There’s nothing like coming back to a warm, cozy home at the end of a long day. You can finally change into your PJs, put on your fuzzy slippers, turn up the thermostat, and curl up on the couch with a nest of blankets and pillows. You may sometimes feel though that all the fuzziest slippers in the world and all the heat you can blast do nothing to keep away the shivers. That’s when you realise your house is poorly insulated (or that you may have a cold, in which case you may want to hibernate for a bit with some medicine).
It pays off to get a professional to evaluate the energy efficiency of your home – especially to figure out where to shore up insulation. Poor insulation leads to heat loss and money drain on your utility bills. Of course, it’d be nice if insulation were already built into the original plans of your house when you bought it – and there are ways to do that with new builds.
To fix the insulation inefficiency in your existing house though, here are some options you can choose from:
Packaged in batts or rolls, this the simplest and most common insulation option to put in. Blanket insulation is designed to be easily cut on the spot to fit between studs, beams, and joists in unfinished walls, floors, and ceilings. There should also be a snug fit – but not too jammed – in the irregular spaces around electrical outlets, wiring, and pipes. Blanket insulation is usually made with fibreglass. You can also use cotton, which is a greener option sourced from denim and textile plants. Rockwool is made from recycled materials and is easier to install because of its shape resilience between studs.
Foam boards are often made of polystyrene, polyurethane, or polyisocyanurate. With this heavy-duty insulation option, you can install them practically anywhere in the house. Most importantly, foam boards have a very high insulating value that can cover both interior and exterior walls. It’s more effective to use them on large surface areas though so that’s a drawback in an existing house without a major renovation.
You should use the loose-fill option only as a supplement to more structural insulation rather than as a standalone. Specialised equipment blow or pour loose fibre particles into awkward spaces to fill up any insulation gaps. One common fibre particle material is fibreglass, suitably lightweight for attic ceiling applications. Another material is cellulose, a denser combination of recycled paper and cardboard for walls and floors.
Spray foam is also made for tight spaces, but has a higher insulation value than blanket insulation. The great thing about spray foam is that you can scale it up to cover large surface areas, too. Spray the polyurethane foam out in liquid form it’ll quickly fill up the space around it before hardening into an insulating layer. For a lighter, cheap option that creates an air barrier, you can go with open-cell spray foam. If you want a denser option that creates both an air and moisture barrier, choose the more expensive closed-cell spray foam.
Many of these insulation options need professional installation and access behind finishings. For greater efficiency, your local contractor can combine the insulation fix with your next renovation. And don’t forget to apply for some funding beforehand if you’re on a roll to maximise energy cost-savings in your home.