A well-insulated home starts with the walls and ceiling, but what about the attics and basements? The options for insulating these parts of your house are many. Here’s a look at some of the popular choices for insulating the lower levels of your home:
Foam-backed single-family homes have a few advantages over attached houses, which start with their lack of open or cavity-style construction. They’re commonly constructed with either fiberglass or metal batts and have a standard D rating for thermal resistance. Fiberglass is the most common material used in these attics because it’s lightweight and easy to install, while metal is more energy-efficient than fiberglass. Rock and stone wool batts are other common types of interior walls insulated with foam.
Attics is an overlooked area when it comes to insulating a home. These structures receive little to no insulation, so they have to be effectively ventilated in order to provide healthy home air. The type of attic insulation you use depends on the condition of your home and the type of climate you live in. For example, a warm climate will require thicker, more moisture-resistant foam and a colder climate will require thinner materials.
Single-family residences typically come with either a cavity wall or a drywall framing. Cavity wall construction is less expensive than drywall, but it’s more difficult to install, and it’s more likely that the structure will need to be rebarred. Drywall framing is less expensive, but it has a smooth and professional finish. A drywall/ceiling installation will require the installer to be skillful in laying the structure, which can increase the cost of the housing unit.
Single-family residences that have a double-wall framing will also require more insulation than single-family dwellings. The extra material is required because the building’s walls have no space for insulation, so the building is actually warmer than traditional framing. If the r-value of the home’s insulation is poor, the R-value of the framing material must be greater. A higher R-value means the insulation will be more effective in keeping a home cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter. Good insulation will keep the interior temperature of a dwelling warmer or cooler for an average home.
In most areas, thermal bridging occurs when insulation is added to existing homes instead of retrofitted to newly constructed homes. Residential retrofitting occurs when insulation is added to existing homes when their construction is nearing completion. This can make sense from an energy efficiency standpoint, but residential, new construction is not retrofitted. There are many reasons why a home builder opts for this option. One reason is that builders want to avoid paying out of pocket to install insulation, another reason is that new construction is less expensive than retrofitting, yet another reason is that many building owners do not understand that retrofitting can improve energy efficiency.
The type of insulation needed depends on whether you have insulation being installed in the wall cavities, attics, or basements. The type of insulation to be used is also dependent on whether you are installing insulation to terminate the existing roofs or the addition of insulation to an existing home. Even if you are adding insulation to an existing home, you will still need to add thermal bridging as the retrofit is completed. If you retrofit to a different construction, the moisture separation will occur at an angle, so you will need an additional membrane between the thermal bridging and the drywall below.
Regardless of the material you use, the goal of your energy efficiency project should be to reduce your cost to heat or cool your home. You can learn about insulating your home in your local library, online, or by visiting your local library. Most of the time, there are programs available at your local library that explain what materials are needed and how to put the project together. If you’re not comfortable with putting a project together, there are plenty of contractors out there that will. The most important thing is that you are comfortable with the process and that you are comfortable with your new insulation.