When we think of attic insulation, or insulation in general, normally we consider that insulation can help keep us warm, but rarely do we think that insulation can also keep us cool. Like an insulated hot/cold cup that keeps hot beverages hot and cold beverages cold, our home’s insulation can be our best defense against a sweltering outside temperature.
How does insulation work?
Insulation, found in walls, floors, and attics, is usually made from a fiberglass material. It helps to stop conductive heat transfer through solid objects. Think of conductive heat transfer like putting your hand on a cold door knob. Your hand is warm, and the door knob is cold. If you hold your hand there for long enough, the door knob will also become warm. This is conductive heat transfer. Now, if you were to place a towel between your hand and the knob, it would take much longer for the door knob to get warm. Essentially insulation is helping to keep the cold side and the warm side from mixing and becoming equal in temperature.
How does attic insulation keep me cool?
A properly insulated attic can assist your HVAC system immensely. If air is constantly escaping out of your attic through little or no insulation, your HVAC system needs to work a lot harder to continually cool new warm air that is getting into your home. It’s a lot like using the recirculated air feature in your car. Instead of trying to cool down new, hot air, you’re taking previously cooled air and making it even cooler.
How much insulation is too much insulation?
The biggest problem homeowners face is not that there is too much insulation in their attic, but quite the opposite. Most homeowners underinsulate their attics, which can cause hot air in the winter and cool air in the summer to escape, leaving your HVAC system to do more work in keeping your comfortable. The proper amount of home insulation varies for where you live in the United States, but here in New England, it is suggested to use R-49 insulation, which is 16” to 18” deep. A properly insulated attic can save you as much as 20% on energy consumption!
How can I find out if I don’t have enough insulation?
There are a few DIY ways you can check your insulation levels. Energy Star has some fantastic tips and tricks that can help you determine whether you need to upgrade your insulation.
How well does your home stack up? Let us know in the comments below!