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How to Properly Add New Insulation Over Existing Insulation

Maintaining proper levels of attic insulation not only keeps your home cooler in the summer and warmer come wintertime, but also shaves your energy bills. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates homeowners could reduce energy costs by 10 to 50 percent with proper attic insulation. According to EnergyStar: “The attic is usually where you can find some of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home.”

Winter has passed, but the sweltering heat waves of summer have not yet arrived, making this month an excellent time to climb on up and check out your attic’s insulation situation.

When Enough is Enough

An under-insulated attic is a recipe for a drafty house and higher bills. Like any kind of home improvement project, there is a “Goldilocks Zone” for sufficient insulation – a level of “just right.”

While a “back-of-the-napkin” analysis will help any homeowner make decisions on proper insulation, nothing beats partnering with an attic professional. An energy analysis by a qualified professional can provide an actionable evaluation for your insulation needs. However, if you decide to take a look for yourself, here are a few tips to determine if your attic is under-insulated.

Know Your Material

Whether you’ve owned your home for decades or days, many homeowners rarely visit the attic and may not realize what kind of materials are being used for insulation. Older homes especially may contain insulation materials such as asbestos and Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation that have been determined to be hazardous to your health. Many modern homes are insulated with some form of fiberglass. Also, homeowners are discovering the energy-saving advantages of multi-layer reflective insulation. Attics and More uses a patented MLI called eShield. There are three types of heat flow – conductive, convective and radiation – that can cause an attic to become hot in the summer or lose heat in the winter, making it more difficult and expensive to regulate the temperature of your home. Traditional insulation does a sufficient job combating two of the most common types of heat flow, conductive and convective heat, but is ineffective against radiant – a third type of heat transfer that comes from the sun. This is where the eShield™ radiant barrier insulation comes in. This state-of-the-art attic insulation reflects 97 percent of all radiant heat transfer – a leading cause of home energy waste.

R You Ready for R-Value?

To determine if your attic is under-insulated, it’s time to “get mathy” and assess your insulation’s R-value. R-value is not a concept you slept through in calculus class. Instead, it’s the measure of your insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value, the better the insulation’s thermal performance. If the insulation level sits even with or below the top of your floor joists, it’s time for more insulation. Check out our recent blog post for more tips on determining R-value (and no, this won’t be on the final exam!).

Furthermore, unlike other blown-in insulation products on the market, ours is the only one that is guaranteed to maintain its R-value level for as long as you own your home, so you can rest assured that you’re investing in a quality, effective product. Additionally, our air sealing service, which seals holes and leaks in the house, can significantly cut down on air leakage in the attic and can have an immediate impact on your monthly energy bills.

Next Up to Batt…

Batt insulation is pre-cut into flat sheets and is usually made of fiberglass or rock wool. It often includes a foil or paper facing that serves as a vapor barrier. While partnering with a professional will ensure the right material and correct quantity, you can lay down batted insulation on your own; but, please follow these guidelines (courtesy of This Old House):

  • “Wear a long-sleeve shirt, gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask.
  • Make sure you use an unfaced batt (one without a paper or foil layer), so the insulation does not trap moisture in the ceiling.
  • Lay the batts perpendicular to the joists, so they do not compress the insulation below.
  • Use cardboard or rigid-foam baffles to keep soffit vents open.
  • Fill all cracks between the living area and the attic with caulk or expanding foam.”

Blown Away

The primary alternative to batted insulation is blown insulation. In addition to our radiant barrier insulation, we also offer our own blown-in insulation and air sealing service, which together comprise “The Perfect Attic System.” The benefit of this advanced system that we’ve developed is that it is designed to combat all three types of heat transfer – where our blown-in insulation and air sealing service limit conductive and convective heat flow, our reflective foil insulation is effective against radiant heat. As a result, we’re able to offer you a level of comprehensive protection that can’t be beat.

This is commonly composed of fiberglass or cellulose, blown insulation is – as it sounds – blown into the spaces of your attic like confetti with a (you guessed it) blower. The small particles fit snugly into any space and can fill existing walls with minimal damage and to the desired depth. While it’s often the least expensive choice, the fiberglass particles can irritate the lungs, skin, and eyes. Blown insulation has also been known to cause problems with holding moisture and mold.

While going down the DIY path is doable, remember that insulation installation is a precision process. Improper addition of insulation can encourage mold growth and, if you fail to add proper ventilation, moisture can accumulate in the attic.

A qualified specialist can provide a comprehensive overview of your attic’s needs. EnergyStar recommends considering a professional if you experience:

  • “Difficult attic access and limited space to work
  • Wet or damp insulation, indicating a leaky roof
  • Moldy or rotted attic rafters or floor joists, indicating moisture problems
  • Kitchen, bathroom or clothes dryer vents that exhaust moist air directly into the attic space instead of outdoors
  • Little or no attic ventilation
  • Knob and tube wiring (pre-1930), which can be a fire hazard when in contact with insulation.”In addition to enhancements such as eShield insulation, homes may benefit from solar-powered attic ventilation systems.

Don’t Forget to Seal Those Leaks

The gaps — often difficult to locate without thorough inspection — allow for temperature-controlled indoor air to escape outside. This is the source problem behind drafts and cold spots throughout homes.

Poor sealing is a problem for all seasons. Indoor temperature control is most notably necessary during warm and hot seasons, as heated and cooled air is essential for a comfortable home environment. Even then, the effects of improper sealing are felt across the calendar, allowing for energy escape at any point.

Have to Move That Air Around

When a home is well-ventilated, temperature control efforts are more diversely spread throughout the home. This means that air conditioners and heaters don’t have to work as hard to keep designated areas the desired temperature. When appliances don’t work hard, their energy output is lowered, resulting in a tangible reduction to home energy bills over time.

While Dorothy had it right in The Wizard of Oz when she said, “There’s no place like home,” we can say with confidence that “There’s no place like a properly insulated home, Toto.” Attics and More is a phone call away to ensure your attic is properly sealed, insulated, and ventilated for the best energy savings and most comfortable environment in your home.