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Best Quality Home Insulation for Updating Your Home

Updated on June 17, 2014
Poor insulation can suck money out of your wallet every month.
Poor insulation can suck money out of your wallet every month.

According to the U.S. Energy Department, heating and cooling account for around 40 percent of all energy expenditures in the average American home. Having the proper amount of insulation to keep your conditioned air at the temperature you want can save you up to 15 percent on your utility bill year round. There are several types of insulation to choose from, so make sure you choose the best type for your particular job. If you want be even more eco friendly, check out some green insulation options.

Major Areas to Insulate

Attic

Exterior Walls

Basement or Crawl Space

Water Heater and Pipes

Attic Insulation

The first place to check your insulation is in the attic. An uninsulated attic space can reach as high as 150 to 180 degrees in the summer and fall to below zero temperatures during the winter. Without a layer of insulation between this area and your living spaces, those extreme temperatures could infiltrate your home making your heating and air conditioning work harder for longer periods of time.

Laying new insulation in the attic can be done with batting or loose fill. Batting should be laid across the joists to prevent thermal bridging between the attic space and the ceiling below. If batting is laid between the joists, cover the exposed wood with radiant heat barrier. Also consider insulating the kneewall area in colder regions. Be careful not to block air intake vents or place any insulation above recessed lighting where it could become a fire hazard.

Get Your Gear

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Wearing safety goggles will protect your eyes from fiberglass in rolled battingA respirator mask allows you to breath easy when installing insulation.Don't forget to wear work gloves and tuck them beneath the ends of your long sleeve work shirt.
Wearing safety goggles will protect your eyes from fiberglass in rolled batting
Wearing safety goggles will protect your eyes from fiberglass in rolled batting
A respirator mask allows you to breath easy when installing insulation.
A respirator mask allows you to breath easy when installing insulation.
Don't forget to wear work gloves and tuck them beneath the ends of your long sleeve work shirt.
Don't forget to wear work gloves and tuck them beneath the ends of your long sleeve work shirt.

Insulating Walls

Today, most exterior walls have insulation installed when they are erected. Homes built before the 1990s may not have any at all. The best way to check if and how much insulation you have in your walls is removing an electrical outlet and looking in-between the inner and out wall sheathing. The majority of insulation is R-5 rigid foam board. If you don't see any insulation, you may have to have it blown in. This involves either removing or drilling holes in the outer wall covering. If you have insulation, it probably doesn’t need to be upgraded.

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Floor Insulation

Most people don't think about the floor needing to be insulated, but cold air can seep in through the floor as readily as the attic. Depending on whether your floor sits on a slab or over the top of a crawl space or full basement area, there are two ways to insulate.

If you have a slab, the only way to insulate the floor is to blow in either loose fill or spray foam through openings. These openings can be made through the exterior framing or in the floor itself. The openings can be resealed once the insulation is in place.

If you have a crawl space or open basement area the best method for insulating is to insulate the walls and floor of the space. You can put rigid foam board between the floor joists and seal it in place with caulk, but it is better to insulate the other areas because they don't swell and shrink with the heat and moisture like floors do. Never use rolled batting in this area. It can easily become disconnected from the floor and lose all insulating value. It can also become home to all types of rodents and other undesirable critters.

Insulated sleeves are available for most tank style water heater models.
Insulated sleeves are available for most tank style water heater models.

Water Heater Insulation

Insulation can also help keep you from losing radiant heat from your water pipes and heater. Wrapping the hot water lines from your heater to the faucets and shower heads will allow you to turn your water heater down several degrees without losing any heat at the point of use. Simple foam pipe insulation can be installed in just a few minutes.

Buying a water heater insulator blanket for you storage style water heater can significantly reduce the amount of radiant heat loss through the steel walls. Less heat loss translates into less run time for the heating element or gas burner. This could result in a 4 percent to 9 percent reduction in overall water heating costs over the course of a year. If you have an electric water heater, placing a piece of rigid foam insulation beneath it can reduce heat loss even a bit further.

After you've upgraded the insulation in your house, you probably won't notice the difference in your home's comfort level but you certainly will notice the difference in your utility bill. And the great thing about insulation is that it will last a lifetime. This is a one-time fix that will continue paying dividends year after year.

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