Angie's List: Insulation tips

It is that time of the year to think about making sure your home is properly insulated. If your home is not properly insulated, you could be wasting money in energy costs.

The purpose of insulation is to help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. If done properly, it can save you money.

Angie Hicks from Angie’s List says, "Insulating your house is one of the most cost effective ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home. The cost will depend on your climate and the size of your home. Typically homeowners find they can see a 20-percent savings on their heating and cooling bills by properly insulating their house."

Just because your home was insulated at some point in the past, it may not be good enough for the present and, especially, the future.

Angie Hicks explains, "What homeowners might not realize is that insulation deteriorates over time. So it's something you need to check periodically to make sure you have enough. An energy audit is a great way to help you determine that as well as check the overall energy efficient of your home."

Many companies offer energy audits. Lower income families and the elderly may qualify for free audits from non-profits, like Real Services.

Insulation contractor Robert Tranum describes the proper strategy to check the energy efficiency of your home. "The best way to tell in an attic is if you can see the beams in an attic, you are under insulated. You want to make sure you have a good 6-8 inches of cellulose above your wood beams or 8-10 of fiberglass above your beams."

Many people try to save money by installing their own insulation, but often it is better left to the pros.

Hicks say, "Adding insulation to your attic may seem like a do-it-yourself project, but what people don't realize is they can get in over their head. It can be a hot and messy project and even dangerous. I've heard stories of people falling through ceilings and falling off ladders. People should consider talking to a professional when adding insulation."

For an added incentive, a federal tax credit for insulation is available until the end of the year.

Now through the end of the year, homeowners who add insulation to their homes can receive a tax credit of up to 10-percent the cost of materials with a maximum credit of $500. The tax credit does not include installation costs.

There is also "temporary insulation'" that can keep out winter's chill. That is something most people can do on their own and is not expensive.

You can buy kits of clear plastic to insulate the inside of old, drafty windows, which you can simply pull off in the spring.

Additional Information:
Since insulation can deteriorate, it's important to have it checked periodically to make sure it remains efficient. Though insulation is often most associated with the attic, it's also important to make sure your walls, crawl spaces and basement are properly insulated.

Angie's List, the nation's premier provider of consumer reviews, asked highly rated insulation companies for advice.

Do you have enough insulation?
· Home energy audit: Determine how much insulation you already have and where. A home energy audit can help determine areas in need of insulation. An audit can also help pinpoint parts of your home that are in need of air sealing. The amount of insulation you need will depend upon a number of factors including where you live and the age of your home.
· Inspect it: Look in your attic, if you see exposed two-by-four's, you are probably due for some more insulation.
· Measure walls: Measuring the insulation in walls is a little more difficult. Find a spot in the wall, preferably in the closet where it's not seen, and make a small puncture in the hole with a wire. You should feel resistance and insulation.

Most common types of insulation:
· Fiberglass (both batt and blown-in forms): For use in unfinished walls, including the foundations, floors and ceiling.
· Rigid foam board: Made of polystyrene, this product has a high insulating value despite being relatively thin. It's also appropriate for unfinished walls, floors and ceilings.
· Spray foam: This product, made of various materials is often used in enclosed existing walls, unfinished attic floors or open wall cavities.
· Rigid fibrous: Made of fiberglass or mineral wool, this product is used in ducts or other areas requiring insulation that can handle high temperatures.
· Loose-fill: Made of fiberglass, cellulose or mineral wool, this is appropriate for existing walls, unfinished attic floors and difficult-to-reach areas.

Angie's List tips for adding insulation to your home:
· Hire help: Adding insulation to your attic yourself is dangerous. You may step through the ceiling or fall through it. A reputable contractor also has the knowledge of what type of insulation should be used and where.
· Consider the R factor: The performance of insulation or its ability to resist heat flow is determined by R-value. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. You can find the R-value printed on bags or on labels attached to bags of insulation - always ask the contractor to see the bags that will be used. R-value recommendations vary according to geographic locations. For example, in colder climates the R-value will be higher. Different values are also recommended for attics, walls, etc.· Know your options: Regulation requires contractors to provide consumers with a fact sheet including insulation information on the products they sell.
· Are they insured? Ask for proof of current insurance. This will help protect you should one of the workers is injured on your property or damages your house.
· Check certifications: Ask if the contractor certified by the Insulation Contractors Association of America (ICAA). These contractors have access to training regarding proper installation and are familiar with codes and regulations.
· Read the contract: The contract should include the job specification, cost, warranty information, and method of payment. The contract should also spell out the type of insulation, where it will be used and its R-value. Beware of contracts that list the insulation in terms of thickness - the R-value tells how well a material insulates, not the thickness.
· Tax credits available: Now through the end of the year, homeowners who add insulation to their homes can receive a tax credit of up to 10 percent the cost of materials with a maximum credit of $500. Tax credit does not include installation costs.

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