s website for more information. 5. Figure out how much insulation you need to buy. Measure your attic's square footage. For loose fill, read labels; each bag lists the required depths for a range of R-values and the number of bags needed to cover 1,000 square feet at those depths. For batts or rolls, calculate the number based on the width and length of the product you're using. 6. Air Sealing air leaks is extremely important and should not be overlooked. In fact, it should be done before you insulate your attic. Gaps in the attic or between the lower floors and the attic will let hot and cold air escape outside rendering all that insulation you just out in, useless. If an air leak is around an attic window use spray foam around the casing, and foam weather stripping to seal leaks around the sash and jambs. If the leak is around pipes, wires, exhaust fans, and ducts and the cap is less than a quarter of an inch you can use fire block caulk. Larger leaks can be sealed with larger foam. When air sealing and insulating your home it is always important to take proper safety precautions. If insulation is inhaled it can cause very severe health risks. If it gets into the eyes, it can also have severe consequences. Be sure to use a mask or ventilator, safety goggles, and other protective equipment when air sealing and insulating your home. Also, be sure to watch where you walk in your attic. As a general rule, walking on beams is the best way to maneuver in your attic, if you step off a beam you can go through your own ceiling.
While it may be tempting to self-insulate your home, it is not recommended. Reach out to MassSave and various insulation companies to find the best price and fit for you.
Still not sure whether you need more insulation? Make an appointment with our home inspector, not only can he inspect your current insulation status, he can also point out any other problems that may have been overlooked in your home.