Insulation expert gives installation advice
Standard Insulation Company was founded in 1994 in Charlotte. Standard services residential customers in a 90-mile radius around Charlotte and commercial customers around the state, Glenn Cardenas, branch manager, says. The company offers different varieties of insulation, including fiberglass, polyurethane foam and cellulose, as well as radiant barriers.
Where does insulation need to be installed in a home and what are the options?
Cardenas: Your biggest heat loss comes from your attic space because heat rises, so if you don't have insulation up there, the heat is going to escape. The attic is your first priority, and the second priority would be your crawl space or floors. The last priority would be your walls - you lose the least amount of heat through the walls, and if it's an existing structure, that's the most expensive to put in.
Lots of times, in older homes, you have drafts because it wasn't sealed properly, but that's the least of your concerns. You can have an estimator figure out where the problem is coming from. If they can go in and seal with foam or caulk, many times that's going to stop the drafts around an old outlet cover or window. Some people also use insulation between walls or between stories of their home to block noise.
Others install insulation around bathroom pipes to dull the sound of water running through it. The most cost-effective time to install insulation is when the house is being built because everything's open and accessible. Installing in new construction typically runs between 40 and 60 cents per square foot, and it goes up from there depending on the specific set-up of an existing home. If you need to put insulation in the wall, it's not a huge project; it's just that you're looking at added costs for things other than just insulation, such as the cost to put drywall back up. The basic type of insulation is fiberglass, which is the pink stuff you see in your attic or crawl space.
Then you have green products such as foam and cellulose. Cellulose is basically recycled paper products that they add fungicides and fire retardants to so it's safe to put in houses and commercial applications; it's typically about 85-percent recycled materials, so it's the greenest product you'll find. Some people say there are concerns with fiberglass because formaldehyde, which can be given off in small amounts by some insulation, but it's been approved by the EPA as safe to use in homes.
The fibers can be an irritant, but typically only if you're in the attic and bump it and get fibers in the air. Insulation is measured in R values, depending on how much heat it blocks. New construction in the Charlotte area requires R-38 heat efficiency, which equals about 15 inches of insulation, depending on the product used.
Some people want to upgrade to add more insulation; for example, they may have R-15 already and want to add more for energy efficiency. Depending on what they already have, it's going to affect what their cost is going to be. An estimator can tell you what you need, but in general, almost any house built before 1990 is going to need more insulation to reach R-38. The people who have the best energy bill, they always have a really tightly sealed envelope around their entire house.