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Many homeowners rightfully ask the question, "Where can I get the biggest bang for my buck?" when either building a new home or renovating an existing structure. We believe that in either case, the biggest bang in terms of cost savings and energy conservation is in properly insulating your home. Whether in the walls or attic, spending a few more dollars for insulation and having it properly installed can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

New Homes and Additions

Here is where technology gives you a great opportunity to seal the envelope of your home in a way that simply wasn't possible only a few years ago. Let's start in the walls. We recommend a 1 1/2 to 2 inch spray of closed cell cellulose as the "first coat". I'm sure you have experienced feeling cold air flowing from a light switch or outlet on an outside wall into your home. By applying closed cell cellulose your new home or addition will effectively be "sealed" from outside air penetration.

Next, we recommend either fire retardent treated recycled newspaper or recycled denim "blown in" to your wall cavities over the closed cell celulose. When installed properly into a six inch cavity, this insulation combination will provide an R22 insulation value or greater. The denim is a bit more expensive than the recycled newspaper, but both provide excellent insulating properties.

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Existing Homes

For existing homes it simply isn't practical to rip down your walls an start from scratch. But there are many things you can do to prevent as much outside air from penetrating your walls as possible. Check aound the finished wood on all of your windows and doors. On a cold day you will probably feel outside air flowing in, most probably at the top and bottom. To seal these leaks, apply a bead of paintable clear caulk to the affected areas. Make sure the caulk is paintable, so that future paint will adhere to the surface. Also check the light switches and outlets on all of your exterior walls. Again, you will normally find some level of outside air penetration. Remove the switch plate and install or apply spray insulation or fitted switch covers for the plates. It's that simple.

Attics (New and Existing Homes)

Often attic insulation doesn’t receive the proper planning it is due. If the attic in your home isn’t properly insulated, you will lose much heating and cooling efficiency. Options available for attic insulation align with several different conditions. Is there an air handler or HVAC unit in this space? If the answer is yes, you will need to condition the entire attic or the space that contains both the unit and duct work supply/return.

One way to accomplish this is to apply either 6” inches of closed cell urethane (1” = r 5.5 - 6.5) or 10” of open cell urethane (1” = R 3.6 – 4) directly to the underside of the roof sheathing. This eliminates the need for attic ventilation by allowing the space to become “conditioned”. The HVAC system can now operate within this space without having to overcome unconditioned ambient attic temperatures which will promote maximum heating and cooling efficiency.

If your plans don’t include an attic unit, you may want to use more conventional applications (i.e. R38 batt insulation or either, blown R38 fiberglass or cellulose insulation). Often for a cathedral or vaulted type ceiling the slope created doesn’t support loose blown-in insulation and the decision to use batt insulation is made. This can work fine when properly installed. If the slope of the vault or cathedral isn’t too steep, it is then possible to “over blow” this area with cellulose and is practical if being used elsewhere in the attic. This procedure helps fill any void left from the batt installation and contribute to an overall better insulated attic.

Blown fiberglass or cellulose insulation in an attic can easily achieve R38. Some find it to be somewhat messy, but paying proper attention to how it is applied can eliminate much of the associated mess (pieces falling down into the living space) and provide an excellent source of insulation.

One pitfall to avoid with attic insulation is the occurrence of open unfaced insulation in an attic vertical wall (i.e. a cathedral wall that projects up into the attic). It is important to cover the attic side of this insulation with some type of thermal barrier which does not allow unconditioned air to penetrate the insulation. Without this barrier your cathedral wall can become as cold or warm as the unconditioned space behind it greatly reducing efficiency. Some types of material could be plywood, drywall, or polystyrene insulation.

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