Improving home insulation for savings and comfort: Part 3

Adding insulation is a sound investment that can pay for itself quickly in energy cost savings.

Chart shows how to determine current R-value of existing insulation Courtesy: U.S, Dept of Energy
Chart shows how to determine current R-value of existing insulation Courtesy: U.S, Dept of Energy

Fall season also means clean up and close up season. Getting your home ready for a possible long, cold, snowy winter is a major activity this time of year. Fixing cracks, putting up storm windows, checking for leaks are all part of this. Another activity to add to the “fall to do” list might be checking the insulation around the home. With rising energy cost, home insulation is a good way to reduce those costs.

Knowing where to insulate in and around the home is as important as the type of insulation and what R-value is needed. To get the best energy efficiency, your home should be correctly insulated from the foundation to the attic. Most people are aware of insulating in the attic but seldom think below that level. As a result, they do not get the most energy saving possible. Knowing how much insulation you currently have in each area will help determine where more is needed. 

Determining how much insulation is currently in your home can be done by professionals or yourself. A qualified insulation professional can determine the amount of insulation currently in the home. A home energy auditor will also check insulation amount as part of the audit. 

If you are doing this yourself, start in the attic. Measure the depth and thickness of the insulation there currently. To check exterior walls, start by examining an electrical outlet on an outside wall. Turn off the electricity to that outlet and remove the cover plate. Using a flashlight, see whether there is insulation in the wall and approximately how thick it is. You may want to pull a little piece to see what type of insulation it is. Use this same technique to check several outlets around the house to insure the insulation is consistent throughout the home.

The chart will help you calculate your current R-value based on how much existing insulation and what type you have. Find the type and what it’s made of on the chart. Then fill in how many inches are already in place. You then multiply the depth by the factor shown in the Total R-Value column. For example, if you have batt insulation made of fiberglass and you measure it at a depth of 3 inches. Multiply 3.2 times 3 inches which give you a current R-Value of R-9.6 

Use the R-Value Recommendations Calculator to compare how much insulation is needed in different areas of the house based on your location (zip code) compared to what you have. 

Home energy providers are offering rebates to customers who increase their home insulation by December 31, 2014. Rebates are based on where insulation is put and amount added. Visit Ecotelligent Homes for more information on rebates. 

For more information on home insulation, see the Michigan State University Extension bulletin “Home Maintenance and Improvement: Insulation” R2798. 

The U.S. Department of Energy has a variety of information on insulation as well.   

Part Four of this series will cover Where to Install insulation.

Other articles in this series:

Did you find this article useful?