THE INSIDE SCOOP ON INSULATION
Keeping Comfort in Mind While Minding the Costs
By Barbara Canetti
Hidden from view behind the walls or up in the attic are hundreds of dollars in savings. Lowering electric bills in the blistering heat of summer or the bitter cold of winter can be achieved by insulating a home.
“When you insulate a house properly you can expect your air conditioning and heating bills to be reduced by 30 to 40 percent,” said Lynda M. Kornbleet, president of Payless Insulation. “You can also extend the lifespan of your air conditioning system due to not having to work so hard to keep the house cool and extend the lifetime of your roof. There will not be extreme air temperatures hitting both sides of it, which creates condensation and rots the wood away sooner than it should.”
Almost every area in a house can benefit from insulation, whether it is in the exterior walls, under the floors or lining the rafters of the roof.
“There’s always a battle going on,” said Greg Pruitt, of Rock-Crete Foam Insulators. “In the summer in Houston, attics can get as hot as 140 degrees. Proper insulation can drop that to 77 to 85 degrees in two-story houses.”
To insulate existing walls, loose or blown in insulation is best. It is also used in unfinished attic floors and other hard-to-reach spots, said Kornbleet. Some of the blown insulation is made of cellulose or environmentally friendly recycled materials (mostly bits of newspaper). The blown in insulation also serves as sound proofing and helps keep down noise levels, while also helping to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the house.
Batts (blanket or rolls of insulation), like the fluffy pink fiberglass rolls, are ideal for use in areas with no obstructions. They fit between studs or beams in attics or inside unfinished walls where they can be laid out flat.
The rigid foam boards also can be used in unfinished walls and is the favored method in new construction.
Radiant barriers used in attics can keep houses much cooler in the summer because the shiny barrier that is stapled to the rafters actually absorbs the sun’s rays and heat, thus keeping the attic space 30 to 35 degrees cooler (according to studies). Note that the radiant barrier gets very hot but will help reduce bills because it is soaking up the heat being generated by the sun.
Another method for keeping temperatures comfortable in the house is the spray-on foam, which can be applied under a house or in the attic. Many houses in the Houston and Galveston area are raised, either because of new building codes, floods, deed restrictions or personal style. In the winter, cold air is trapped under the house, which keeps temperatures inside low. Carlos Faina of 31W Insulation advises that by lining the bottom of the house with spray foam, drafts and cold air no longer can come through the floor.
“This seals the underside of the house and keeps the interior temperatures stable,” said Faina. “It can be used in the attic as well, in all those nooks and crannies where air escapes.”
Houston’s hot, humid climate is the perfect candidate for insulation.
“We are as hot as it is cold up north. By insulating properly, we keep the heat from the building and allow the air conditioner to cool properly and remove the humidity,” said Kornbleet, adding that homeowners need to be sure they have the proper size air conditioning unit for their home. “First and foremost, insulation is not a luxury; it is a necessity. All houses with HVAC need insulation to create a barrier [to separate] the temperature differences between the outside and inside of the building to create comfort, protect the building and reduce the utility bills.”
Following Hurricane Harvey, soggy insulation was removed from hundreds of houses that flooded and hopefully has since been replaced.
“You must remove the insulation regardless of what type you had installed in your walls or under your house before the flood and then re-insulate accordingly,” Kornbleet said. “Leaving the insulation in your home will cause future problems such as mold, reduction of insulating power, and possible rotting of building materials. If your home flooded and you did not take the entire gypsum and sheetrock off, foam is not an option for it will block the weep holes on the brick wall, which does not allow for wind-driven rain to drain out of the wall. Leaving a gap between the brick wall and the new insulation is important for the weep holes to work properly.”
The bottom line is that it’s best to hire a professional to assist and insulate your home. Your wallet – and you – will appreciate it.
Lynda M. Kornbleet
Rock-Crete Foam Insulators
U.S. Department of Energy