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Understanding Attic Insulation

How Much Insulation Should I Have In My Attic?

Adding insulation to your attic can be one of the most cost-effective ways to make your home more
comfortable. It’s relatively simple to install, making it even more of a reason why many do-it-yourselfers decide to take on the task when they want to make their home more energy efficient. Understanding how much insulation you should have in your attic depends on three basic factors: the climate you live in, your budget (to determine what type of insulation you can afford) and your home design.Understanding attic insulation

Home Insulation and Climate 

Making sure you have proper insulation in your attic is a must, so when you are looking to invest in insulation, you should first check the R-value on the insulation. R-value is the measure of resistance to heat flow traveling through the insulation. The higher the R-value, the harder it is for heat to be lost

The U.S. Department of Energy's insulation map shows the recommended level of insulation and R-value for the area you live in. If you live in Minnesota, the recommended R-value is R49 to R60 in your attic.

To find out if you have enough attic insulation, the Department of Energy recommends measuring the thickness of your insulation. If it is less than R-30 (11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool or 8 inches of cellulose), you could probably benefit by adding more.

The R-value will be labeled on the insulation packaging and is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), so you know you are getting honest information before you buy it. For example, the FTC’s consumer website notes that the R-value is everything when buying insulation. “If you’re looking at insulation with an R-value of 38 from Company A and insulation with an R-value of 38 from Company B, you’ll know the two products offer the same level of insulation.” This is true even if you are comparing different insulation materials.

Kinds of Insulation

This brings us to looking at what type of home insulation fits best for your attic and the amount of money you have to spend. Most attics typically use loose-fill or batt insulation.

  • Loose-fill Insulation: Insulation that is blown into the attic using special equipment. Professionals typically do it, but you can rent the equipment from a hardware store if you’ve learned to do it yourself. Loose-fill insulation is made of recycled materials and can fit in all the little spaces in your attic to provide the best overall coverage. It is usually less expensive to buy than batt insulation. 
  • Batt Insulation: The type of insulation you see in rolls at the hardware store. You roll it out and can cut it to fit walls and floors and in-between joists and beams. It’s usually made of fiberglass, mineral wool, plastic fibers and other natural fibers. This is typically much easier to install in a DIY project than the blown-in insulation, but also costs a little more for a similar R-value.

Home Design

Finally, look at the design of your attic to help you decide the righ type of insulation for the job. If your attic is pretty straight forward, with straight lines, standard spacing between studs and joists, and no big obstructions, then choose batt insulation.

If you have an irregular-shaped attic, loose-fill or blown-in insulation may work best for your space, as it can fit in all the nooks and crannies, and easily goes around obstructions like beams, chimneys, and poles. This is also great for those small, hard to reach places.

An Energy Efficient Attic

Once you’ve made the decision on the proper insulation for your home and budget, check out these other tips to make your attic more energy efficient. You’ll not only keep the warm air in during the wintertime, but it will lead to a more comfortable home all year round.

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