“Can we turn the heat up?” “I’m cold I need a blanket” “My feet are freezing!”
Are these conversations you are hearing in your home? Many people have the same conversations though every home has its own unique needs
Did you know properly insulated homes can stay warm for days on their own with just heat from the sun and appliances when the heat is no longer escaping?
Homes are built with thousands of pieces of wood and each piece of wood has drafts around it. Each draft is the thickness of a piece of paper – if you can picture putting 500 of them together you now have drafts the size of having a 3” open window. This causes on average seven air changes per hour (you’re heating your house seven times an hour) and the warm air is escaping through the holes in your house. The goal is to bring that down to one air change per hour and keep the warm air inside your home.
At the same time, the warm air is rising into the attic and going out into the atmosphere. This is what’s known as “stack effect”. When we go out in the cold weather we wear hats to prevent heat loss from our body. We want to do the same thing to your home. Therefore, the attic is the most important place to have maximum insulation.
Do you feel guilty because a family member sleeps in a room that is colder than the rest of the rooms? Is the first floor cold around your feet? Is the kitchen floor cold? Is your beautiful great room so cold you can’t enjoy spending time in it? The problem is the warm air is rising and going into the attic and out into the atmosphere. When the warm air rises it draws cold air in to the home, typically at the foundation where the wood sits on the concrete foundation. By insulating the attic, you slow the heat from rising through the attic. When the heat can no longer rise it will diffuse sideways and also slow the fresh cold air from being drawn through the foundation and into the first floor. This is why people notice uniform comfort in every room of the house after the attic is insulated properly.
R value has a small value here. More importantly is mass. By “mass” we mean the amount and weight of insulation. If you think about it, for years we have had 3 ½ inches of fiberglass on the attic floors. Now we have 8-12 inches of cellulose. What if we recommended doing more like 20+inches on the attic floor? When it’s 5 degrees outside, you don’t go out in a sweater. You wear your heaviest coat. This is “mass.”
Also, if you have a HVAC system (for heating or cooling) in the attic it is important to keep these units in a “conditioned” space (in the insulated area.) In the summer, air conditioners are cooling the air to 60 degrees and the duct work is going through a 130-degree attic. What do you think the temperature of the air will be when it gets to your rooms? The same goes for heating systems. If you insulate under them, then they will not be in the conditioned space. They will be in a 30-degree attic trying to produce warm air that will instantly cool it down so you won’t get the intended heat from them. That causes the heating system to constantly run, costing you money and cutting its life span in half.
The basement is the second most important area of the home to insulate. Two things happen in the basement. When the warm air rises into the attic and goes out to the atmosphere it has to be replaced with air from somewhere else. Most of the air is coming from where the wood sits on the concrete, also known as the rim joist. On a 30-degree day you have 30-degree air being drawn into the basement and up through the home. Secondly, in the concrete of the foundation, the earth is drawing the heat to the outside due to conduction because heat always goes to cold. When we insulate the rim joist and the concrete, these can no longer happen keeping your home much warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
Many pieces of wood come together to create the exterior walls of your home. To give you an idea it takes around 800 pieces of lumber to build an average size home.
When you insulate the attic and basement, the walls are the last place the warm air can leave and cold air can enter. By densely filling these walls cavities you have created an airtight barrier between you and the outside. Stopping these drafts ends dryness in the home causing dry skin and nose bleeds, stops static electricity in the winter, and stops allergens and pollutants from entering the home.
When all areas are insulated, it’s like having a dense blanket around the entire thermal envelope of the home and drafts cannot be felt. This brings uniform comfort all year long regardless of what weather is going on outside of the home.