Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ April 2012

The Energy Guy

Getting Back to Basics:  Insulation 101

By Reuven Walder

Insulation helps to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer by making it more difficult for heat to pass through it.  When the summer sun beats down on your roof, insulation keeps the heat from moving through the shingles, onto the attic floor, and into your living space.  Conversely, in the winter, it keeps the heat in your living space in the home longer, and prevents it from rising through the top floor ceiling.

Remember that insulation is not an air barrier unless it is “dense-packed.”  This technique involves pushing insulation into cavities and packing it in.  Insulation that is sitting on an attic floor does not substitute for attic air sealing.  I recommend that home owners do air sealing work first, then insulation augmentation second, because insulating first makes it very difficult to air seal later.

Homes built 50 or more years ago had much lower standards for insulation.  That’s why many homeowners with homes from the ’60s have just three to five inches of fiberglass insulation in their attics.  In these homes, moisture, age, and subtle movement (settling) of the insulation can degrade the usefulness of insulation over time.

Insufficient insulation in a residential attic.

One of the easiest places to check whether additional insulation is needed is in the attic.  A quick way to see if you need more insulation is to measure the depth of any insulation on your uncovered attic floor.  The recommended insulation level for most attics in our region is R-49 (about 13 inches of loose-fill cellulose or 16 inches of properly installed fiberglass batts).

If your home is older, and it has little insulation, then you are a great candidate for insulation upgrades.  But remember to do the air sealing work before insulating!  A Home Energy Audit will help you identify the right way to bring your home up to current code in a manner that is safe and affordable for you and your family.

Insulation is also typically installed in rim or band joists, floors over unconditioned spaces (like crawlspaces, garages, and cantilevers), and exterior walls.

Finally, insulation is only one piece of the energy puzzle.  Proper air sealing, duct sealing, and keeping HVAC appliances well-maintained are also critical to energy efficiency by keeping the conditioned air inside your house longer.

[Reuven Walder is Founder/Vice President, Ecobeco LLC, 2009 Maryland Home Performance Contractor of the Year and 2010 and 2011 Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner.  Reach him at 301.802.7038 or reuven at ecobeco dot com.  He lives on Lombardy Road.]   ■

   © 2012 NFCCA  [Source:]