“Our two-story home has thin attic insulation. The upstairs is a little drafty, and we’re wondering if attic insulation is worth the cost. Will insulating our attic lower our utility bills, or should we keep wearing sweaters and snuggling up with a cozy blanket?” ~Maureen and Jay in Beaverton
This is a great question, and one we often hear from our customers. A drafty upstairs definitely suggests a problem with the air sealing somewhere in the upper floors of your home, and fixing that will certainly show a great improvement in your utility bills. To determine whether the specific fault lies in your attic insulation or elsewhere, we’ll need to take a closer look at the situation. There are a few key signs you might be able to spot if you’re trying to pin down attic insulation as the culprit. Beaverton, OR insulation contractors are here to help.
Signs Your Attic Needs New Insulation
If you’re looking to make a quick assessment, look for these signs, especially in combination:
- Drafts, temperature fluctuation and cold spots in upper floors
- High energy bills
- Cold walls and ceiling in adjacent parts of the home
- Snow on your roof melts quickly
- Ice dams form on the edge of your roof (from snow melting then refreezing away from the lost heat of your attic)
If you see one or more of these, it’s probably time to start considering your options to add new insulation. First, know your options:
Types of Insulation for Your Attic
There are three types of insulation typically used for insulating attics. The first, fiberglass batts, are the big solid panels of insulation you probably think of first, the same type you likely have inside your walls. The second, loose-fill cellulose, is blown in and piles up in appropriate places inside your attic, quickly and efficiently reaching most nooks and crannies for cheap.
The final type, spray foam insulation, is applied as a spray and dries into thick foam sheets of insulation. It’s used to completely fill every possible small opening. Unlike the other two, this is often applied to the ceiling of your attic instead of the floor. It’s especially good if you have an attic with a lot of hard-to-reach spaces, though you will have to leave your home for the day when it’s installed.
Which is appropriate for your home will depend on your budget, existing insulation and goals for your attic, among other things.
You’ll also want to consider what type of insulation you already have, what kind of condition it’s in, and whether you can or should reuse it moving forward.
To Add or to Replace?
In most cases, you can keep your old attic insulation without any trouble — but there are certainly scenarios where completely removing what’s already present is going to make more sense. Obviously, if your insulation has anything compromising it, like mold managing to grow in it or unhealthy materials, you’ll want it removed.
You may also remove it if it’ll interfere with long-term goals like finishing your attic, or if you simply don’t have the space to achieve proper R-value with the old, inefficient insulation still in place.
Once you get it all sorted out, what exactly do you stand to gain? Improving attic insulation can have a wealth of benefits.
What You’ll Gain
If you look at the list of signs that your attic has poor insulation, you’ll see the benefits of improving attic insulation hinted at.
- You’ll cut down on the draftiness and temperature fluctuations on your top floor.
- Your walls and ceilings won’t be as cold — and potentially damp or waterlogged — as they might get while your attic is leaking like a sieve.
- You’ll be rid of ice dams and the damage they can cause your roof (or anything unfortunate enough to be beneath them) if they fall off.
- Your heating bills will come down in the cold months, and your air conditioning bills will come down when August highs roll around.
- And of course, your home value will be improved substantially if you can showcase new, highly efficient insulation and the improved energy costs that come with it.
So to put it simply: Feel free to cozy up under the blanket, Maureen and Jay, but get your attic properly insulated first!