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GET COMFORTABLE WITH INSULATION
If you want to save money on your energy bill, adding insulation is probably a great choice. Insulation is the practice of using materials in ceilings, walls and floors to decrease the energy needed to keep a building comfortable. Proper insulation offers a year-round benefit, keeping buildings warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
Insulation is a win-win proposition. With it, you’ll cut back on your environmental impact and make your home or business more comfortable, too. You may also cut down on factors like exterior noise inside your home and moisture and condensation. Improving your insulation is one of the most time and cost-effective ways to save money and make your home or workplace more energy efficient.
- How does insulation work?
- What is “R-Value”?
- How much and what type of insulation should I install?
- How much does insulation cost?
- What rebates or incentives are available for insulation?
- Are there any laws or regulations I need to be aware of?
- Can I install insulation myself?
- What should I keep in mind if I’m hiring a contractor?
- How much money and energy will I save?
Warmer air naturally flows into cooler spaces. When you heat your home, that warm air is drawn toward the surrounding cooler places: adjacent unheated attics, basements and garages, for example. The opposite occurs in summer, with heat moving into the cooler interiors of your home. Insulation creates some resistance to this natural flow, reducing the amount of warm or cool air your furnace, air conditioner or evaporative cooler needs to replace. To maximize insulation effectiveness, a building should be insulated from top to bottom: the foundation, the floors, exterior walls, the HVAC system, and especially, the attic. In addition, insulation should meet U.S. Department of Energy R-Value recommendations. For more information:
View the U.S. Department of Energy Insulation Fact Sheet
Download the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers Booklet.
Insulation is rated by a term called “R-Value,” which is a measurement of a material’s resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation is at doing its job. Insulation can be installed in a new building as part of the building process or added to an existing building. The type and strength of insulation used in a building depends on a number of factors such as the building’s heating system and local building codes.
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends R-Values for buildings based on climate, type of heating or cooling system, and the section of the house you plan to insulate.
Recommended R-Values for Colorado
Homes with natural gas heat or heat pump: Attic R-49, Wall R-18, Floor R-25, Crawlspace R-19, Basement R-11
Homes with electric heat: Attic R-49, Wall R-22, Floor R-25, Crawlspace R-19, Basement R-19
A home energy audit can help you identify how much insulation your home currently has and where you need additional insulation. If you do not want to get an energy audit, you will need to determine how much insulation your home has before determining how much insulation to add.
For more information:
See the Department of Energy’s detailed instructions on how to determine how much insulation your home has.
Learn about types of insulation and their advantages with this chart.
The cost of insulation will vary based on the type and quantity of insulation that is needed and the size of your home. Costs will also vary depending on whether you hire a professional insulation contractor or install the insulation yourself.
You can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $2,500-$5,500 for a complete insulation job (attic and walls) on a typical family home.
There are a number of financial incentives and programs for insulation. Use the Energy Action Planner for additional information on financial incentives in your area.
If you are building a new home, be aware that The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) home insulation rule requires you to provide information on the type, thickness and R-value of the insulation that will be installed in each part of the house in every sales contract. In addition, many state or local building codes include minimum requirements for home insulation.
In addition, professionals installing insulation in existing homes must provide fact sheets to customers purchasing insulation products. They must also affirm coverage area, thickness and R-Value of the insulation installed with a signed receipt. In cases where loose-fill insulation is used, installers must also indicate the number of bags used. Make sure you read the section on what you should consider when hiring a contractor.
Depending on your experience level, time constraints and budget—and on the type of insulation desired—you may be able to do it yourself. Keep in mind that self-installation projects don’t qualify for many incentive programs.
For more information:
For general tips, including what to ask a potential contractor, how to compare bids and how to monitor quality, please visit the How to Hire a Contractor page.
Depending on your experience level, time constraints and budget—and on the type of insulation desired—using a contractor may be the right choice for you.
In addition to the general tips on our How to Hire a Contractor page, you may need to consider some specific issues when hiring a contractor for this particular kind of work. Here are some additional things to keep in mind when choosing a contractor:
- Get quotes from more than one provider; make sure the quotes include any certification information.
- Obtain cost estimates from several contractors for your desired R-Valve.
- Do not be surprised to find the quoted prices to vary 100% or more.
- Consider whether or not you want the contractor to include air sealing measures in their work. Ask if they can provide those services. You’ll want to complete any air sealing work before the insulation is installed, especially in the attic.
- Ask your contractor how they will ensure that the work is compliant with the incentive program requirements you may qualify for.
- There aren’t any required certifications or licensing by law in the state to do this work, but you should check with the Industry Certifications page to familiarize yourself with the types of industry certifications you may see when you are doing your search.
- If lead paint may exist in your home, ask what precautions will be taken.
Once you have chosen a contractor, make sure you keep in mind the following:
- Your contract should include:
- Warranty information provided by the insulation material manufacturer
- The type of insulation to be used and where it will be used
- A specific R-Value listed for each type of insulation
- Details about how the R-Value was calculated for your home and your particular climate
- Avoid contracts with:
- Vague language such as R-Value with the terms "plus or minus," "+ or -," "average" or "nominal"
- Job quotes in thickness only. The R-Value measures how well a material insulates, not thickness
- Make sure the contractor provides you with product labels for each package of insulation used. This will allow you to verify the R-Value as well as how many packages were used. The package should tell you how many bags are required for the area to be insulated. For loose-fill attic insulation, ask your contractor to attach rulers to the joists prior to insulation so you can ensure the correct depth is installed.
- Keep in mind that professionals installing insulation in existing homes must provide fact sheets to customers purchasing insulation products. They must also affirm coverage area, thickness and R-Value of the insulation installed with a signed receipt. In cases where loose-fill insulation is used, installers must also indicate the number of bags used.
For more information:
To search a list of contractors in your area provided by the Better Business Bureau, visit the Energy Action Planner, right on this site.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that homeowners can typically save up to 20% of heating and cooling costs and about 10% of total energy costs with proper insulation and air sealing.
Many factors will influence the amount of energy you conserve, including local climate; building size, shape and construction; use habits; heating and cooling efficiency, and type of fuel used. In the long run, installing proper insulation will pay for itself—and save you money, especially as utility rates go up.
For more information:
Estimate the payback period of additional insulation here.