Very often, people just start calling companies or researching online, trying to decide what insulation to use and whether or not to do it themselves. This leaves them at the mercy of conflicting information and sales pitches. All this confusion leads to inaction, or to making the wrong choice. Frequently the choice comes down to the lowest price, even though people are comparing apples to oranges and oranges to bananas.
The right choice is the right tool for what YOU want. The various types of insulation have optimum uses, depending on how YOU answer steps 1, 2, and 3 below. You can’t weigh through the various answers you’ll receive without deciding what you want to do first.
We typically want information first, and then to make the decision with the advantage of the information they’ve gleaned. The problem is information, experts, and companies disagree on what’s most important. You must decide on what YOU want before you enter the marketplace looking for solutions to a problem you haven’t defined.
Step 1: Get Real When You Budget
This first step is where many homeowners go wrong. How? Most homeowners want to keep it as cheap as possible. They decide to keep the project inexpensive instead of deciding to get the best solution they can afford for the job at hand. This mistake is even easier to make because some of the most common forms of insulation are relatively affordable.
Let’s think about real world examples and the choices we make. If you’re building your dream home, you’d think nothing of spending $7,500 on granite countertops. Why? Because these granite countertops are seen everyday. Plus they add to the resale value of the house. Of course, statistics tell us is that in 7 years, you’ll likely modernize the kitchen and put in a different countertop.
On the other hand, far less thought often goes into planning the building envelope. That’s odd because it’s somehow expected to last a lifetime. Plus it’s hidden away, behind walls, tucked into ceilings. Insulation isn’t on display everyday. It’s not a conversation starter, and most people don’t know that people are willing to pay more for a green home, thereby adding to the resale value of the house.
So, you build your house, and every month pay 40-50% more for utilities than you could. Perhaps you have to pay for mold remediation in 5 years. Maybe you pay to add more of the same insulation to the house, without stopping to think if it’s the right solution.
The lesson is simple. Be realistic about what you can and cannot afford. Choosing the cheapest option is very often not the right way to solve the specific challenges in your home. Choosing the wrong product will not solve your problems. Now you’ve spent money on the so-called improvement and you’ll continue to spend the same on monthly utilities. Worse still, you haven’t added to your home’s value and you may even be lowering it with mold or moisture problems.
Step 2: Decide What You’re Trying to Do
Once you’ve owned up to what you should spend on your home, you may need to prioritize your projects. You want the most bang for your buck, so choosing what to do first matters.
There are several steps to take with improving your building envelope. First, you should make sure you seal out air leaks that let your conditioned air out and let unconditioned air in. These leaks are costing you up to 40% of your bills each and every month.
Most homeowners are aware that air leaks into and out of their houses. This happens through small openings around doors and window frames, and through fireplaces and chimneys. What many don’t realize is that air also enters the living space from other unheated parts of the house. Attics, basements, or crawlspaces often contribute significantly to high energy costs.
Most types of insulation cannot stop these leaks and you won’t save as much as you expect because of the air flowing through or around the insulation.
Once you’ve sealed out the air, you’ll need to decide on how much insulation you want. Because you’ve stopped the air leaks, you can now get the most out of your insulation. Until you stop the air leaks, the air dramatically reduces the effectiveness of common insulation materials like fiberglass batts.
Begin by finding the R-value required for your area, and then find the cost effective way to build up to that level. Depending on the space you have, you may find you can use lower R-value per inch materials like fiberglass or cellulose. On the other hand, if you have 4 inches to get to R-28, you’ll need a high R-value material like spray foam insulation.
Step 3: Decide on How to Get it Done
There are a lot of ways to get your project done. Some people want to do it themselves, often for a multitude of reasons ranging from lower costs to more control and higher satisfaction. Others prefer to hire someone to do the project for them. There are many companies that install fiberglass, cellulose, and spray foam. Likewise there are many people who have done their own spray foam insulation or installed their own fiberglass batts.
Once you make the decision either to do it yourself or to trust a company to do it, then go look for the best resources to do the job.
Conclusion: Getting What You Want
Those who don’t answer the 3 steps above means will have to sort through lots of conflicting information and sales pitches. The problem is the information, experts, and companies disagree on what’s most important. If you haven’t answered these 3 steps first, you’ll probably choose the lowest price, even though it’s very likely not the right choice for what YOU want and need. Once you know your budget, what you want to do, and whether you’re going to do it yourself, you’re much better equipped to choose solutions wisely. By deciding on some of the things YOU want before you enter the marketplace, you’ll find the real solutions to your problem and get real satisfaction from improving your insulation.
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