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Get the Most from your Attic Insulation

Attic insulation is one of those things that’s “out of sight, and out of mind.” In fact, when you were buying your home, did you stop to inspect the insulation in the attic? Or did you take a quick look and assume that, since there is insulation in the attic, everything is fine? Attic insulation has a tremendous effect on the heating and cooling efficiency of your home – hot air rises and escapes through the roof during the winter, while the sun rains heat onto your roof all summer long – so you should probably take a moment to double check the quality of that insulation.

Do I Need More Insulation?

The first thing you need to do is evaluate whether or not your attic needs more insulation in the first place. If you’ve owned your house for a long time, the attic insulation could have degraded as it aged, decreasing performance. Insulation works because it contains tiny air pockets in the material. Batts and blown insulation will slowly settle and crush over time, compacting down and reducing their efficiency, so it’s still a good idea to check even if things were fine when you purchased the house.

If you’re noticing increased costs in regulating the temperature in your home, attic insulation is a likely culprit (especially if you’ve been following spring and fall maintenance cycles appropriately). Double check for drafts and ventilation leaks, then pop up to the attic for a quick look.

The easiest way to tell if you’re lacking insulation is to compare the level of insulation against the floor joists. For 7-8” floor joists, if your insulation is even with or higher than the joists then your attic is likely insulated adequately. If you can see a portion of the floor joist, then adding insulation may be an effective solution to dealing with high heating and cooling bills.

The ENERGYSTAR website has a great walkthrough with an insulation calculator for figuring out exactly how much insulation you need for your attic if you feel the need to add more.

Types of Attic Insulation

While there are many methods of insulating an attic, we’re going to cover the simplest (and most common) methods here. Insulation is usually installed in attics via batts, loose fill, and spray foam. All of these are viable methods for insulating your attic, but they come with their own challenges and costs.

Batts are rolled insulation that’s easy to install and perfect for new attics or additions to your home. Many of these rolls are precut to match standard joist spacing so they can simply be rolled out and placed within the attic. Many even come with a vapor barrier to prevent excess humidity within the insulation itself. An insulation batt can be made from fiberglass (common), cellulose, mineral wool, or cotton. Each material has its own benefits and drawback, but fiberglass is the most common due to how inexpensive it is.

Loose fill insulation is usually the best way to replace a top-layer of insulation, especially in a crowded attic that’s difficult to move around in or has multiple obstructions that would require extensive cutting of an insulation batt. Cellulose is most common here, but risks mold and rot since it’s organic in nature (as opposed to the mineral-based fiberglass).

Expanding foam insulation is another option available to homeowners. It’s not exactly common since it changes the insulation envelope of your home. Expanded foam is sprayed on the ceiling of your attic, between the roof joists, and traps heat inside the attic. This is really only beneficial if your ventilation system has been run through the attic. If your duct work is run through the attic, it leaks heat into the unused attic. Using an expanding spray foam helps to keep the attic warm, reducing heat loss from your ventilation system as it travels through the attic.

Professional Installation or DIY?

If you do need to replace the insulation in your attic, there are a few things you should ask yourself. Is this going to be a simple insulation addition? Am I comfortable doing this myself? Are there any other things I need to consider before starting?

For simple insulation addition, most homeowners can add the insulation themselves (and it often saves money). But if you aren’t comfortable working with insulation yourself, or your attic is difficult to work in, then you should consult a professional for help.

Additional be aware that you should always wear a mask and gloves while working with insulation. Be wary of the locations of recessed lights in your ceiling. Some housings are fine with insulation while others are not. If you’re not certain, consult a professional for safety reasons.


Cassel Home Comfort Heating & Cooling is committed to being your best HVAC contractor choice in Central Illinois in both Value and Customer Service! Call us to maintain your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in the Champaign, IL area: (217) 866-1596.

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