Many homeowners think of their home’s insulation as a “one and done” affair. And it’s true that under ideal conditions your home’s insulation has a life expectancy of 100 years or more. But as your insulation ages, it undergoes subtle, as well as not-so-subtle, changes.
It may compact under its own weight, deteriorate (especially if it consists of organic materials) or incur damage as a result of water exposure or pest infestations. In some cases, the proper level of insulation may not have been installed initially, especially in homes built prior to implementation of modern energy standards.
Knowing how frequently to have your insulation checked can help you save on your energy bills year-round and ensure your peace of mind. It’s important to note though that attics are very dangerous to move around in and if you’re not fully aware of the hazards, a professional should be contacted for the inspection.
Have an annual inspection
Most experts, including those at the U.S. Department of Energy, recommend that you have you insulation inspected at least once a year. If your roof has had to be repaired or replaced because of leaks, you should definitely make sure to have an attic insulation inspection. Mildew and mold can affect insulation materials and indicate that excessive moisture has been or is still in the area, which will severely affect the R-value of the insulation.
Know where insulation is in your home
Traditionally, homes are most heavily insulated in attic areas. If you live in an older home, a professional should begin the inspection there. Newer homes may also have insulation in crawl spaces and between walls. If housewrap inhibits your ability to access your home's insulation, it is better for them to leave it alone unless there is a clear indication of a problem.
Learn the different types of insulation
The first thing a professional will do when inspecting your insulation is to determine what type of insulation you have. The most common types of insulation are fiberglass, cellulose and rockwool. Fiberglass insulation is typically brightly colored and resembles cotton batting. Cellulose insulation is made from recycled paper products. It is gray and has a more fibrous appearance than fiberglass insulation. Cellulose insulation is often installed via spraying. Rockwool, or mineral wool, insulation is also gray. Rockwool insulation can have a lumpy or even pebbly appearance; in older homes especially, it is this “loose fill” material that can be susceptible to settling and compaction.
Be aware of potential problems
The most common issue a technician may encounter during the insulation inspection is discovering that your insulation levels are too low. Generally speaking, loose fill attic insulation, such as cellulose and rockwool, should fully cover your attic joists. Any gaps in insulation that leave your attic joists visible should receive attention. Insulation professionals measure insulation effectiveness using a system of R-values. The recommended level of insulation for your home will depend, in part, on where you live. A professional will be able to help you correct the issue by adding more insulation.
As noted, moisture represents a significant threat to your home’s insulation. Mold and mildew promote the degradation of insulating materials, especially cellulose. Water adds weight to any material and can also promote compaction and settling, leading to air leaks. Water damage can also cause insulation to retain more dust, effectively clogging it and, again, reducing its ability to regulate the internal temperature of your home. A professional should look for any discolored or dirty insulation and pay special attention to insulation near chimneys, vents, turbine fans and any other areas in your attic that are more exposed to the elements.
Understand the importance of insulation
All homeowners should understand the importance of having quality insulation installed in their home. If you keep your insulation maintained, your home will be more energy efficient year-round. This is beneficial for you because having higher energy efficiency can help lower your utility bills. Investing in your home insulation now can help you save money down the road.
Take control of your comfort and make sure your home’s HVAC system is operating at an optimal level by conducting an annual insulation inspection. And remember, if you need further assistance, Terminix®’s own insulation specialists are here to help. You can even schedule your own free insulation inspection today. Click here to learn more about our complete Attic Insulation Service.