Room-by-Room Insulation Needs

by | Mar 27, 2018

There are so many places heat can escape your home. Walls. Ceilings. Attics. Doors. Windows. Fireplaces. You get the idea.

In order to get the best energy performance from your home, lower your monthly heating and cooling bills, and improve the comfort of your living space, you need to find all these leaks and plug them! A well-insulated attic is great, but if there are huge gaps in the insulation on the exterior walls? Yeah, you have a problem.

That’s all easier said than done, of course. To get you started on thinking about the problem—and what to do about it—we offer below some of the major household insulation needs that can make the biggest difference.

The Attic

We touched on why you need to insulate your attic a few months ago, but we’ll go over the highlights again.

Basically, even if your attic isn’t good for much of anything besides being at the top of your house (no way to make it into extra living space, inconvenient for storage, etc.), it still needs to be insulated because it’s still a significant source of heat loss from the home. A poorly insulated attic means big heating and cooling bills, homes that can swing wildly in temperature, and frigid upstairs bedrooms in the morning. It can also allow vapors and moisture to seep in and damage the structure of your home.

How do you know if your attic has enough insulation—besides checking your heating bills, of course? In northern climates like Michigan, we recommend a minimum thermal resistance rating of R-50. Depending on the type of foam used for the insulation, you might need around 6 inches or so of depth.

The Exterior Walls

Walls that separate the inside from the outside of your home are also, quite obviously, a major source of heat loss. But unless you built the house yourself (or at least owned it during the last remodel) it’s quite possible that you have no clue what kind of insulation you might have.

The best way to find out is to call up an insulation company (such as, ahem, RetroFoam of Southwest Michigan), but you can usually tell if you have a problem if your bill is looking a bit steep, or if certain exterior walls feel cold or drafty when you touch them. Having certain rooms always much warmer or colder than others for no obvious reason is another typical sign.

How should you upgrade? That depends a bit on things like the size of the wall cavity, your budget, and how willing you are to do a more extensive remodel.

Our signature product, RetroFoam, is an ideal choice for most existing homes because it offers a solid level of thermal resistance while being super easy and quick to install—usually one day, no tearing out of drywall required. If you’re lucky enough to have a home with 2x6 studs, you can get up to a toasty R-24 or so with RetroFoam—nearly twice as good as fiberglass batting.

We do carry some foam products with even better thermal resistance, but they require tearing out the walls to install. You might choose one of those foams instead if you’re already planning to remodel, or if you decide the extra performance is worth it.

What About Interior Walls?

In most homes, interior walls aren’t insulated. That make sense—most people are worried about heat leaving the house, not moving from room to room inside it!

That said, there are a couple of situations where you might consider adding insulation to a wall that isn’t on the exterior of your house:

  • Soundproofing. This is a quality of life issue for many people, and a pretty good reason to insulate interior walls in just about any type of home. Insulating interior walls, floors, and ceilings can make a quieter and more peaceful home. If you want to muffle the noise of kids running around upstairs—or, say, someone using the bathroom—insulating interior walls might not be a bad idea.
  • Three-season rooms. If you have a connected sun room or porch that you don’t intend to use or heat during the winter—or seldom-used guest bedroom or storage room that you’d rather not heat when you don’t have to—insulating any shared walls is a very good idea.
  • Fire resistance. Certain kinds of insulation (including many types of foam) are flame resistant, which can slow the spread of fire across your home and give you more time to react or evacuate.
  • Indoor pools, hot tubs, greenhouses. If you have one of these in your home, properly insulating the surrounding walls will help contain damaging moisture and vapor and keep them from damaging the main part of your house.

The Other Stuff

Of course, there are other places in your house where heat can escape that can’t be insulated. Doors and windows are the big culprits here. Replacing them with modern energy-efficient units is probably the best way to go, but those on a budget may opt to re-caulk or use weather-stripping, door snakes, or even some heavy curtains as a low-cost, low-effort alternative.

Have a better idea of what your home needs? We hope so! If you’re still not sure—or you’re thinking it might be time to upgrade your insulation—give the friendly folks at RetroFoam of Southwest Michigan a call. We’ll be happy to give you a free estimate! You can reach us online, or dial (269) 751-2000.