Insulation saves energy, money for Boston homeowners

by Rachel Pfennig

Weighing which renovations to make for your home? Mike McCormack, owner of highly rated MMC Carpentry Company in Quincy, Mass., suggests beginning with tasks that will save money — like installing additional insulation 

“Insulation and air-sealing is critical to a home’s energy consumption,” McCormack says. “An air-tight house consumes less energy, because it allows less energy to escape.”

According to Renew Boston, a program of Boston’s Office of Environmental and Energy Services, adding insulation to rooms previously without it can cut heating and cooling bills by up to 20 percent. 

McCormack says he finds sprayed foam insulation, specifically closed cell foam, is one of the best insulating methods available. Spray foam is roughly twice as expensive than conventional batt insulation, costing about $3 per square foot, but unlike batt, it's designed to create an air-tight seal between each stud bay in a house.

While the fiberglass in batt insulation settles and compresses over time, foam insulation is created to hold its form and keep a house sealed. Foam is also more resistant to moisture, thus making rot less likely, while fiberglass will absorb and store any liquid it comes in contact with.

Because it requires less maintenance and preserves more energy, both McCormack and Doug Hanna, president of highly rated S + H Construction in Cambridge, Mass., say they believe foam insulation is worth the investment. 

Both also suggest before agreeing on a contractor, ask them to determine the R-value of  your home’s current insulation, as well as the R-value they will install. Additionally, Renew Boston offers free energy audits. R-value represents how resistant insulation will be to the flow of heat. The higher the R-value, the better insulated your home is.

Hanna says that the optimal amount is R-20 in walls and R-40 or more in roofs. These values are now required in most Massachusetts towns due to the Stretch Energy Code.

 


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Since you may not have enough attic insulation to begin with, it may be a good idea to add blown insulation on the top of the existing insulation, says Bagwell. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Lynn M. of Columbus, Ga.)

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