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Top Considerations For Home Insulation

Top Considerations For Home Insulation

Insulation and HVAC, the two are as closely related as summer and sunshine. Why is that so? Well, it’s simple. What your Austin air conditioning system is doing is turning your home into a more comfortable environment by replacing warm air with cool air. In order for your home to have a different environment than the world outside it, it needs to be sealed off. That’s where insulation comes in. Without proper insulation, air will leak out of the house like crazy and it will be extremely hard, or impossible for your air conditioner to keep up, leading to a home that’s too hot and energy bills that are too high.

And, unfortunately, many people are in homes with insufficient insulation, or at least less than ideal. That’s why in this tip of the day, we’re going to look at some of the top considerations to keep in mind when thinking about adding insulation to your home. From types of insulation to where in the average home you could benefit the most from beefed up insulation, we’ll see what the pros have to say when it comes to improving your home insulation and getting more out of your air conditioning in Austin as a result.

Insulation Types

As promised in the intro, one important consideration worth discussing when talking about insulation is the many types of insulation out there, how they differ, and what uses they primarily serve. No two types of insulation are the same and that’s for good reasons.

First off, batts and blankets. This is the most common type of insulation. And it might be what first pops into your mind when you hear the term insulation. It comes in convenient rolls that are easy to transport and carry. It’s especially suitable for do-it-yourself projects, but take care to cut the material to fit around plumbing pipes, wires, and electrical outlets. Clumsily stuffed into awkward spaces, it loses effectiveness, sometimes as much as 50%. So one big consideration when it comes to this type of insulation is care and precision with installation.

Next up is loose fill insulation. This insulation consists of fluffy strands of fiber blown into attics and walls with a special machine. It fills nooks and crannies, eliminating cold spots. It comes in two main forms: cellulose and fiberglass. Fiberglass loose fill is light enough for attic applications and cellulose is effective at all temperatures, and can even perform better as the air gets colder. Both are often found in ceilings. Ceilings, enclosed existing wall or open new wall cavities, unfinished attic floors, other hard to reach places are great for this easy to spread insulation.

Spray foam represents another type of insulation that is good for getting into nooks and crannies. Also, spray foam insulation costs more than batt insulation, but it has higher R-values. It also forms an air barrier, which can eliminate some other weatherizing tasks, such as caulking. This plastic insulation goes on as a liquid and expands to fill the available space, sealing all gaps and cracks and stopping any air leaks. Pros spray the foam insulation mixture into framing cavities; once dry, the excess is cut away, leaving a flat, even surface.

At the higher end of insulation types, when it comes to price and R-values anyway, is insulated panels. Structural insulated panels (SIPs) have superior energy savings of 12% to 14%, but they’re also pricier. They usually come in 4 by 8 foot sheets, although some manufacturers make them as large as 8 by 24 feet, used mostly for new construction.

If you’re replacing siding or roofing, or doing an addition, these boards will insulate the entire wall surface, including the framing. Some sheets have tongue and groove edges to make tight, energy-efficient seams. The insulation also is used for basement and crawl space walls. When facing a living area, building codes usually require the material to be covered with a layer of drywall.

Environmental Concerns

More than ever, people these days are concerned with their environmental footprint. Attempts to go green have been adopted world over by customers and companies a like. That’s why another big consideration for many when thinking about new insulation is the environmental one.

To that end, when selecting an insulation material, the most important environmental consideration is its performance and suitability for your application. Over the lifespan of a home, the energy saved with a well-insulated building envelope far outweighs the environmental impact of insulation’s manufacture. The North American Insulation Manufacturers Association states that the insulation produced annually in the United States saves 12 times the energy its manufacture consumes. Although this calculation may ignore the energy required to extract and process materials used to make insulation, it gives you an idea of how much energy insulation can save.

When comparing two materials of equal performance, consider the environmental impact of each product's manufacture and disposal. Some insulation materials are made from almost entirely nontoxic, abundant or renewable materials, while others are made from limited petroleum resources and are difficult or impossible to recycle. Insulation materials can affect indoor air quality, though when materials are installed properly, not to a great degree. People with chemical sensitivities should check their response to a product before installing it. Concerns that may arise include irritation from airborne fibers and emissions from glues, flame retardants or other additives, especially if they are bio-accumulative (bio-accumulative substances build up in your tissues over time, possibly causing long-term health problems).

So let’s talk about specifics a little and look at the varies types of materials insulation can be made up out of and their environmental effects. Cellulose insulation has no significant effect on indoor air quality. Release of volatile organic compounds contained in ink on newspaper waste in cellulose insulation is not a health concern, since some ink is removed while recycling paper into pulp, and much of the ink used is vegetable based. The amount of boron used as a flame retardant in cellulose is harmful only if ingested.

Fiberglass would be the other most common material. Fiberglass insulation is made of silica sand and recycled glass, both abundant resources. The EPA requires that 20 percent of materials come from recycled sources, either post-consumer or post-industrial, and some products contain up to 40 percent. On the other hand, producing fiberglass insulation requires melting the materials in a fossil fuel–burning furnace, which consumes substantial amounts of energy and generates greater amounts of air pollution than the manufacture of other insulation types.

Foam insulation is another one that has a sort of balancing effect. On one hand, foam insulations have greater environmental impacts than other types, due to extraction, refining and transport of raw materials such as natural gas and petroleum and the use of ozone-depleting compounds in manufacture. However, they offer some significant benefits that can offset those drawbacks, including higher R-values for a given thickness and improved air sealing of surfaces. Over the lifespan of a home, foams will save more energy per inch of insulation because of these R-values and their durability.

Where Makes the Biggest Impact

What a lot of people want to know when it comes to insulation considerations is where they can boost and improve the insulation in their home that will make the biggest differences. It’s a worthwhile question, as not all parts of the home are created equal. Not all parts of the home have the same amount of surface area or are as prone to heat gain and energy loss.

For example, the ducts in your home are an obvious area where improvements in insulation can have wide reaching effects. The ducts in a typical house leak so much of their heated and cooled air into the attic, basement, or crawlspace that sealing the seams and wrapping the ducts with insulation can slash your HVAC costs by 30 percent. The job is not as simple as applying duct tape to the joints; despite its name, duct tape doesn’t last very long on ducts. You’ll want to hire a pro for this messy and time-consuming job, which requires specialty mastic and tape.

On the other side, you have windows. Many people believe that windows are a big area for improvement when it comes to insulation, but in reality, although houses lose a lot of energy through their windows, high-quality replacement windows are so pricey (think $800 plus per window) that they’re almost never cost-effective purely for energy efficiency purposes.

Bar none, the most important place in your home to have quality insulation is the attic. If you insulate only one thing, it should be the attic floor, since heat rises. You want at least 10 inches of insulation up there. If you have one, you might install insulation on top of the floor or under the roof deck, depending on your home’s configuration and where heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment is located.

Insulation Considerations and Air Conditioning Repair in Austin

Insulation may not be the most exciting topic when it comes to home improvement, but it’s an important one. The overall energy efficiency of your house entirely depends on your insulation and how good a job it does at keeping heat out and cool air in during the summer and spring.

And if you find yourself in need of AC repair in Austin, consider AC Express. AC Express is an Austin AC repair company whose service area include everything from Georgetown and Round Rock to Leander and Cedar Park. Contact us today to get top notch Austin air conditioning service!

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