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Stay Warm And Toasty This Winter With New Attic Insulation

Oct 04, 2013 11:00AM ● By tina

Avoid those cold drafts in winter with energy efficient insulation for your home.

Sponsored by Berkeys Air Conditioning and Plumbing 

You’ve felt the cold draft on your neck and your rising energy bills are sending shivers down your spine. It might be time to install new insulation and prepare for winter. Fall is a great time to winterize your home and improve your energy efficiency by upgrading your insulation.

Standing in the aisle of your home improvement store, you might be confused by all the choices.  In order to select the proper insulation, we’ll need to determine its R-value, or it’s resistance to allow warm air to flow though it. The higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation will be keeping your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. To find the recommended R-value for your area, you can look at the North American Insulation Manufacturer's Association Web site. Keep in mind that the effect of R-values is cumulative. For example, if your attic has R-19 insulation and another layer of R-19 insulation is added, the insulation will have a value of R-38. So, for Texas, The recommended R-value is between R30 and R60. Most homeowners will have to add insulation to get their R-rating into that range.

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Next decide what type of insulation best fits your needs. The two most common types are blown-in insulation and blanket insulation.  Blown-in insulation (aka loose-fill insulation) is made of recycled materials such as fiberglass, cellulose or mineral wool (natural mineral and/or metal remnants) and formed into small clumps. Blown-in insulation is usually installed during construction. They use special equipment to spray it onto the attic floor and into attic wall cavities. However, you can add it to your attic yourself. Some home improvement stores rent blowers and stock the insulation. Over time, this type of insulation can lose up to 20 percent of its R-value as it settles and compacts. If you decide to install this type of insulation, install extra to offset the loss and save the additional expense later.

The other type, blanket insulation (aka roll insulation or the pink fluffy stuff) is usually comprised of fiberglass. You can also find it made of mineral wool, plastic fibers or natural fibers (like cotton). Roll insulation comes in a variety of widths, and its length can be cut to fit. Adding blanket insulation is a simple do-it-yourself project. Check local building and fire codes and permits before you start. Also, follow the manufacturer's directions – you don’t want to compact the insulation too much. Blanket insulation usually costs less to install than other types.

Sometimes, insulation isn't enough. Regulating the humidity in your attic is also important, especially with our humid Texas weather. Attic ventilation is all about circulating air to keep it fresh and to reduce moisture levels. Most homes could benefit from some form of attic ventilation, but you also need the right amount of ventilation. Insufficient ventilation leads to moisture problems during the winter and decreased energy efficiency during the summer. Too much ventilation (too many roof vents) can create unnecessary roof penetration— just another place for leaks to occur. ­­­­Some vents are necessary, but you don't want to needlessly increase the number of roof penetrations. More than leaks, these seams can cause blowouts during a hurricane or allow sparks from a wildfire to enter your home and set it ablaze.

So, how much ventilation should your attic have? You should talk to a professional to determine what your home requires, like Berkeys. Air resistance and interference (such as vent grates) reduces the area of true ventilation. In other words, the entire vent opening doesn't count as vented space. Many people believe roof ventilation is necessary to increase energy efficiency during the summer. Good roof ventilation is important. However, shingling color, sun exposure, and insulation are much more important to overall energy efficiency. Installing roof vents for older homes can reduce your cooling load, but there are more low-risk, cost-effective ways to increase your home's energy efficiency.

Many people also believe that because heat rises, ventilating an attic space during the winter means that the attic is leaking warm air and causing a reduction in the heating efficiency. If this is happening, you have bigger problems to worry about than a little escaping warm air.  Insufficient insulation is usually the culprit. The sun can warm Attic space more than your furnace on a sunny winter day.

Spray foam insulation can be used to seal the nooks, crannies, and cracks of your attic. Spray foam insulation is installed by spraying the insulation in a liquid form, and upon contact, it expands to many times its size and hardens. Using spray foam to seal around attic vents, pipes, air ducts and other areas can prevent heat loss from the interior of your home as well as reduce the moisture in the attic.

Radiant barriers are installed primarily to reduce summer heat gain and reduce cooling costs.  Radiant barriers are more effective in hot climates than in cool climates, especially when cooling air ducts are located in the attic. These barriers consist of a highly reflective material that reflects radiant heat rather than absorbing it.  Much of the heat from the sun is absorbed by the roof and travels by conduction through the roofing materials to the attic side of the roof. The hot roof material then radiates its gained heat energy onto the cooler attic surfaces, including the air ducts and the attic floor. A radiant barrier reduces the radiant heat transfer from the underside of the roof to the other surfaces in the attic. The reduced heat gain may lower cooling costs in the summer, but they don’t help much in winters. It's usually more cost-effective to install more thermal insulation than to add a radiant barrier if you are trying to reduce your heating costs.

Installing insulation in the attic is very important and can give you a big return on energy savings. Having your home properly insulated will also make your home feel more comfortable. That being said, adequate insulation must be used in conjunction with proper air sealing and moisture control measures to ensure you are kept warm all winter long. Companies like Berkeys can perform a home energy audit and show you how to improve your home’s energy efficiency. 

You can call Berkeys Air Conditioning & Plumbing 24/7 at 817-481-5869 or email us for scheduling information.

For more information visit Berkeys, the Department of Energy, or North American Insulation Manufacturer's Association.