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If your new HVAC system was your new car, then your home’s insulation would be the engine, breaks and all the other parts that keep it running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
HVAC systems are all about efficiency. The older they are, the less efficient they become. Besides age, the other dominant aspect that affects an HVAC system’s efficiency is your home’s insulation. Therefore, in order to maintain a steady indoor temperature, homeowners must insulate their walls, rafters, windows, ducts and other empty gaps in your home's structure.
But that’s not all home insulation does. Continue reading to see all the benefits, types, costs and guidelines to proper home insulation.
Why Insulate A Home
You just spent an arm and a leg to install or repair your HVAC system. Now, you must make sure that it’s experiencing the least possible resistance. That is why proper insulation throughout the house is needed. Otherwise, warm air could escape your home, forcing your HVAC system to work that much harder. As you can imagine, that will always translate into higher energy bills.
Furthermore, poor insulation can also lead to an unhealthy family. Given our most recent winter, it doesn’t look like Mother Nature is easing up anytime soon and even the best HVAC systems can fail when faced with poor insulation. Therefore, improper insulation may not only hurt you wallet, but your family’s health as well.
Where to Insulate
In short, you should insulate any part of the home that is connected to the outside. Some of the following paths are well known, but there a few uncommon paths the average homeowner should consider:
Home Insulation Types
There are a several types of insulation and each one has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
- Fiberglass Insulation: The most common type of insulation is fiberglass, which can be purchased as batts or loose fill. Batts are generally easier to install since they are blankets of insulation that have been woven together and include a paper or foil moisture barrier. Although fiberglass is relatively inexpensive, it also provides desirable features like resistance to water damage and fire.
- Mineral Wool Insulation: Mineral wool is similar in structure to fiberglass, but it’s more expensive and not as easy to find. In terms of physical appearance, mineral wool can be compared to dusty dryer lint. A disadvantage to using mineral wool is that it settles over time and cakes when wet, which results in less effectiveness for insulation.
- Cellulose Insulation: Cellulose insulation is made from recycled paper. It’s available as a loose fill product and has been treated to resist damage from pests and moisture. However, when moisture absorption occurs, like mineral wool, cellulose becomes compacted, heavy and less effective.
- Spray Foam Caution: Touted as a green insulation product, spray foam is a polyurethane product that involves mixing two chemicals that are applied with a hose. While most spray foam can be installed without incident, serious problems, including unpleasant odors, difficulty breathing and health problems can affect homeowners if the job is done incorrectly.
Home Insulation Costs
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Before we jump into the costs, it’s important to remember that having a home that is well insulated can translate to tremendous savings on monthly energy bills. The overall costs will vary based on the material and method of insulation used. While many homeowners install their own insulation, it can be helpful to work with a professional who can carefully calculate the needs of the spaces in question. This is especially important if your insulation is subject to local building codes.
After analyzing over 7,500 home insulation projects, we found that the average cost to install home insulation is $1,289.
Your costs will be more extensive if you’re removing old material. In older homes, materials may degrade due to a lack of standards at the time of installation. Cellulose, for example, became very popular in the late 1970s as homeowners took steps to improve household energy costs in the face of the oil embargo. This led to the development of standards for issues like fire resistance and R-values.
Save Money on Home Insulation Installation
Like most projects, homeowners can save a buck or two if they decide to install their insulation themselves. Home insulation is a very doable DIY project, but hiring a contractor does have its benefits.
A professional contractor could save you time and materials. Precise calculations of how much material is needed will produce better energy usage, leading to lower energy costs. Additionally, your insulation professional will leave space around fixtures that could create fire dangers as well.
It’s estimated that anywhere between 50% and 70% of the average American home's energy is used for heating and cooling. That means that up to 70% of your energy bills is tied to your HVAC system and home insulation. If you want to save money on your energy bills, don’t forget about the latter and make sure you have the best home insulation available.