It only takes one winter in the Chicagoland area to realize how cold it can get. At the other end of the spectrum, temperatures during a Chicago summer can get surprisingly high. Increasing the amount of insulation in your home's attic is a practical and effective way of reducing the effects of these seasonal temperature extremes. Here are four important factors to take into consideration before moving forward with an attic insulation project.
Why Attic Insulation Matters
Insulation keeps attic heat from radiating into living spaces in the summer. Attics, especially unfinished ones, can get extremely hot during summer days when sunlight is beating down on the roof. As this heat radiates downward, in increases temperatures throughout your home. The indoor environment becomes more uncomfortable and the cooling system has to work harder to compensate for the extra heat. As a result, monthly cooling bills increase and you waste both energy and money.
In the winter, attic insulation stops heat from rising into the attic and escaping your home. This can result in extra wear and tear on the heating system and unnecessarily high heating bills as the furnace works to make up for the lost heat.
In total, attic insulation helps prevent these problems by providing improved indoor comfort, increased HVAC system efficiency and reduced wear on HVAC equipment. It also decreases heating and cooling bills by reducing energy loss.
Choosing Attic Insulation
The two most common types of insulation used in attics are batt (or blanket) style and loose-fill insulation.
- Batt insulation: Batt, or blanket, insulation is made from spun fiberglass or similar material. It's formed into several layers, producing a thick, blanket-type insulating material. This type of insulation usually has a layer of foil, thick cardboard, or heavy paper on one side to make the material easier to handle. Batt insulation is available in rolls of varying widths that will fit between the beams and joists in attic floors, walls and ceilings. Blanket insulation is easy to cut and trim if necessary to make it fit.
- Loose-fill insulation: Loose-fill insulation consists of pellets of cellulose, foam or fiberglass. The material is blown into attic spaces using specialized equipment that spreads and applies the insulation evenly. The material fills up spaces between joists and beams, serving as a convenient way to insulate attic spaces that are hard to reach or that have irregular shapes. Loose-fill insulation is often used to fill large open cavities in walls and floors.
Keep in mind that the effectiveness of insulation is indicated by the material's R-value. The R-value indicates how well a certain type of insulation will resist the flow of heat. Higher R-values mean better insulation quality and more resistance to heat flow.
In the Chicagoland area of northern Illinois and Indiana and southern Michigan, insulation should be able to perform well in the region's variable seasonal temperatures. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends using attic insulation with an R-value of R-38 to R-60 in this geographical area.
Installing Attic Insulation
Blanket illustration can be installed perpendicular to the joists in the attic floor. This type of insulation is most often installed between beams and studs in attic walls and ceilings.
Wire mesh or sheet metal should be used to create barriers between light fixtures, electric outlets or vents. Some types of insulation could be a fire hazard if exposed to heat from lights or sparks from an electric switch or outlet. If the fixtures are rated IC for "insulation contact," they're designed to work while in contact with insulation and will need no barrier.
Choosing a Professional Installer
Attic insulation can be installed by a determined do-it-yourselfer, but doing so can be a challenge. Working in an attic space can be physically demanding, especially while wearing protective equipment such as respirators and heavy gloves. In most cases, it's preferable to leave the installation of attic insulation to professional installers who know the business and have the skills and equipment needed for the task.
Comfort24-7.com provides professional heating and cooling services to residential HVAC customers in northern Indiana, southwestern Michigan, and the Chicago area. Contact us today for more information on the benefits of attic insulation and for expert help insulating your attic to prevent energy loss and waste of money.