With the cold weather on it's way out in Minnesota (I hope), it's a good time to talk about insulation. This is such a huge topic that I hardly know where to start! There are so many different aspects to insulation that this will have to take up several blogs. Today I'll talk about why it's important to have a well-insulated home.
Perhaps the most important reason to have a well-insulated home is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While a recent survey conducted by Owens-Corning revealed that most Americans believe transportation and industry to be the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, in truth the largest contributor is buildings! Buildings use 40% of our energy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The number is even higher in Minnesota - 60 to 80 percent! The most cost effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to better insulate buildings. Yes, this is even better than driving a hybrid vehicle.
The most obvious reason to better insulate your home is to reduce your heating and cooling bills - especially in cold climates like Minnesota. Adding insulation to attic spaces is often a project that even unskilled homeowners can tackle, and it doesn't cost a lot of money. Homeowners will typically see a payback in five to ten years. Adding insulation to poorly insulated walls is also a good thing to do and will surely help to save on heating and cooling costs, but this is not as cost effective as adding insulation to an open attic area, as this will often require a professional to blow insulation in to the walls.
Arguably the most important reason to better insulate your home is to make it more comfortable. Even if a thermostat says it's 70 degrees inside the home, poorly insulated walls will make a room feel much colder as the heat from your body radiates out to the relatively cold walls. In older houses with uneven heat, you may even have parts of the house that never warm up enough. I can tell you from experience that insulation makes an incredible difference in the comfort of a home. I live in a one-and-a-half story home with a finished upper level that used to be so cold in the winter that I couldn't even use it. After re-insulating the upper level last year, I no longer need to heat the upper level! Enough heat rises up from the rest of the house to keep the upper floor so warm that I can shut off all of the heat registers and it's still comfortable.
There are many more reasons to properly insulate your home, but I'll just mention one more that you're surely aware of if you live in Minnesota; ice dams. While ice dams are a large subject on their own, suffice to say that lack of insulation can cause large accumulations of ice at the edges of roofs that cause leaks in the home and destroy gutters.
In my next blog I'll talk about what critical steps need to be taken before adding insulation. Hint: the photos throughout this blog all show homes with major room for improvement!
Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections