Moving into your first home may come with exciting and challenging home renovations. Before you put your time and energy into remodeling the bathroom or the kitchen, consider investing in projects that save you money on your energy bills. Updating your old attic insulation can make your property more energy-efficient and make it a comfortable place.
As a first-time homeowner, you need to regularly maintain your attic by inspecting rodent activity and replacing your insulation. Since you just moved into your home, you might not know what you’ll find in that space above your living area. These tips will teach you what to know about insulation as a first-time homeowner.
Why Is Insulation Important?
Insulation is a material that fills the gaps in your attic to reduce heat flow, sound transference and moisture. It creates a thermal barrier that doesn’t allow heat to become trapped or escape through your attic, keeping your living space warm in the winter and cool in the summer. You need this material in your property because:
- It helps preserve your desired temperature: In extreme climates, your interior living area should be a comfortable place to get a break from the outside weather. You can maintain the temperature you want inside the house because insulation controls the flow of heat through your ceiling and walls. When you invest in the correct thickness and insulation material for your property, your HVAC system can sustain the temperature you set on your thermostat. As a result, your family can be healthy and cozy.
- It saves you money in energy bills: Your heating and air conditioning system works hard to regulate your home’s temperature. If you don’t have enough interior insulation, the unit will need to compete with outdoor air leaks and may take on additional wear and tear. Insulation gives your home the heat barrier it needs to preserve energy. When your appliances use less energy, you can lower your monthly expenses.
- It reduces your energy expenditure: If you want a green, energy-efficient house, you should invest in insulation. Since it preserves your living space’s temperature, your heating and air conditioning system doesn’t have to use as much energy. As a result, your property will emit fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and make a smaller impact on the planet. You may even qualify for insulation rebates in your area for making eco-friendly renovations to your new property.
- It reduces noise pollution: Besides trapping heat, insulation also reduces the transfer of sound into and out of your house. If you live in a high-traffic area, you can sleep better at night without being disturbed by all the noise from the street. You can also trust that your neighbors won’t hear the activity happening inside your new home.
- It’s easier to complete than most other renovations: Most home remodeling projects require extensive materials and months of planning to get the appearance and quality you desire. With the help of a professional, replacing insulation involves ripping out the old panels, inspecting the attic for damage that needs repaired, cleaning the site and installing a brand-new layer over the walls.
- It controls condensation: The right insulation can withstand moisture and protect your pipes from freezing. Guard your moisture-resistant pipes by investing in a material that contains an adequate vapor retarder to limit corrosion on ducts, cold piping and roof drain.
- It can improve indoor air quality: Thick, closed-cell insulation creates a vapor and air barrier to prevent mold growth and reduce allergy symptoms. It can also prevent outside air, and the allergens it carries, from entering the home.
How to Tell If Your Insulation Is Good or Bad
Studies show that 90% of homes do not have enough insulation. If you moved into an older house, the insulation is most likely not up to code. In an ideal world, attic insulation can last nearly a century, but factors such as improper installation, pest activity, moisture absorption and mold can reduce its life span. You should consider upgrading insulation if you notice the following signs in your home:
- There is harsh storm or moisture damage: Older insulation might be prone to moisture buildup, especially after a rainstorm or a leak in the roof. As a result, your insulation can have mold growing inside it that can travel through the air and make you sick. You’ll need to replace your insulation right away so you and your home can be safe and healthy.
- Water has leaked into your living space: Insulation prevents moisture from coming into your home, but worn-out material can bring water into your home, causing moisture to drip down the walls and ceiling. If you notice spots on the walls and other signs of water damage, check the attic for the source of the leak. You may need to have your insulation replaced, especially if the material is wet or moldy.
- Some rooms are colder than others: The rooms in your house should be at the same temperature if you have an HVAC system running. You might have missing or damaged insulation if one area is colder than the others.
- Ice dams have formed on the roof: Ice dams are pieces of ice that build over your gutters due to the melting and freezing of snow on your roof. Warm air rises to your unheated attic and creates hot spots on your roof. These areas melt the snow into water that trickles down the roof. Once they reach the cold gutters and overhangs, they freeze again and form icicles. Replace your insulation if you notice these icy patches.
- Your energy bills are higher than usual: If your insulation has lost its quality, your HVAC system works harder to compensate for the lost heat. Find out what most homeowners in your area pay for their monthly utilities and compare it to your bills. You may have problems with your insulation if your energy bills are significantly higher, especially if you have a small family.
- You feel drafts inside: Cold air could leak into your house in the winter if you have gaps in your windows, doors and walls. Insulation is supposed to cover these cracks, but if you notice cold spots throughout your home, you may not have enough.
- The ceiling under the attic feels like the outside temperature: Interior walls and ceilings should be warm and dry in the winter. When the top of the room is cold to the touch, you might have insulation problems.
- You discovered pests living inside your attic: If you find any pests in your attic, you may have issues with your insulation. Check the attic for holes and other signs of damage to find out where they have burrowed. They like to make their home in cozy fiberglass insulation. To get rid of bug and rodent activity, you must install more insulation and take preventative measures to keep these unwanted guests from returning.
- You don’t know when the home last got new insulation: Most contractors used vermiculite insulation in homes before 1990, but they found out this material contains harmful asbestos. Older attic insulation could also be flammable, so manufacturers now use flame-retardant materials in their insulation. If you’re not sure how old your insulation is, you should get it replaced to make sure it doesn’t have any contaminants that can endanger your health or safety.
Tips for Choosing the Right Insulation
The most common types of residential insulation are batts or blow-in. Fiberglass batts are large strips that come in rolls, and they’re available in various levels of thickness and durability. Blown-in fiberglass or cellulose insulation gets inserted into every crevice and hole in the attic through a large hose. Consider the following factors when choosing the best attic insulation for your new home:
- R-value: Your insulation’s R-value measures its ability to resist heat transference. Manufacturers come up with this number based on the material’s thickness and density, along with outside factors such as temperature, age and moisture. A higher R-value means your insulation can effectively control the flow of heat throughout your living space.
- Climate: Depending on your home’s location, you may need different insulation levels to accommodate the changes in the outdoor environment. Energy Star recommends a minimum R-value of R38 for attic insulation. However, you may need a higher R-value if you live in a climate with extremely cold or hot temperatures.
- Home design: The architectural style of your home will help determine what kind of insulation you should get. If your home is in a traditional shape with unique crevices and corners, you may need blown-in insulation to cover everything. If you have a lot of square footage that you need to fill, you may need fiberglass batts to establish a cozy home. If your current insulation was suitable but has become worn out over time, you can replace it with the same material and configuration.
- Desired energy-efficiency: You should invest in energy-efficient material to regulate the temperature of your home and lower your utility bills. Though energy-efficient materials may be more expensive upfront, you’ll save more money over your time in your home than if you chose a cheaper, less efficient option. Determine what you’re willing to spend and how much you’d like to save on your energy bills.
How to Install Insulation
As a homeowner, it’s helpful to know how removing and installing insulation in the attic will affect your living space. However, you shouldn’t DIY your insulation removal or installation because:
- You might use too much: Even though your home might need more insulation, too much can harm your property. The attic needs enough space to provide adequate airflow for the home’s natural expansion and contracting. Insulation that has sealed your home too tightly may trap humidity and grow mold and mildew in your attic. You may accidentally block ventilation, registers and recessed lighting, resulting in fire hazards and restricted air circulation.
- You won’t get energy rebates: If you install the insulation in your house, you won’t be able to claim any of the energy rebates on your new material. One of the requirements for requesting this reimbursement is to have a professional contractor install your insulation. If you do it yourself, you may install it incorrectly and make your property expend more greenhouse gases.
- You put yourself at risk: Unless you have experience installing insulation, you don’t realize the danger of working in the attic. You could accidentally fall through the attic or expose yourself and your family to hazardous materials. Working with a professional reduces your stress and ensures they install your insulation safely and efficiently.
- You don’t know how to dispose of it: You may think removing insulation is as simple as ripping it out and throwing it in the garbage. However, if you don’t know how to handle it properly, fiberglass can release irritants into the air, especially if you had pest activity. A professional can appropriately discard it and make sure your indoor air is safe from contaminants.
- You need to treat each type of insulation differently: How you remove blown-in insulation is different from how you get rid of fiberglass batts. Instead of dealing with your unique material, trust a professional who has experience working with insulation.
At Atticare, we use the following process when we conduct our insulation services:
- Protect your valuables: Before we start working, we cover your furniture and valuables in plastic, so the room doesn’t get contaminated with loose fiberglass pieces.
- Inspect the attic: We’ll then check your attic and measure the R-value of your existing insulation. As we do our walkthrough, we’ll check for pest damage, exposed electrical wires, asbestos and mold. We’ll also take a look at your HVAC system and roof to ensure they’re in good condition.
- Clear the area: After we’ve checked your attic and gone over the next steps of the installation process with you, we’ll remove the old insulation and debris. For your safety, we put the old insulation into heavy-duty garbage bags, which we seal while still inside the attic.
- Clean and decontaminate: Once we’ve cleared your old insulation, we’ll vacuum the dust and leftover insulation inside your attic. Removing this debris will help us have a clean place to work and will further prevent allergens from coming into your home.
- Identify and seal all access points: We inspect your newly cleaned attic for access points where rodents can come inside your attic and seal them as necessary.
- Air seal the attic: During this step, we block and caulk gaps and cracks between the attic and the living space to prevent air leaks and potential rodent infestations.
- Install the insulation: Finally, we install the proper insulation for the attic structure and your budget.
Contact Atticare to Upgrade Your Insulation
If you live near one of our service locations, we are equipped to help you settle into your new home in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Jersey or New York. As a Diamond Certified business, you can trust that we’re fully licensed and insured to provide tips for insulation and make your property more energy-efficient. Contact us online or call 1-866-692-5449 to schedule a free attic inspection today.