A lot of homeownership involves looking towards the future and the next project. While you may not run your furnace as much during the spring and summer, if at all, it’s the time to start looking into energy leaks. Spring and summer are perfect to look into where your insulation is lacking and how to fix it.
Insulation helps keep the heating and cooling where you need it most. It’s job is not to increase the temperature but maintain the already established temperatures, whether it be in a thermos or your home. There are several areas in the home that can be weak points for freeing hot, or cold, air from your home: the attic, the basement or crawl space, and doors or windows. There are many different schools of thought when it comes to insulating attics, crawl spaces, and basements. Some will say do them all. Some will say do one not another. Here are some pros and cons to insulating these three types of spaces.
Insulating an attic is generally agreed upon as best practice. Because heat rises, a lot of heat from your HVAC system can be lost through the attic and roof. By adding either loose fill insulation or batt insulation into the attic space, you retain the heat in the main living space more efficiently allowing your heating and cooling systems to not have to work as hard. Deciding between loose fill insulation or batt insulation typically comes down to the choice of cost vs. alternative use. Loose fill is cheaper overall however, batt insulation can be enclosed if you were interested in creating storage platforms or alternative spaces in the attic. Either form of insulation is excellent if your air distribution system is in the attic, allowing the ducts to be enclosed and maintain the correct air temperature while the air passes from the HVAC system into the home.
The debate about insulating a crawl space is still a tricky area to navigate. Some contractors will say not to worry, others will say insulate just the walls, while others still will say to insulate in the joists between the floorboards. Which is best? This decision is best made knowing whether your crawl space is ventilated or unventilated. The main concern should be keeping moisture and other pests out of the crawl space. By sealing off the crawl space, lining the floor with a moisture barrier, and insulating the walls of the crawl space with rigid board insulation you’re well on your way to making the crawl space a useful conditioned space. This will help in keeping any air ducts and pipes warmer and allowing less conditioned air to seep into the outside environment along the thermal gradient.
Because of the large surface area connection to the rest of your house, basements are an excellent area to insulate, even if they are unfinished, to maintain proper heating and cooling in your home. Providing some form of insulation to the walls that make contact with the ground, whether as rigid boards or as batts in framed walls, can provide excellent heat retention in the home. This means you loose less heat through your basement and into the outside environment, allowing your HVAC system to work less. If you experience cold floors, filling the floor joists with batts can be of benefit in comfort but it is ideal to keep the basement as part of the overall conditioned space of the home.