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Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Adequate Attic Insulation in West Texas

If your home doesn't have adequate attic insulation, there's no question that your heating and cooling bills are higher than they need to be. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends that homes in western Texas have from 10 to 20 inches in them to slow heat transfer year-round. Heat is always seeking cooler temperatures regardless of season. In the winter, warm air seeps from the ceilings into the attic. In the summer, the heat from the sun creates stifling temperatures in the attic that make your air conditioner work much harder.

Benefits

Saving energy tops the list for the benefits of adequate insulation in the attic. Reduced thermal transfer means that your home won't be losing the thermal energy in the air you've paid to heat or cool as quickly. Besides saving your energy dollars, it cuts down on the amount of time your HVAC system has to run, increasing its longevity. If having a quieter home is important to you, more insulation in the attic will absorb some of those outdoor noises.

Insulation Choices

Options are ample when choosing attic insulation. The easiest approach is to add more of what's already there, which is likely to be fiberglass batt, blown-in cellulose or loose fiberglass. Each of these types has an R-value of 3 per inch. R-value refers to the number of hours the product can resist thermal change. An R-3 rating resists heat transfer for three hours, while R-13 resists it for 13 hours. The DOE's recommendation of 10 to 20 inches provides from 9 to 18 hours of protection.

Other kinds of insulation exist for attics, like sprayed foam or rigid foam. Each of these has a higher R-value and is a good option for attics that won't easily accommodate the space that fiberglass and cellulose need. The key factor in insulation's effectiveness are the air spaces it holds.

Compressing loose fill or batt insulation reduces their air spaces, which decreases their ability to resist temperature change. If you have tight spaces inside the attic, consider mixing insulation types, using foam where there's less room available and batts or loose fill where room is ample.

Insulation as a Do-It-Yourself Project

Some homeowners comfortable with home improvement projects are comfortable installing attic insulation, but if you don't count yourself among them, a licensed contractor can often do the job for you for a reasonable price.

Sprayed foam almost always has to be done by a professional because the equipment costs to apply it are high, as is the learning curve associated with its application. 

However, it can be a do-it-yourself job if your attic is easy to move around in, you're not using sprayed foam and it doesn't have any of these conditions:

  • Wood rot
  • Deteriorated or moldy existing insulation
  • Signs of a leaky roof
  • Bare or knob and tube wiring
  • No ventilation
  • Dryer or bathroom vent stacks that exit inside the attic instead of outdoors

All of the listed situations may require a professional to repair, especially if you have exposed wires or knob and tube wiring that predates the 1930s. Lack of attic ventilation creates heat and moisture problems, and you may need professional help disposing of moldy or degraded insulation. Letting wood rot in the attic go unaddressed can cause structural issues with the roof and ceilings.

Installation Tips and Barriers

If you opt for installing it yourself, you can mix-and-match the insulation by installing batt insulation over blown-in or vice versa. When adding more batts to existing batts, run them at a 90-degree angle or perpendicular to the existing batts.

Unless you have IC-rated (insulated ceiling) recessed lighting fixtures protruding into the attic, don't cover them with insulation. Instead, form barriers around them with sheet metal or wire mesh, along with all other vents and flues that get hot. Attic insulation holds the heat around light fixtures and exhaust vents that can create a fire hazard.

When you install the insulation, be sure you follow the manufacturer's recommendations, especially the precautionary statements. Don't use paper-covered fiberglass batts unless you plan to install drywall over the papered side. Wear appropriate clothing and use breathing masks, since they emit tiny particles that are harmful to inhale.

For more information about improving your home's energy efficiency by increasing attic insulation and tending your HVAC system, contact Texas Air Comfort to find a trusted HVAC contractor near you today.

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