Stay Comfy Blog

Winter Preparation: What You Need to Know About Home Insulation

insulationAs winter approaches, it just makes sense to prepare your home for the colder months ahead. That’s especially true if you’ve experienced drafting issues in the past. Fall is a really good time to make sure your home's insulation is adequate for the bitter cold, especially if you're hoping to get a second opinion from a professional. It’s a slower time for the pros and you’ll find it easier to book an appointment now, rather than later in the season. Here’s some information on home insulation to help get you started.

Understanding R-Value

Let’s start with R-value. That’s the measure of thermal resistance that an insulating material has. That means its ability to resist heat loss through the insulating material, or how effective it is in keeping heat in your home during the winter months. The higher the R-value, the great its resistance and ability to keep you toasty warm.

The U.S. Department of Energy provides a map that illustrates its recommended level of insulation and R-value for the area you live in. If that’s Minnesota, the recommended R-value is R49 to R60 in your attic.

Regardless of the type of insulation (see below), the R-value will be labeled on the package. So if you’re comparing two different types of insulation, but they’re both rated at an R-value of 30, they should be equally effective.

Attic Insulation

Attic spaces are responsible for a significant amount of heat loss from a home, so you’ll want to make sure you have the most effective insulation there as possible. To determine if you have enough attic insulation to meet the DOE’s recommendations, they suggest you measure the thickness of what you already have installed. For example, 11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool or 8 inches of cellulose translates to an R-value of 30. If yours is less than that, you could benefit by adding more.

Types of Insulation

There are different types of insulation and which you choose depends on what’s best for your attic design and your budget.

  • Batt insulation. This is the type of insulation that comes in rolls and is usually made of fiberglass, mineral wool, or other fibers. It’s fairly easy to install (be sure to wear gloves and a mask) by rolling it out, cutting it to size, and pressing into place.
  • Loose-fill insulation. This type of insulation is made of recycled materials and has the advantage of being able to fit into really small spaces. It’s blown in, using special equipment. You can rent that equipment yourself or have it professionally installed.

Choosing Your Insulation

If your attic has pretty straight lines, standard spacing between studs and joists, and is free of any major obstructions, then batt insulation should work well. If, however, you have an irregularly-shaped attic space, odd little nooks and crannies, or significant obstructions like beams, chimneys, or fans, loose-fill insulation may be the best choice.

Schedule an Energy Audit

To help decide if you need extra insulation and what would work best in your home, consider having a professional energy audit done. In the Twin Cities, both Xcel Energy and CenterPoint offer this service.

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