July 23, 2014

HOME & GARDEN: Choosing the right insulation

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If you’re paying a lot to heat your house, new insulation in your attic could be the answer. There are three main types of insulation. Investigating the different options can help you choose the right one for your home. (Creators.com photo courtesy of Sara Mendell)

By Sara Mendell

Creators.com

As first-time homeowners, my husband and I had a lot to learn. Our first lesson came in the form of a gas bill. It was $800 for the month of January.

“How is that possible?” we asked. We had been very conservative with how much heat we used, even sleeping with extra blankets.

So we took further action, determined to drive our gas bill lower. We only kept the heat on in our kids’ rooms and proceeded to walk through the house bundled up for the month of February. Then the bill came for February: $750. What?! How could that be? We had done everything we could to use as little gas as possible. We then contacted a heating and air conditioning company, which sent people to take a look. And so our first lesson in house owning began.

First, it is more economical to set all of your thermostats to remain at the same temperature throughout the day and night. It is much more expensive to turn them off and then on again. OK, so they set our entire house to 68 degrees.

Second, and this is the most important part, our attic was not insulated properly. How should we go about resolving the problem? There are three main types of insulation: batts; blown; and sprayed.

Batts are large pieces of insulation that hold together because they’re made of long, interweaving fibers with adhesive binders. The two kinds of batts you’re most likely to encounter are fiberglass and cotton. In terms of their insulating quality, they’re pretty much equivalent. The problem with batts is that they don’t cover the entire space and are known to leave gaps or spaces.

The second type of insulation is blown. There are two types of blown insulation, fiberglass and cellulose. Cellulose comes from recycled newspapers. Fiberglass comes from sand. Whether you use cellulose or fiberglass, blown insulation is great at filling the gaps and giving you a good, complete layer of insulation.

The third major type of insulation is spray foam. This is the most expensive of the three. According to our contractor, it is the best at keeping the heat inside when it is cold outside and the hot air outside when the weather is warmer. This type of insulation comes in spray cans and is composed of resin and certain chemicals. When sprayed, the chemicals and resin create a foam that expands and solidifies in place.

Now it was time to do some price investigating. We had three different contractors come over and give us price quotes. Naturally, we went with what seemed to be the least expensive while the most capable. We used the spray foam because in the end, we would save money, even though there was a significant cost upfront.

On a Friday morning, three men came over and went to work. They took up the old wood planks that were in the attic and began filling the spaces. After about five hours, they were finished. My husband and I went up to the attic and saw the brand-new spray foam covering the floor of the attic. It looked and felt much better.

So time went on, and we anxiously waited for our next gas bill. Finally, the envelope arrived. I quickly opened it. A huge smile formed on my face as I saw the total: $200 for the month. Wow, what a huge savings. And the following month, as spring came, it was $150. At this pace, we’ll earn back our investment in insulation in no time.

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