The daffodils are blooming, my eleven-year-old is wearing shorts, and my husband is talking about cleaning our screened porch, and I'm having nagging thoughts about temperture extremes, so my exploration of home insulation continues. I've picked up more information I thought I'd pass along in case you, like me, want to plan ahead for very cold or hot weather.
The two most important things we learned are that you should determine by infrared testing how much insulation exists in your house and what conditions it's in, and, if you invest in insulation, start from the top down. (Other tips for saving money during the cold weather are to invest in a good digital indoor thermometer and to turn the heat down one degree for every hour you're all out of the house—up to eight degrees.)
We had a representative from a local insulation company over a few weeks ago, and he told us that we probably had no insulation between our indoor and outdoor walls (see earlier story).
This should have peeked my curiosity right away, since he didn't examine any of our walls with an infrared light (the one sure way to find out what, besides the wall itself, stands between you and the great outdoors). But I was a bit off my game, and didn't press him on the point. Well, late last week we met with a representative from a different company, and he shed some more light on our insulation situation.
Armed with infrared, he went all through the house and told us that we definitely had insulation between our walls. In some areas the insulation had clearly settled, but it was there. Out biggest problem, he discerned, was that we didn't have much insulation in the third floor attic area. Basically, our house is wearing a coat, but no hat. And since heat rises, that wasn't good news for us.
He said a lot of our heat was escaping from the top floor and that we needed to fix that problem. In fairness, the first insulation specialist (I'll call him #1)also thought we should put more insulation on the third floor, but our second installer (I'll call him #2) was more emphatic that properly insulating the third floor would be, by far, the best way to help our house retain our ever-more-expensive heat or air conditioning.
If we want to address the shifting wall insulation downstairs at a later date, that would be fine. But the biggest bang for our buck would be to start from the top and work our way down, since we were told that about 80 percent of heat is lost through the top of a building.
#2 suggested insulating the interior walls of the third floor office space with cellulose (basically old newspaper) treated with boric acid. (#1 recommended using fiberglass on the third floor attic space, but didn't really address the closed space on the other side of our third floor office). #2 told us that if we use cellulose insulation to make sure it is treated with pure boric acid because sometimes other, cheaper, less effective chemicals are mixed in with the boric acid and they might not be as good a fire retardant. Good advise.
The best news our second visitor gave us was the price. We wanted to see what we could do for $1,000—but we didn't tell either of our visiting installers that. Well, #2's estimate, at $1,200 came fairly close, after the 30 percent tax credit I mentioned in my earlier story. Our previous installer gave us a verbal estimate of about $2,070 ($2,875 less the 30 percent credit) for the third floor. With the money we save using our second installer, which is over $800, we can have some real fun decorating that third floor space!
I'll keep you posted on how this project goes. Let me know if you have any specific questions you'd like answered.