When our clients want to cool off in the summer, they don’t put on jackets and thermal underwear. The human urge when trying to stay frosty is to shed clothing. But your house works oppositely—the more insulated it is, the less heat is allowed to move through the exterior walls and the more stable the internal temperature will be.
So What Is Insulation, Exactly?
Most people hear “insulation” and think of that pink stuff in dad’s attic, and that’s certainly one type of insulation. That pink panther insulation is fiberglass; older houses often have fiberglass either in batting rolls or blown loose between the walls. Some very old homes have other methods of insulation that aren’t even used anymore.
But insulation is really anything that stops heat from moving through it. That winter coat of yours is insulation because it keeps your body heat in; but during summer you don’t want that because your natural temperature is in the 90s already. Your home’s windows should also act as insulation, as should the roof and the doors.
A material’s value as insulation is measured by its R-value; the higher the R-value the better the insulation. R-value just describes how difficult it is for heat to move through the material.
During summer, you want to stop the heat from moving into your home from outside. So a well-insulated house will stop that heat from entering the home, and the AC system will keep things cool on the inside. And in the winter your heated air will be kept in the house by the insulation—making this an upgrade that will benefit you year-round.
When Do I Need Insulation?
That’s the question one savvy Midtown resident had for us, and it’s a tricky one to answer. Modern fiberglass is designed to last 100+ years…and if you do the math, you’ll realize that modern fiberglass insulation (patented in the mid 1930s) hasn’t been around for 100 years yet. So do you need new insulation? Well, the Midtown homeowner did–but then again, they didn’t have fiberglass insulation in their house at all. If your home was built after 1940 and the insulation looks like it’s in good shape, you probably don’t need to replace it.
What you might need to do, though, is insulate places that nobody did in the first place. That usually means the attic, which is also where you lose the most heat in a home. You also may need to go around the home and insulate any areas where the insulation has been removed or degraded by burrowing animals or weather.
But as we talked about above, insulation is not just the stuff in the walls. Old windows will cause you to lose far more heat than a poorly insulated wall every will; a roof that isn’t working well will mean more than water entering your home—outside temperatures will find their way in as well! And poorly sealed doors or buildings can lead to the same problems.
Blown foam insulation is really taking off these days, and a lot of people are opting for it in their new homes. It has a much higher R-value than just about anything else on the market, and it’s quick to apply although it can cost a bit more up front. Some homeowners are choosing to re-insulated by removing the fiberglass batting and use blown foam instead.
What to Do?
It’s hard for a homeowner to know for sure which insulation solutions are right for their house. Internet research is great, but answers will conflict and nothing will apply to your specific house. Jane, a longtime HVAC client of ours in Dixon, was in hardcore research-mode but wasn’t finding anything concrete about her home or what she should do to improve its insulation.
She called us—-a great first move for any interested homeowner. We scheduled a free energy assessment; then we showed up and went over her house top-to-bottom. Turns out her attic was uninsulated and her bedroom windows were single-paned. We secured rebates for Jane, did the necessary work, and got her a check from SMUD for the rebates she earned.
That’s what we recommend anybody do if they want to save money on their utilities this summer. Our assessments are free, and they cover a lot more than just insulation. And we always have an eye towards rebate and financing options, ensuring our clients get the best deal possible. Did we mention it’s free? Don’t want—call today and let us make your home comfortable and affordable again.