Winterizing for everyone: Insulation tips

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ October 23, 2011

Come winter, consumers and homeowners have questions about the kind of insulation that works best in their homes. Of course, the answer varies based on your location, existing insulation, how much space you have to insulate and whether the area to insulate is accessible (for hand installation) or inaccessible (requiring spray-on products).

Before you even begin, it's important to realize that there is a huge difference between insulating your home and protecting your home against air breaks or unwanted air flow. That means, in addition to installing good insulation, you'll need to damn up and air leaks that exist in walls, windows and doors where air can move from room to room or from the exteriors into your home. You need to do both to stay warm

Insulation in the ceiling works as warm air rises in the house and tries to escape through the roof. Insulation, in the form of batting, blankets and foams prevents air flow and movement, ultimately protecting against heat loss.

Looking at insulation products

Blankets and batts are hand-cut, hand-installed sections of insulation made from fiberglass or rock wool that are positioned to fit around open sections between wall studs and jousts. Batts can be backed with vapor-retardant or flame-retardant materials. Blown-in insulation products made of cellulose, fiberglass, or rock wool pellets can be shot into areas where hand-installed rolls and blankets cannot be fit. It's often a good choice for large open areas, wall cavities, or floors in unfinished attics.

Foam insulation made of polyisocyanurate and polyurethane is blown into place by professionals. Closed-cell products offer higher insulation values in limited spaces. Rigid isolation comes in p[re-cut sections of fibrous materials or plastic foams and can be used in walls or foundation areas You can read more about insulation types at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory website.

Find your insulation rating for your region

R-values are key in determining the appropriate, cost-effective insulation for the climate where you live. Read up on them at the Energy Star website.

The U.S. Department of Energy provides homeowners with an extensive fact sheet on insulation by type and use by region. Click on the map and the chart below and you'll find the government recommended R-value ratings for your part of the country:

Map from Energy Star

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