While previous generations may have been content to live in drafty houses, most people now want comfortable warm houses. A healthy house today is well sealed, well insulated and properly ventilated.
A well-insulated house is a bit like dressing for the weather. A wool sweater will keep you warm if the wind is not blowing and it is not raining. On a windy, rainy day, wearing a nylon shell over your wool sweater helps keep you reasonably dry and warm. A house is similar. On the outside, underneath the brick or siding, there is an air barrier that does the same thing as the nylon — it keeps the wind from blowing through. Then there is the insulation (like your sweater) and a vapour barrier, which helps keep moisture away from the house structure where it can do damage.
Signs of Insulation Problems
In the winter
- walls cold to touch
- cold floors
- high heating costs
- uneven heating levels within building
- mold growing on walls
In the summer
- uncomfortably hot inside air
- high cooling costs
- ineffectiveness of air conditioning system
- mold growing in basement
R values and their metric equivalent, RSI values, are a way of labelling the effectiveness of insulating materials. The higher the R value or RSI value, the more resistance the material has to the movement of heat. Insulation products sold in Canada are labelled with R and RSI values. Provincial building codes specify minimum R (or RSI) values for new construction, with different values for different applications. It is important to know what your local building code requires when planning new construction.
Note: The way the insulation is installed plays a large role in its effectiveness. Compressing the insulation, leaving air spaces around the insulation and allowing air movement in the insulation all reduce the actual R value of the insulation.
Is it Cost Effective to Insulate?
The right insulation system can save you money, reduce the amount of energy you use and make your home more comfortable. Keep in mind that installation costs (including changes to the framing, cladding, and finishes) are usually the most expensive part of an insulation project. The local climate has an impact on the cost-effectiveness of any insulating project.
Check the cost, heat loss and heat gain of all available options. Review all details to ensure that moisture movement is handled correctly. You can then select the right insulating system. When in doubt, consult a professional.
The Final Analysis
If your home is poorly insulated, it usually pays to upgrade the insulation. If you are building a new home, it makes sense to insulate well now, so you don’t need to retrofit later.