Insulation – What it is, the R value, important things to consider

how to reduce energy bill

(pic from energysavernorthwest.com)

Insulation is vital for keeping heat and coolness both inside and outside your home.  Depending upon your wishes muah ha ha.  And it does this switching back and forth as the seasons change without you telling it to.  It’s black magic.

No it’s man and his ingenuity.  He found that certain materials had better, or worse, insulating properties.  Eventually we figured out how to use this to our advantage and use it in construction in order to reduce energy consumption costs.

If you want to reduce your energy bill, increase your energy efficiency.

The primary job of insulation is to minimize the amount of heat (again, or coolness) flowing into and out of your home.  In summer months, insulation keeps the outdoor heat from creeping inside while in the winter months, it traps heat inside the home to prevent it from escaping.

Why spend all of that money to run your furnace, probably both electricity and gas, heat the air inside your home only to have it be able to flee like a thief in the night through your poorly insulated attic?  And the same goes for the hot summer days when you spend a billion dollars running your ac unit to get your air down to 72F.

This is why if we had had an air conditioner growing up my Dad for sure would’ve been yelling “we’re not paying to cool the whole neighborhood.”  Even though it was primarily woods.


Getting the right kind

Choosing the right kind of insulation and knowing how much to use is important.  You also need to know how it should be installed in the attic, walls, and ceilings and even the foundation and floors of your home.  And where.  Like, I know you don’t need to insulate interior walls but you should on walls that are shared between interior and exterior spaces, like the walls between your garage and house.

Another easy way to reduce energy costs is to get rid of any air leaks or gaps in your home around doors and windows and add the proper stripping, we covered that in an earlier post.  Not really how to do it but that you should lol.  By doing this, you can greatly reduce your energy bill.

Four Basic Kinds of Insulation

ways to cut energy billFour basic kinds of insulation exist:

  • liquid foam
  • loose fill
  • rigid foam
  • rolls or bats (blankets)

The blanketed and loose fill is most often used in homes, particularly in attics, between floor joists, in the walls and between rafters in the roof.  Liquid foam is primarily used in walls as it is a perfect material to seal any potential air leaks and create an airtight home.  Rigid foam resembles sheets of foam and is usually used in the outer walls of a home and other outdoor applications.

When choosing insulation for your home, make sure you think about a couple things first.

Will the insulation pose any type of danger to your family?

Is it composed of materials that are harmful to the environment, specifically your home?

Consider the long term performance your new insulation will provide.  Why do something halfway?  Replacing your insulation with the the best stuff you can afford will not only pay for itself eventually but will last longer.

If you already have insulation but are replacing it or just adding more, you must find out how much is already there.  Measure the thickness of the insulation already present so that you can get an R-value from the home improvement store and decide whether you need to add more insulation and how much.

The R-value fluctuates depending on where you live as well as what heat source you use – gas or electric.  Your goal is to strive for a higher R-value than what is required by your area to ensure optimal insulating properties.


What is R-Value?

It is a measure of thermal resistance.  Under uniform conditions it is the ratio of the temperature difference across an insulator and the amount of heat transfer through it per unit time (from wiki basically.)  Put simply, it measures how well insulation will retain like a barrier between differing temperatures.

r-value map US

You might notice during your insulation education that there are a variety of materials to choose from.  Fiberglass is by far the most popular in the rolls of insulation that you lay out but it is tough to work with because the glass-like fibers can get into your skin.

Special protective gear is must when working with fiberglass.  Cellulose, cotton, mineral wool, lamb’s wool and recycled paper and fabric are also used as insulation.

Each type of insulation material has a different R-value so you pay attention when shopping for not only the type of insulation but the material it is made from.  Of course, where you are using the insulation will play another role in your choice.

So make like that pink panther dude and get to work.  Why did it take me forever to remember that he was a panther?  I was thinking, what the hell is that thing?


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