As we’re gearing up for the cooler weather, it’s important to make sure your home has the proper insulation.
A well-insulated home keeps the warm air inside and helps lower your energy bills.
While there are many kinds to choose from, including cellulose, mineral wool and polyurethane or spray foam, the most common (as well as economical and environmentally friendly) types are blown, loose-fill and batten.
To help figure out what works best for your home, we asked Sal Ciarlo, Technical Services Manager for Owens Corning Canada.
But before we discuss the benefits of blown versus batten or loose-fill, you need to pick a location to insulate.
The best place to insulate – for both ease and cost savings – is the attic. A properly insulated attic can save you anywhere from 10 to 50 percent off your energy bill, and adding insulation there doesn’t require any structural changes.
The other common place to add insulation is the basement – especially if it’s unfinished – though you wouldn’t use blown (or loose-fill) in that case.
Batten insulation is made up of large pieces of insulation – either cotton or fibreglass – pre-manufactured at the correct thickness to give you the R-value indicated on the packaging, says Ciarlo.
Compress it in any way and you risk damaging it – and lowering its R-value.
What is R-value?
In layman’s terms, R-value is a measurement of insulation’s effectiveness. “The higher the R-value,” Ciarlo says, “the slower you’ll lose heat in the wintertime or cool air in the summer.” A higher R-value also helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from your home.
Blown insulation is loose-fill fibreglass insulation that comes in bags that must be blown into a space using a special machine. Its R-value depends on the amount of blown-in insulation used. Using a chart you can calculate how many bags you’ll need to fill your attic to your desired R-value, based on its square footage. In some attics, when there’s lots of things in the way, it can be easier to blow in insulation to ensure a continuous layer as opposed to batts.
And, if you’ve got obstructions such as wiring or ventilation or have difficult-to-reach areas, it can be challenging to cut and fit your batts into every space without any gaps or voids. In that case, you’ll get more continuity with blown-in insulation – without any gaps.
Loose-fill by Hand
Another loose-fill option is spreading it by hand. There’s no machine-rental required, making it both quiet and simple.
Whether you choose batts, blown or loose-fill, however, if at the right thickness, they’ll all provide the same level of performance. With loose-fill, however, be sure not to cover your soffit vents and always allow for proper airflow in your attic.
Do It Yourself: Yea or Nay?
Many brands of insulation are intended for homeowners to apply themselves. Even in terms of cost, they don’t differ all that much. Contrary to what you may think, blown-in insulation costs less than batts, even factoring in the price of renting an insulation-blowing machine. Batten insulation is pre-cut with a binder added to hold it together, which results in a greater cost. If you hire a contractor or installer to do it for you, however, blown-in insulation will cost you more than batten.
The only other difference with batten insulation is that you can only achieve an R-value in multiples of your batten insulation. In other words, if your batts have an R-value of R-20, you can only increase your attic’s R-value by multiples of 20 (R-40, R-60, etc.). With loose-fill, you can add as much R-value as you want. You can even add more insulation later to augment your existing insulation.
How Much is Enough?
So how much R-value is enough for your home, given that we do live in Canada? “So long as you
maintain your ventilation and don’t block off any electrical or vent access,” says Ciarlo, “you should go as high as you can – R-50 or R-60.”
Thinking of upgrading? Visit your local store if you need help or have any questions. They’d be happy to help you!