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Here's how insulation helps your home

Here's how insulation helps your home

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Insulation plays a vital role in keeping your home's temperature stable.

If you’ve ever wondered why your heating or cooling bills seem to be out of sync with previous years, poor insulation could be the culprit.

You’re paying good money to heat and cool your house, so there’s no sense letting all that energy just float away. Insulation is a critical tool in balancing your home’s temperature without breaking the bank on electrical and gas bills. In fact, proper insulation can drop your heating and cooling costs by as much as 15%.

But recent studies show that between half and two-thirds of American homes don’t have enough insulation. Many factors can lower your insulation efficiency, including wearing down from age, exposure to leaks, or rodents getting into your walls and attic. If your energy use seems higher than it should be, consider hiring an insulation contractor to take a look and make recommendations.

How to check your insulation

In some cases, you can perform your own inspection to get a sense of the situation. First, make sure you wear protective gear such as a face mask, gloves and goggles, as well as a long-sleeved shirt and pants. Fiberglass insulation can be sharp to the touch.

Next, check your attic to ensure none of the vents are blocked. Impeded airflow will lead to poor ventilation and could promote mold growth or ice dams on the roof. Look for signs of leakage, which both damage the insulation and indicate the roof needs repair.

Finally, you can visually inspect your attic to verify that it has enough insulation. Most pros recommend 12 to 14 inches of attic insulation, but if you see any less than 5 inches, you’re looking at insufficient insulation.

Hiring an insulation pro

Time for a quick lesson on house insulation functions. Insulation maintains temperature as part of a carefully balanced system in your home that creates what’s called the “home envelope.” The combination of windows, flooring, doors, roofs, insulation and weather-sealing all play a role in this balance. So when you’re hiring a professional to upgrade your insulation, make sure they can explain to you how their work can help fulfill this balance.

A pro should do more than take a peek in your attic. Insulation professionals should use diagnostic testing to determine where wall insulation is needed, for instance. They’ll also search for air leaks, condensation buildup, and other problems. Hiring an insulation specialist rather than a general handyperson is a good idea. Not all states or municipalities license insulation work, but an experienced specialist brings a level of expertise that you won’t get from a worker-of-all-trades. Professional installers will often back their work with a warranty, protecting you if something goes wrong.

Find out if your energy provider has a list of preferred or participating contractors. Such a pro will know how to install insulation to meet your provider’s specifications. This can also open up rebates and other bonuses from your provider.

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