The Best Ways to Keep Your Home Insulated and Efficient

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Home InsulationWe all need our homes to be sufficiently insulated so that water and/or snow don’t pour through walls and ceilings in event of a storm. But most of us also want good insulation so that our homes stay naturally warm in winter and cool in summer. Good insulation can bring our energy bills down by between 10 and 30 per cent.

So what are the best ways to keep your home properly insulated?

 

  • The efficiency of insulation is expressed as its R-value. The worst R-value is less than 1, and the best R-value is 60. The R-value is calculated per inch of the material. In other words, if a type of insulation material has an R-value of 10; it means you will need to lay it six inches thick to achieve an R-value of 60.

  • The most common form of insulation in walls, floors and roofs is fiberglass, which replaced asbestos in the second half of the 20th century. Since it is used in around 90 per cent of all homes, the high demand has driven its price down to where most home owners can afford it. It has an R-value of 3.5, so it needs to be laid (or more commonly sprayed) to a thickness of at least 25 centimeters to be truly efficient. Fiberglass is probably the best trade-off between price and efficiency. On 25 centimeters it is about halfway efficient and affordable to most.

  • Aerogel and icynene are far better insulators than fiberglass, but they cost three times as much. In fact, icynene is so air-tight that builders usually don't install it without adding some type of air vent or air circulation system, which may thwart the point of insulation if it involves holes in walls. Musicians also tend to install icynene in sound-proof studios, because it blocks sound just as well as air. These are the best forms of insulation, for those that can afford it.

  • A popular cost-effective option is polystyrene. Since its R-value is 4, one needs about 21 centimeters. It comes in both a spray and rigid foam boards.

  • For the seriously financially challenged among us, bubble wrap can work. After all, what makes a material appropriate for insulation is that it contains air bubbles that block air from passing through.

  • When insulating windows and doors through which you can detect air movement, you have to decide whether you're willing to sacrifice some light. The best window insulation is thicker glass, and especially fiberglass. But these don't let in as much light as many of us would like.

  • The alternative is to hold onto your thin glass windows, but make sure that the edges are sealed. The best and simplest way is to spray polyurethane around the frame, into the jam. You will have to calculate the amount you need by measuring the gap around the frame. Then spray the polyurethane. Once sprayed, it expands a bit to seal the gap.

  • Once again, those who can't afford polyurethane should consider bubble wrap. Spray water on the windows, slap on the sheets of bubble wrap and, if needed, tape the wrap to the frame with see-through tape. You will have to repeat this process every now and then when the wrap falls off.