How To Know If Attic Insulation Is Worth Updating

How To Know If Attic Insulation Is Worth Updating

You may have heard that attic insulation, when properly maintained, can last decades. The truth is that insulation becomes ineffective over time. The undesirable effects of worn-out insulation can show up during the winters and in your energy bills. Insulation that is more than 10-15 years old may not align with the U.S. Department of Energy’s guidance on proper insulation for homes.

In this post, we help you understand why it’s worth paying attention to your attic’s insulation, how to update it, and the costs involved. Let’s dive in.

What is Insulation and What Does it do?

Heat always moves from warmer areas to areas with cool air. The more the temperature difference, the faster the heat flow to the cold area.

The heated air in your home rises to the ceiling and will move towards the attic unless there’s something to pull it back to recirculate. At the same time the hot air rises, cold air will fill the void. Insulation helps prevent this heat loss. It is a material (fiberglass, cellulose, or spray foam) with millions of tiny air pockets that trap air and slow down the transfer of heat from hot areas to cold regions. Insulation reduces heat loss or gain by acting as a barrier between your home’s interiors and the temperature outside.

Why is it Important?

Attic insulation – is it worth it? Absolutely. Updating your attic insulation will help you in two ways: keep your energy costs under control, and you warm and comfortable in the cold months.

With proper attic insulation in place, your HVAC system doesn’t have to work harder to warm up incoming colder air and drive up your energy bills. Your attic insulation and HVAC air handler will work together to minimize heat loss and prevent nasty energy bill shocks.

The insulation in your attic will recirculate the warm air back into your living space, helping maintain a comfortable interior temperature. You’ll stay warm in winter, cool in summer, and comfortable in all seasons.

Why is it Necessary in Our Climate?

You’re no stranger to Massachusetts’ winters. Turning down the thermostat and wearing layers of clothing indoors isn’t the best option. You’ll be better off updating your attic insulation before brisk weather hits.

How Does it Help the Roof?

Good insulation prevents warm air from entering the attic, minimizing chances of condensation and helping prevent wood rot. It also prevents hot air from rising to the roof. Prolonged exposure to high heat can cause the roof to become brittle and affect its waterproofing ability.

Can Insulation Be Seen from the Attic? How Can I Tell If it’s Good or Needs Help?

You can easily tell if you need more insulation. Look in your attic space.  Can you easily see your attic joists? If you can, you should add more insulation. If your attic joists aren’t visible, which means the insulation is above them, then you may not need more insulation.

When is it Installed During the Roofing Process?

You can upgrade your insulation during your roof replacement. In case there’s any damage to the decking, you can replace the insulation after the roofer removes the decking boards.

What Factors Affect How Long it Lasts?

A missing shingle or leak in your roof can cause water to seep into your attic insulation, affecting its effectiveness and attracting mold growth. If a bird or rodent decides to build a home in your attic, it can poke a hole in your insulation. Long bouts of inclement weather can also make your attic insulation vulnerable to damage. As attic insulation and energy efficiency go hand in hand, it’s best not to wait to replace damaged insulation.

What are the Benefits of Blown-in Fiberglass Insulation?

Blown-in insulation means that insulation fibers are blown in place to the required depth and density using specialized equipment. It is preferable if you have a low-clearance attic or your attic has a lot of obstructions that can get in the way of smooth installation. This type of application is ideal for filling tight gaps around pipes and wiring.

Fiberglass is commonly used for blown-in insulation. Made of recycled glass and sand, fiberglass is an environmentally-friendly option. Fiberglass does not settle or lose its air pockets, which means it’s able to retain its effectiveness for longer.

Blown-in fiberglass insulation is quick and easy to install. However, since fiberglass can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat, you’re better off letting a professional do the installation. An experienced installer will also add the insulation to the correct density and R-value (more on this below).

What Factors Affect How Much Fiberglass Insulation Costs?

Given the benefits of attic insulation energy efficiency and room comfort, you may want to move on to understanding how much fiberglass insulation will cost you. The cost of fiberglass insulation depends on the following factors: 

Your Attic Space

Insulation addition or ‘top up’ is calculated on a per square foot basis. A bigger attic with little or no insulation will cost more than a smaller space that has some insulation.

The R-value of Insulation Being Added

The R-value of a material is a measure of its thermal resistance, that is, the extent to which it resists heat flow. A higher R-value correlates to better material heat resistance through it. According to the federal Energy Star insulation map, Massachusetts homes need to have at least R49 to R60 attic insulation. If you already have some attic insulation between joints, you should consider topping it with R38 to R49. Above R60, adding more insulation would be a waste of money.

If you’re going for fiberglass, note that it can be blown in or stapled in place. In the latter case, you’ll need to buy fiberglass batts, which are sold in thicknesses of more than 1 inch. The R-value will increase with thickness, and you’ll be spending anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars for every inch of thickness per square foot.

What Else Affects Cost?

The going rate of labor will factor into the overall installation cost. If old insulation needs to be removed, the installation company may charge an additional removal and disposal fee.

We Can Help

Attic insulation is worth it. if you have a poorly insulated attic, updating your attic insulation will save you money and pay for itself in reduced energy bills. Couto Construction offers insulation and air sealing services to homeowners in Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod, and Rhode Island. We can help you enjoy a comfortable room temperature and make your home as energy efficient as possible. If you’re in need of attic insulation inspection, contact us soon and prepare in time for the winter months ahead. Our attic insulation contractors will be more than happy to help.