ATTIC INSULATION

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What is retrofit insulation?

Retrofit insulation is the process of re-insulating a house that has insufficient or poorly installed insulation. Retrofit insulation includes attics, framed wood floors, walls, garages…

Why the focus on conventional attic insulation?

Close to 95% of the insulation related calls we get are for attic insulation. In homes that were built prior to the year 2000 we find that 8 out of 10 attics that we inspect have poorly installed or missing insulation. At the bottom of this article you will find a link to an article that explains why attic problems are so common.

What the Insulation Contractors Association of America calls it – Fraud

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The insulation industry’s problem is well documented, if you know where to look. In 1994 by the Insulation Contractors Association of Americas published A Plan to Stop Fluffing and Cheating of Loose-fill Insulation in Attics. The level of candor in this document is surprising. The first sentence of the plan reads, “Whatever one calls it, it is fraud.” The plan goes on to say that “cheating is prevalent throughout the United States” and that “this pattern of fraud has persisted since day one.”

In the photo below you can see how the insulation was never blow right on day one. The cellulose insulation literally tapers down to bear sheet rock. This type of work was routine in the 80’s and 90’s in Arizona.

Aren’t all attics conventionally insulated?

No. This article focusses on conventional attics with blown in attic insulation. These are attics you can access and get into unlike a flat roof attic. A conventionally insulated attic typically has a combination of blown-in insulation and fiberglass batt insulation. We have a dedicated article on Insulation Materials and unvented attics with Foam Insulation.

The impact of missing insulation on R-value is huge

The impact is surprising. A home that is missing 5% of the attic insulation (bare sheetrock) will see a resulting drop in R-value of 54%. (R-value measures resistance to heat flow – the greater the R-value, the greater the insulating power).

What is the impact of missing insulation on comfort and my utility bills?

The impact depends on the magnitude of the problems. The larger the problems we find in an attic, the greater the potential in comfort and energy savings that can be realized. The example below highlights this issue.

This is a worst case scenario. These photos are taken from a home in Mesa, Arizona. This is a series of three pictures highlighting the impact of missing insulation on comfort and efficiency.

 

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1.The first photo is taken in the attic. Insulation tapers to bare sheetrock. This is the way another insulating company left this job. The builder obviously never inspected the attic.
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2. The second picture is a temperature gun showing the surface temperature of the sheet rock in the living room. The surface temperature is 111℉. You can be sure this is an uncomfortable home with high utility bills.
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3. The third photo is taken in the living room with an infrared camera in which the color white represents higher temperatures. The heat from the attic is radiating into this home and driving up the utility bills and compromising comfort.

What are they typical problems we find in attics?

Here is a list of seven problems our estimators routinely find in attics:

  • Missing blown-in insulation – never installed
  • Poorly installed blown-in insulation – uneven depths of insulation
  • Not enough insulation (typical in older home)
  • Poorly installed batts on knee walls and skylight wells
  • Misaligned fiberglass batts
  • Air infiltration and air barrier issues
  • No baffles at vented eves

To realize energy savings and improvements in comfort, all of these short comings and issues must be identified and addressed in the quote and work performed. We have provided a short article that addresses each of the issues called: Common Attic Insulation Defects.

How do I know if I need more attic insulation?

If your utility bill seems high and you have uncomfortable rooms, there may be a problem with your attic insulation. The other way to find out is to have your attic inspected. We provide a checklist of items that should be inspected. At Advantage Home Performance also provide free attic inspections and quotes. Call us today in Phoenix at 623-939-3329 or in Prescott at 928-445-3866.

How much does attic insulation cost?

The cost of the job depends on the extent of the problems you have in your attic. A attic retrofit job on a 2000 square foot can cost anywhere from $800 to $2,500. The price all depends on the issues our inspector finds and the level of energy efficiency you are trying to achieve in your home.

Can I get a quote over the phone?

You shouldn’t. This is a recipe to get another mediocre insulation job. There are a lot of variables between homes. It is definitely in your best interest to have your attic inspected to ensure that you are getting a quote tailored to your home. We are happy to come out to look at your home and give you an accurate quote free of charge.

How does attic insulation pay for itself twice?

We often tell consumers that quality attic insulation pays for itself twice. The first time is on a monthly basis when you receive a lower utility bill. The second time occurs when you sell your home.

If you have quality attic insulation, you will not provide an opportunity for a home inspector to find a flaw in your home, which often becomes a point of negotiation by the buyer for a reduced sale price.

Is there anything else I should consider having done in my attic?

Duct sealing. Duct leakage is as big of a problem as insulation. At Advantage Home Performance we seal and repair ductwork. We are a licensed HVAC contractor. APS and SRP provide a generous rebate for duct sealing. We have provided a short article on this topic called: Duct Leakage.

What products should I avoid having installed in my attic?

  • Radiant barriers
  • Powered attic fans

For more information on both of these products, please see the short articles titled: Radiant Barriers and Powered Attic Fans.

Why should a crew get paid on an hourly basis and not piece rate?

At advantage Home Performance we pay our retrofit crews on an hourly basis and not a piece rate or square foot basis, so they will focus on doing a quality job. Piece rate puts the customer’s needs for a quality job against the installer’s needs to make a living.

By paying our crews hourly they show more respect for your home. They are cleaner and more conscientious while blowing insulation around your mechanical system if it is located in the attic.

How much attic insulation is enough?

Your attic should be brought up to at least an R-38.

Material Inches to achieve R-38
Blown Cellulose 10.5″
Blown Fiberglass 15.0″

What kind of attic insulation is the best?

Properly installed insulation is the best insulation. Any insulation material that is installed poorly will not achieve its rated R-value. We blow both cellulose insulation and blown fiberglass insulation and both products work well when installed correctly.

How long does a typical job take?

Generally, no more than one day on houses that are 3000 square feet or less. It also depends on the extent of the problems that need to be addressed.

My access is in my closet – will you keep my clothes clean?

Our crews will cover your clothes with plastic. We will install an insulation dam around your attic access so blown insulation will not fall into your closet every time the access is opened. This is another reason why we pay our installers hourly. It slows our installers down so they can do a thorough job prepping your home.

How important is contractor selection?

Ask yourself this quick question. Are you going to go up in the attic and inspect the insulation when the crew is done? Odds are you won’t. Almost no one ever does. This is why contractor selection is critical. You are counting on the company you will hire do the work correctly.

Having your attic reinsulated is not like having tile installed in your foyer or carpet in your living room. You can watch the tile and carpet be installed and carefully study the final product for installation defects. Character is one of the key credentials. Take a moment and watch the short video, The Company Culture Difference.

Why should I trust Advantage Home Performance?

Advantage Home Performance has a long history of championing quality insulation practices. In 2001 Mike Uniacke, the owner of Advanced Home Performance, was featured as a consumer advocate and insulation expert on a Date Line NBC expose that was critical of insulation industry. He also wrote the article, Cheating the Insulation’s Industry’s Secret, in Nov/Dec 2000 issue of Home Energy Magazine.

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