• Insulation Basics

    replacing attic insulation in Sacramento homeIs Your Sacramento Home Under-Insulated?

    Is your home more than 20 years old? Do you commonly find yourself feeling uncomfortable in your home during the cooler or warmer seasons? Do your heating and air conditioning bills seem higher than they should be? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you probably need to upgrade your home’s insulation.

    It’s not surprising that most homes in Sacramento (and the United States) are under-insulated. Since insulation is typically hidden from view, whether inside walls, under floors or in attics, most homeowners simply forget it’s there. However, insulation plays a huge role in determining the comfort level of the home interior when the outside weather gets hot or cold. Insulation makes your home less conductive of outdoor temperatures and provides resistance to the flow of thermal energy attempting to enter your home. An insulation material’s effectiveness at resisting thermal energy is quantified as its R-value.

    Besides thwarting the flow of hot/cold air into the living space, insulation also keeps mechanically heated and cooled (aka “conditioned”) air from leaving it. Since hot/cold air tends to travel toward more temperate areas in search of equilibrium, a poorly insulated home will provide plenty of easy escape routes for conditioned air to flee the scene. This will not only make the home less comfortable, it will also result in higher heating and air conditioning bills, as the HVAC system must continually replenish the escaping conditioned air.

    To prevent this, insulation should be situated in several areas of the home. This includes:

    • Inside exterior walls
    • Beneath flooring
    • On the attic floor
    • In the wall between the garage and the living space
    • In foundation walls and slab
    • Over wall sheathing

    While most homes have insulation in more prominent areas like the walls and attic, in many cases the insulation is of a low R-value and provides little thermal resistance. In such cases, it’s recommended to supplement the home’s insulation and bring it up to current standards.

    Supplementing home insulation may be easy or difficult, depending on where it’s located and the specific circumstances. For instance, adding insulation to an unfinished attic is fairly simple because the insulation is already exposed, whereas supplementing wall insulation requires the walls to be opened up. That’s why, if you have plans to remodel your Sacramento home, you should take the opportunity to add insulation where convenient. For example, if you’re replacing your home’s siding, this offers a great opportunity to add blown-in insulation and insulative wall sheathing.

    Whatever the situation, don’t overlook the vital role insulation plays in your home’s comfort level and energy efficiency. Call a professional insulation contractor to assess your home’s insulation and determine where more should be added.

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  • The Importance of Attic Insulation

    blown-in attic insulationThe Attic: Where Insulation Matters Most

    Insulation should exist in several areas of the home, but perhaps the most important place to have it is the attic. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that the home receives the bulk of its heat gain from the roof, due to the direct sunlight exposure. Since Sacramento is among the sunniest spots on Earth, with summer temperatures that frequently exceed triple digits, attic insulation is especially important for homes in the Sacramento area. By resisting the flow of heat energy entering from the roof, attic insulation helps keep the living area below more comfortable.

    However, keeping the heat out isn’t the only important function of attic insulation—it also keeps the heat in (or the cold, depending on the season). Most homes in Sacramento have heating systems, and many have air conditioning units as well. The problem with conditioned air is that it’s always trying to escape, whether it’s cooled air in search of thermal equilibrium or hot air rising due to the phenomenon known as convection. In either case, a well-insulated attic floor helps keep conditioned air from escaping into the attic, which in turn keeps the living area more comfortable and reduces heating and cooling costs.

    Unfortunately, more than any area of the home, attics tend to be under-insulated. This is primarily due to changing building code standards, which as recently as 2017 increased the minimum amount of attic insulation in new construction homes to R-38. Since the vast majority of homes were built before 2017, it’s no surprise that most aren’t up to the current standard of insulation.

    So, how can you tell if your attic has adequate insulation? You have a couple of options. One is to hire a professional to assess your attic’s energy efficiency. Typically, this would be just one portion of a full home energy audit, which assesses several factors to determine the energy efficiency of your entire home. Some of these factors include window thickness and insulation, the condition of the air ducts, and the presence of air gaps in the home.

    If you don’t feel like calling a professional, you’ll be glad to know there’s also a DIY method for checking attic insulation. Simply stick a tape measure down into the insulation and measure its thickness. The minimum recommended level of attic insulation is R-38, which is between 13 and 14 inches thick, so that’s the minimum measurement you want to see. While not as accurate as a professional’s assessment (which takes additional factors into account besides mere thickness), this DIY test can at least give you a ballpark idea of where your attic insulation stands.

    If your attic doesn’t have the recommended amount of insulation, you should plan to supplement it by adding more. However, if your attic insulation is really old, your best bet is to replace it entirely. Besides increasing energy efficiency and overall comfort, replacing old attic insulation with R-38 (or higher) usually pays for itself within five years.

    Another worthwhile measure to implement in conjunction with adding attic insulation is air-sealing the attic. Most homes contain numerous, infinitesimal gaps between the living space and the attic through which conditioned air can escape. These include spaces between light switches and receptacles; joints where walls meet ceilings; and spaces through which electrical wires, water lines, vents and mechanical equipment enter the attic. While these air gaps don’t individually represent a significant source of energy loss, when added together, they can have a surprising impact on your home’s energy efficiency. That’s why it’s wise to have them professionally sealed with expansive foams and other products that prevent air transmission from taking place.

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  • Insulation Options

    fiberglass batt insulation installation in Sacramento home5 Types of Home Insulation

    If you’re planning to replace the insulation in your Sacramento home, you might not be aware of the sheer variety of insulation materials available. While some are better suited for particular areas of the home, each has a unique set of pros and cons that need to be weighed before making a choice. Here are five of the most popular types of home insulation in use today:

    Fiberglass

    The most common insulation found in modern homes, fiberglass is an inexpensive material that’s both an effective insulator and resistant to fire and moisture. Fiberglass insulation is composed of tiny, tightly woven strands of glass. It’s available in the form of fiberglass batt (the blanket-like rolls often seen in exterior walls) or as a loose-fill material. The main downside of fiberglass is the danger of handling it—it’s made of glass, so the tiny shards therein can irritate eyes, lungs and skin. That’s why proper safety equipment should always be worn when handling or installing fiberglass insulation.

    Mineral wool

    Mineral wool may refer to fiberglass wool manufactured from recycled glass; rock wool made from basalt; or, most commonly, slag wool made of slag from steel mills. Mineral wool is comparable to fiberglass, but it’s more expensive and isn’t fire-resistant (just non-combustible). On the plus side, it doesn’t harm or irritate eyes, lungs and skin, and it has a higher threshold of thermal heat resistance. When used in conjunction with other, more fire-resistant insulation materials, mineral wool can be an effective supplement for insulating large areas.

    Cellulose

    An organic, loose-fill material made from recycled paper, cellulose insulation offers an attractive combination of eco-friendliness, fire-resistance and effective insulative properties. Because of its compactness, cellulose contains almost no oxygen, which makes it naturally fire-resistant. Its only real weakness is moisture, which, when absorbed, can weigh down the material and reduce its R-value. That’s why professionals recommend replacing cellulose insulation every five years. Unfortunately, due to its loose-fill consistency, it’s not as easy to work with as fiberglass batt, so this can be a cumbersome task. However, cellulose’s performance, fire-resistance and eco-friendliness can make these periodic inconveniences worthwhile.

    Spray polyurethane foam (SPF)

    SPF is a cellular plastic substance created by a chemical reaction that rapidly expands and solidifies as it’s sprayed on/into a given area. There are two types of SPF: open cell, which is cheaper, less dense and more pliable; and closed cell, which is denser, harder and a better insulator. While typically applied via individual spray containers, SPF can also be applied in larger quantities as a pressure-sprayed, foamed-in-place product.

    Closed cell SPF offers several advantages as an insulation material. Since it basically creates a solid wall, it blocks air transmission, moisture intrusion, noise, allergens, insects and rodents in addition to thermal energy transfer. It’s also mildew-, mold- and fire-resistant, and its solidity actually increases the home’s overall structural stability. Additionally, it’s long-lasting, able to retain its shape and effectiveness for many decades without needing to be replaced. Furthermore, SPF is versatile and well-suited for adding insulation to finished areas (such as enclosed walls) and irregularly shaped areas.

    Any downsides of SPF are typically byproducts of incorrect installation. For example, if the chemicals weren’t mixed properly, the foam can contract and pull away from the applied surface after installation. Additionally, if the foam wasn’t applied to an adequate thickness or within certain specifications, it may not perform to standard. So, if you decide SPF is right for your Sacramento home, make sure you hire an experienced insulation installer.

    Sustainable materials

    For environmentally conscious homeowners, natural fibers such as hemp, sheep’s wool, cotton and straw can be attractive options. Additionally, products like EcoBatt® Insulation are great eco-friendly choices, as they’re manufactured from recycled materials. However, it’s also important to consider how the insulation is made, which is why you should choose a product that’s free of artificial dyes or toxic adhesives and manufactured using responsible, sustainable methods.

     

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  • Beyond Insulation

    radiant barrier installed in atticSmart Steps to Supplement Insulation in Your Sacramento Home

    Even if your home has adequate insulation, it may contain other aspects that aren’t up to current energy efficiency standards. Additionally, there are ways to further enhance your home’s insulating properties besides the insulation itself. Consider the following options:

    Radiant barrier

    A great way to supplement attic insulation is by installing a radiant barrier—an aluminum-impregnated paint or foil that’s applied near the underside of the roof. By reflecting solar heat away from the roof, a radiant barrier can reduce an attic’s temperature by 20 to 50 degrees, which helps keep the rest of the home interior cool. In 2017, radiant barriers were added as a building code requirement for new construction, so by installing one, you’ll be bringing your attic up to current standards.

    Windows

    Thin, poorly insulated windows offer easy escape routes for conditioned air, so consider upgrading your windows to double- or triple-pane glass. Even if you already have double-pane windows, if the glass is of minimal thickness, they probably aren’t providing the performance you’re looking for. You can further augment your window glass’ thermal resistance by adding a low-emissivity (low-E) coating and/or argon gas between the panes.

    Ductwork

    Air ducts are one of the most overlooked sources of energy loss in the home. Over time, ductwork can deteriorate, whether due to ongoing usage or more active sources such as rodents. Additionally, the duct systems in many California homes are up to 50 years old—long past their intended operating lifespans. Since leaky or poorly insulated ductwork can greatly reduce furnace efficiency, it’s a good idea to have yours inspected and, if needed, repaired or replaced.

    COOLWALL® exterior coating

    COOLWALL® exterior coating is an alternative to painting your home exterior. This product has a couple of unique attributes that differentiate it from conventional paint. One is its superior water resistance, which stops exterior water from penetrating and allows any vapors or moisture that build up behind the coating to escape. COOLWALL is also heat-resistant: it reflects infrared energy from the sun and reduces indoor temperatures. COOLWALL is available in a wide range of colors and textures, and it can be applied to a variety of exterior surface types.

    Air-sealing

    Besides obvious conduits like doors and windows, most homes contain numerous gaps that allow air transmission to occur. One example is light switches and circuit plugs that aren’t properly sealed, which can provide a direct channel to an attic or crawl space and bring cold, unfiltered air into the home. Another example is baseboards, which, even when covered with a piece of trim or molding, can be a surreptitious source of air transmission. To prevent this, detect and seal all air gaps with caulking, expansive foams, and other sealants. In particular, it’s worthwhile to seal any gaps between the living space and the attic, as conditioned air often travels upward in order to escape the living area.

    Window coverings

    Windows covering with a high R-rating (such as honeycomb shades) create an additional thermal buffer that will help keep heat energy from entering your home.

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The following companies have not applied or earned Diamond Certified. The performance of these companies is not backed by the Diamond Certified performance guarantee.  It is a good idea to check the license, insurance and performance history of these or any companies that are not Diamond Certified.

  • 5 Star Performance Insulation - (916) 383-7590
  • ABC Insulation & Supply Co - (916) 635-7171
  • Ace Insulation Inc - (916) 915-8783
  • The Insulation Pro - (916) 725-8245
  • Precision Insulation Inc - (916) 486-8742
  • Spectrum Insulation - (916) 903-6186
  • Western Insulation - (916) 419-4012
  • Engel Insulation - (916) 786-2064
  • Sierra Insulation Co Inc - (530) 889-2186