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Winterize Your Home with Attic Blown-In Insulation

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Attic blown insulation has many advantages over the fiberglass batt type of insulation and is becoming increasingly popular.

One of the biggest benefits of the blown in insulation is for the owners of vintage homes that may not have adequate insulation in the attic and the walls. The batts require removing part of the wall to fit the insulation batting inside but with the blown in type of insulation small, easily repaired holes are made in the walls and then the area is filled with the insulation material. It is even easier to add the loose material to the floor of an attic in the depth that you prefer. Best of all, because it is loose it can fit even the oddest shaped nooks in the attic.

The loose insulation can be installed by the homeowner in about six hours depending on the size of the project. It will cost about half what the pink fiberglass insulation costs.

Not only does it perform better, and cost less but blown in insulation has a higher R-rating that most other products. It can usually be installed right over existing insulation.

There are a number of types of blown in insulation for you to choose from.

image:Morguefile.com
image:Morguefile.com

Fiberglass-based Blow-in Insulation

When installing fiberglass based insulation care must be taken to follow all the manufacturer's instructions. It is easy to "overblow" fiberglass. This refers to the product fluffing up too much because of improper application. When this happens the depth is correct but not enough material has been used. Be sure to follow the depth plus density recommendations for the best results. Where the temperature gets much below zero for extended periods in the winter fiberglass is not the best choice. It does not insulate well at those temperatures and loses about half of its R-value.

Fiberglass blown-in insulation, like regular fiberglass, carries health risks. Always use your safety equipment: Safety goggles mask gloves

The biggest benefit to this type of blown in insulation is that it will not settle over a period of time and will retain its full R-value for as long as it is left in place.

Cellulose based insulation

Cellulose based insulation is a natural product that has been made from recycled newspapers. It is the best for absorbing sound, and has the ability to reduce noise up to ninety percent. It has a class 1 fire rating and is much safer than you would think when you think of newspaper, recycled or not. This environmentally friendly insulation is a great option for ecologically concerned home owners. There is the side benefit of possibly getting a break on your homeowners insurance.

There are some additives in the material to give it the ability to be fire resistant. These additives have some toxins but over all the health risks are much less than with the fiberglass. People who are environmentally sensitive will need to be aware that the inks in the newspaper sometimes outgas small amounts of formaldehyde form the dyes.

Cellulose insulation will settle over time and therefore more insulation will need to be added from time to time. The other negative factor about the cellulose is that its heaviness means that, although current recommendations are for installation to be at least R-36, Cellulose can only be installed safely to an R-30.

Cellulose vs Fiberglass Insulation

Rock Wool/Slag Wool

Also called slag wool, rock wool is a loose fill insulation that is manufactured from blast furnace slag. This is a layer of dross, or impurities that forms on the surface of molten meal as it is being heated.

Rock wool is a somewhat new insulation that environmentalists are excited about. It has an excellent performance rating and will not settle. This means that, like fiberglass blown- in insulation, it retains its' R-value for the entire life of the home. It will not burn, which makes it the safest choice for blown-in insulation and it is chemically inert. In other words, rock wool does not outgas and harmful chemicals or toxins.

Slag wool will conform to the shape of any oddly shaped area, including drifting around plumbing stacks. When you use rock wool you are keeping it out of the landfill, which is also good for the environment.

The only negative is that it may be hard to find in some parts of the country until it becomes better known.

Stay Warm this Winter

Consider blown-in insulation especially if you have an older home. The ease with which it can be installed, as well as its ability to conform to the unusual shapes a vintage home sometimes has can make it an easy choice.

Insulation is the best way to keep your home warm and your energy costs low in the winter time. With blown-in insulation, a blower rental, and a few hours of time you can make a significant difference in your monthly energy bill.

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      We had the blown in insulation added this Spring and we have definitely noticed a savings on our air-conditioning bills in Houston's long hot summer. So long term this is one expenditure that really pays off big!

    • profile image

      Peter Gran 

      9 years ago

      The article on winterizing brick houses is very interesting. Elsewhere I am reading about mould danger of a suddenly more closed and insulated house . Would that apply here?

    • profile image

      doctorloanusa 

      10 years ago

      Great resource, thanks Marye. I am gonna have to seriously think this through to prepare for this winter. My upstairs is much hotter than downstairs, and I know my lack of insulation has a lot to do with this.

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      jeff that is fascinating about the roman house!

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      10 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      When we lived in Galena, which if a town with hundreds of houses built before the 1850's, this was about the only way to insulate old homes. In putting in insulation, we discovered old newspapers and movie posters had been stuffed in between the walls as insulation. I can only imagine the paper was pushed down from the attic where there is a narrow gap between the outside walls and the inner walls.

      In Paris, France they discovered an old Roman house that actually had fires built beneath the brick home, and the heat and smoke escaped up in spaces between the brick walls. Thus floor and walls were kept warm.

      Of course, they had slaves working the fires, so not everyone was kept warm! Just the rich folks!

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