How Can I Make My Home More Energy Efficient? – Part 6

There’s never a wrong time to save money. Am I right? Well, Fall is here and winter is on the way. So we have been giving practical tips to help you make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible. The result will be a more comfortable home in the dead of winter, but also lower energy bills! In other words: Saving Money! The most recent post, Part 5, talked about the last few steps to take seal air gaps in the attic. What’s next?

What about your Attic Insulation?

Now that you’ve sealed air gaps in your attic it is just as important, or more so, to check your attic insulation levels and add more if necessary. The attic is the easiest place to add insulation to improve your comfort and the energy efficiency of your home.

No matter what kind of insulation you currently have in your attic, one quick way to determine if you need more is to take a quick glance across your attic. Can you easily see your ceiling joists because your insulation is just level with or below them? If so, you need to add more. If you cannot see any of the joists because the insulation is well above them, you probably have enough and adding more may not be cost-effective. But you can quickly check by using a tape measure and sticking it down into the insulation, or between the insulation and a joist. Also be sure the insulation is evenly distributed. Sometimes there are high spots in the middle of the attic but low spots with very little insulation along the eaves.

How much do you need? Insulation levels are specified by R-Value, which is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the better it performs to keep heat from passing through. The minimum level for most attics is to use R-38 insulation or about 10 to 14 inches.

Do you need to add more? You don’t have to use the same type of insulation that currently exists in your attic. You could add loose fill insulation on top of fiberglass batts, and vice-versa. If you use fiberglass over loose fill, make sure the fiberglass batt has no paper or foil backing; it needs to be “unfaced.”

Laying fiberglass rolls is easiest for a DIY job. If you have any type of insulation between the rafters, install the second layer over and perpendicular to the rafters. This will help cover the tops of the joists and reduce heat loss through the framing. As a practical tip, lay the additional insulation starting at the farthest points and work toward the attic opening.

Here’s a couple of ‘No-nos’: Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures. This could result in a fire. Keep all insulation at least 3 inches away from “can” lights, unless they are rated IC (Insulated Ceiling). If you are using loose fill insulation, use sheet metal to create barriers around the light fixtures. If using fiberglass batts, then a wire mesh can be used to create the 3-inch barrier.

The other ‘No-no’? Never cover soffit vents with insulation. Why not? More on that in the next installment! UPDATE: Read Part 7 here!

Would you like a quick answer to a ‘home heating and cooling’ question weighing on you mind? Visit our “Ask an Expert” page and get a quick reply from the resident expert at GAMA Air!

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