For many homeowners, proper attic insulation is a common concern and an easy target for improving energy efficiency. Most older homes, and even many newer ones, simply lack the proper amount of insulation in their attics. However, there are many things to consider when deciding to add or upgrade the insulation. It may seem like a fairly easy Do It Yourself (DIY) project for the more handy homeowner. But failing to make the necessary preparations or proper installation can result in diminished results and return on the investment.
Here are some sound recommendations for homeowners considering an insulation project:
1. Don’t DIY Home Insulation If You Don’t Truly Know How
Consider hiring a qualified professional insulation contractor for the project. While it is possible for homeowners to install attic insulation themselves, the fact is it’s harder than it looks. Getting the maximum energy efficiency requires perfection when it comes to insulation. The added cost to get the job done right is typically offset by the increased efficiency and savings realized by homeowners. For those considering cellulose insulation, the Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association members offer a referral service for qualified installers.
2. Prepare The Attic Before Installing Insulation
If the attic is not properly prepared and sealed, the insulation will not achieve the maximum energy efficiency. This is true whether the insulation product is batts or loose fill blown in. Cellulose Insulation blown into the attic will provide the best sealing overall. With fiberglass batts, it’s even more critical to prep and seal. Batts are seemingly easier for DIY installation, but they just do not effectively seal the space. In either case, whether DIY or Pro Installation, following some basic preparation steps will make a big difference in obtaining the best results. Learn more here.
3. Select The Best Insulation Product
The two most common DIY products for attic insulation are fiberglass batts and blown in cellulose insulation. There are very distinct differences in these products to consider:
- First, if environmental factors are a concern, cellulose insulation is one of the most Eco-Friendly building products available. In addition to providing excellent insulation characteristics, cellulose is also made with up to 85% recycled material, has exceptionally low embodied energy and is produced regionally, all resulting in fewer environmental impacts.
- Where older insulation in the attic is being covered, cellulose insulation is the perfect choice as it can easily be blown in over existing insulation.
- Fiberglass batt insulation is easier to install than blown in cellulose insulation for most homeowners. However, DIY installs with batts typically fail to effectively seal the attic space.
- Cellulose is a bit harder to install as it takes the proper blower and hose equipment (available at most retailers where the product is sold) and requires at least two people. However, if the product is blown in to the level recommended on the packaging, it will typically provide better coverage and sealing than batts.
In either case, the DIY homeowner should follow the manufacturer’s installation recommendations exactly and consider researching online for installation demonstrations. These are readily available for both products.
4. Installation Health Factors
Fiberglass batts cause skin irritation. The glass fibers penetrate the skin and can cause itching, burning and in some cases a reaction or rash. Full protective clothing, face mask and safety goggles are recommended. Cellulose does not cause skin irritation like fiberglass and only requires a basic dust mask.
Homeowners that do decide to go the DIY route need to determine the proper R-Value for their home. The U.S. Department of Energy provides a regional map for recommended R-Values. If adding over existing attic insulation, it is important to determine the current R-Value. This is pretty straight forward with existing cellulose insulation. Check this insulation calculator to get an idea of the potential savings from upgrading attic insulation.