Attic Insulation? What’s the Big Deal?
The big deal with your home’s attic insulation in the Pittsburgh area is that it’s the most important component in your home’s thermal barrier! This is because during the winter, the bulk of your home’s heat loss occurs through the attic (because heat rises). And during hot summer months, the majority of a home’s heat gain often occurs through the attic as the sun heats the roof to temperatures of 150 degrees and above! When your home’s attic insulation is increased to a level of R-49 with blown in cellulose insulation, you will instantly and dramatically reduce your utility bills, as well as improve your comfort year round!
Why is Re-Insulating my Attic an Outstanding Investment?
When done correctly, retrofitting your home’s attic insulation will dramatically improve its comfort. In many homes, heating and cooling costs can typically be reduced 20-40% just by properly air sealing and re-insulating the attic! Your home will feel much warmer in the winter, but also much cooler during hot summer months. Most homeowners can expect a payback time (in terms of energy savings) of less than 3 years, but the improvement in comfort will be immediate!
What Separates Insulwise Energy and Comfort Solutions from the Competition?
At Insulwise, our process is to first ‘air seal‘ all of the air leaks in your attic and only then add the additional insulation. Homes lose substantial amounts of heated air through unseen air leaks in your attic floor such as around plumbing pipes, wire holes, recessed lights, leaky pull-down attic ladders, flu pipes etc. When you feel a draft in your home, you are in fact feeling the effect of air leakage. We use spray foam insulation for the purpose of air sealing.
So how will you know if an insulation company’s practices are woefully out of date? If they tell you that air sealing doesn’t matter or is a waste of time, that’s a good indication. But don‘t take our word for it. Check out our Independent Research page or simply Google-search ‘air sealing.’ Simply put, the forces behind ‘stack effect‘ will cause your home’s conditioned air to leak directly through blown or rolled insulation, if the penetrations beneath are not first sealed. Most insulating companies presently do little if ANY air-sealing work.
How Do I Know if I Need More Attic Insulation?
If when you look at your attic floor you can see the ceiling rafters, than you would benefit greatly from adding additional attic insulation. Also if during the summer, your upper floor feels much hotter than the lower ones, you would also benefit significantly from adding insulation. According to the Energy Star Climate Zone Map, attic insulation in Southwestern Pennsylvania should be a minimum of R-49. We first determine the R-Value of your existing insulation, and from there determine how much additional cellulose insulation we need to add in order to reach an R-49 insulation value.
I Already Have Some Pink Blown-In or Rolled Stuff…Isn’t That Good Enough?
Rolled fiberglass batting almost always underperforms its ‘stated R-Value.’ All attic floors have irregularities such as plumbing pipes like you see to the left, wiring, joists, ceiling fixtures, recessed lights, bath fans, etc. These surface irregularities make it impossible for rolled fiberglass batting to fit snugly against your ceiling. When gaps in the insulation form as a result, significant energy loss occurs where there is bare ceiling.
With our blown-in cellulose insulation process, the insulation conforms perfectly to your attic floor. All of the gaps, voids, and odd-shaped nooks and crannies are filled in completely. We typically air seal the attic floor first, then blow in additional cellulose over top of the existing insulation to achieve the Department of Energy recommended R-49 insulating value.
Why Does My Home Heat Up so Much on Hot Days?
On a hot summer day, the sun can heat the shingles on an average home’s roof to over 150 degrees! This intense heat then radiates into the attic itself. And if your attic is poorly insulated or insulated with old fiberglass, then the heat gets transferred directly into the rooms below, making your home uncomfortable. In most cases the home owner either suffers or runs their air conditioner all day long to fight the heat gain which is coming from the attic. Neither case is a cheap or ideal solution.
When you have Insulwise Energy & Comfort Solutions properly air seal your attic (which will keep your air conditioning from leaking out!) and then blow in cellulose insulation to raise your attic insulation to a value of R-49, you will notice the difference that day! During hot summer weather your home will not only be more comfortable, but your air conditioning bills will decrease dramatically!
What if I Want to Use My Attic For Extra Storage?
At InsulWise, we have a process for building raised storage pads in attics that allows you to reach your attic insulation goal of R-49, but also maintain a useful storage space for your odds and ends. We first determine how much additional insulation is needed, than build a frame using studs that are wide enough to accommodate the additional insulation. We have built dozens of storage pads to accommodate a wide variety of attic shapes and sizes. We can also assist you in emptying your attic prior to performing the work if needed!
What about the AC, Furnace Unit, or Ductwork in My Attic?
When we encounter HVAC equipment in attics, we always recommend that the customer have us re-seal all of the duct connections with mastic sealant, flex ties, and sometimes screws. Many contractors in our area still use $3 a roll duct tape to seal HVAC systems when installing them, which in our opinion is a negligent practice. The problem is that summer attic heat breaks down the adhesives in these tapes. Often in attics we find ductwork either completely or partially disconnected — and blowing conditioned air freely into attic spaces.
My Home has Ice Dams and Icicles, Can This be Fixed?
Ice dams and icicles often form when heat from the home leaks through the attic floor and melts the snow on your roof. The water then drains downward to where it is colder and re-freezes, forming ice dams and icicles. Although there are no guarantees (natural freeze/ thaw cycles can cause ice damming too), incidences of ice damming and icicles can usually be reduced with effective air-sealing and re-insulation measures performed in the attic.
What Type of Insulation Does InsulWise Primarily Use?
For the majority of home insulating needs we use cellulose insulation. Cellulose is incredibly user friendly in that it does not irritate the skin, is highly effective with an R-Value of 3.6 per inch, is flame resistant, completely non-toxic, and is an incredibly “green” product because it is made from recycled paper. If you want to read more about it I recommend checking out the highly informative and independent Wikipedia page. From time to time we will use other types of insulation including spray foam, fiberglass, and rock wool for specialty applications.