Insulation Party

The energy bill was just too high for my liking... time to beef up the insulation in the attic!

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The attic currently is insulated with blown in fiberglass or rockwool, or something along those lines. Whatever it is, the home inspector called it "not enough". This was also evident by how cold it gets in the house, which leads to how often the furnace needs to run, and how much money we have to spend on energy. Also notice that the return ducts are not insulated at all. I started by doing some research. There is a lot of information out there on the old interwebs, from message boards to manufacturer sites to utility companies. Pick your favorite search engine and go for it.

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The easiest and likely best bang for my buck seems to be adding a second layer of insulation over the first. I first heard of this from one of my coworkers. You simply add fiberglass rolled insulation across (perpendicular to) the tops of the ceiling joists. Sounds easy enough! Home Depot had unfaced R30 (refers to the thickness and insulation rating) on sale really cheap, and it just so happened that was the recommendation I put together for myself on what I needed to add. So far so good. "Unfaced" means that there is no facing or moisture barrier attached to the fiberglass. This facing usually looks like brown paper or silver foil on one side. Adding a second layer to my existing insulation, I don't want this, as I don't want to impede moisture from passing through and out (causing it to be trapped and causing mold and such). There are pretty much 4 types of unfaced fiberglass: rolls, encapsulated rolls, batts, and loose-fill. Rolls are just plain old, moderately messy, itchy rolls of fiberglass. They come in 2 widths, 15" or 23" to match your application. I don't care either way since since I don't need to fit this between joists, just on top. A newish advance in rolls is the "encapsulated" roll. It's still unfaced, but is wrapped in a pleasantly pink layer of perforated plastic. I think Owens-Corning calls it "EasyTouch" or something like that. Anyhow, it's awesome, and was on sale for like 2 dollars more per roll than the unencapsulated. Batts are precut sections of the same stuff, and loose-fill is for my purposes equivalent to "blow-in", which I would rather not deal with.

I'm getting ahead of myself, as I often do. It does turn out to be slightly more complicated. You see, the attic, at least around here, is a breathing structure. It is apparently critical that it gets plenty of air flow via its different ventilation channels to prevent moisture build up which can become... DUM DUM DUUUUM... mold. So, to ensure this ventilation, we must make sure not to block off any of these ventilation channels with our insulation. To this end, we have the "rafter baffle". It's like a chute that goes between the roof rafters and keeps the airway open from the soffit vents (those screens around the outside of the house under the eaves) into the attic.

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Another consideration, is the way that heat escapes from inside the house into the attic. The obvious is just thermal conduction. Heat goes up and migrates through the sheetrock, and into the unheated attic space. Less obvious, is all the hot air actually escaping through holes in the ceiling! One article I read said that the average house has the equivalent of a 2 foot hole when you add them all together. Sources are holes for wiring and fixtures, open soffits, cracks around vents and pipes, etc. So our real step one is to address any of these holes I can find. Armed with a can of expanding foam, and a caulk gun, I headed up and looked around for any and all air passages I could find. And armed with a stapler and some raffer baffles, I prepared the attic for the insulation!

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Next was the purchase of insulation. Another great tip from my coworker, buy in bulk! The rolls can be bought individually, but they are much more conveniently packed in flats of 6. Firstly, you have one big package to deal with instead of a bunch of individual rolls. Secondly, they rolls are compressed with banding keeping the whole flat more compact than 6 individual rolls would be. I could probaably fit 5 or 6 flats in the truck, but I thought I would start with 3.

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Now to just roll it on out! Of course, its not as simple as that. There is a lot of crawling into extremely hard to get to locations, all while trying not to fall through the ceiling. And not stabbing your head on nails. The insulation rolls need to be cut to fit in some areas, which is accomplished with another tip from my coworker... good old garden shears! Really, if you don't have any, I would buy them just for this. ins2.jpg

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And that is it for now! I will post more when it get's done!!