As everyone knows, heat rises. When the lower part of your house is nice and warm because your furnace is chugging away, the warm air is wafting up, up and away, into the attic and out the roof.
Experts agree that the attic is arguably the greatest single heat loser in the home. The only way to prevent this is to insulate. The beauty of good attic insulation is that it will also prevent cool air from escaping in the summer.
What Are the Savings?
How much money you will save depends on many things, not the least being your family’s habits. It also depends on the kind of house you own, how tight the windows and doors are, and what kind of heating you have.
In general, estimates are that consumers save between 30 and 50 percent when they insulate. The North American Insulation Manufacturer’s Association claims that as a nation, we have insulated well enough in recent years to save $84 billion dollars a year. This means average homeowners avoid approximately $74 billion dollars in energy costs every year, or about $780 per household.
What To Insulate in the Attic
If your attic is unfinished and used only for storage, you want to insulate the attic floor so that warm air is trapped below stairs, in those rooms you actually inhabit. If your attic is finished, you want to insulate above these finished spaces.
Your attic may have insulation already in place but if it’s been there for years, chances are it has compressed and is not as effective as it once was, or as it could be. It’s an easy matter to roll new insulation on top of old and reap all the benefits.
Your attic should also be properly ventilated to allow air to circulate through the space.
When you insulate the attic floor, you simply lay rolls — called batts — or blankets of new insulation over the floor. Batts are precut to a specific width. Blankets are wide and you cut them yourself.
Batts of insulation may have a paper or foil backing on one side. If this is the case, lay this down, towards the heated part of the house. If it’s facing up, it can trap moisture, which you do not want.
Roll the insulation between the joists and do not leave any gaps. Warm air will find its way through even the tiniest crevices. Install a second layer of insulation perpendicular to the joists, so that they are covered.
Do not get too close to light fixtures or the chimney. Insulation needs to be distanced from anything that generates heat.
Fill in odd pockets of space with insulation cut to fit. Push it into the area but do not compress it more than necessary.
Don’t walk on the insulation unless you have to. Do not store anything on it, such as boxes or suitcases. Above all, you don’t want to compress it, which detracts from its efficacy.
Finally, if you decide to lay insulation yourself, take care. Wear long sleeves and long pants, gloves and a face mask. Protect your eyes, too. You don’t want to get fiber glass in your eyes or lungs.
What Kind of Insulation
If you are laying insulation in an attic, you probably will use batts of fiber glass. This is the fluffy insulation, usually pink, that you have no doubt seen.
Other kinds of insulation are best installed by a professional, such as cellulose insulation, which is cost effective compared to fiber glass and is made from at least 75 percent recycled material. It’s blown into walls and ceilings and while you can rent a blower, a professional knows how much is needed to fill the space.
Check with your local utility company or an expert to know how much insulation to lay. For houses in cold climates, most attics need R-49 insulation, while in warm climates, R-38 is recommended. “R” stand for R-value, which refers to the “resistance to heat flow.” The greater the R-value, the better the insulative capability..
In these trying financial times, it might be worth insulating the attic. You will save money in the long run – and your house will be cozier and warmer.