The fourth quarter of the calendar year means different things to different people, from parents sending their kids back to school to business owners trying to end their annual revenues on a strong note. But if you're a homeowner, the first falling leaves of autumn signal seasonal challenges for your home's insulation. Here are some potential issues you need to think about and plan for before they can spring any unpleasant surprises on you.
Rising Utility Costs
Autumn may not be able to compete with winter in the frigidity department, but in many parts of the country it can still put the frost on the proverbial pumpkin. If your home's insulation isn't up to the challenge, you may start seeing significantly higher utility bills long before winter officially hits. Taking a proactive approach to beefing up your insulation now could result in both a more comfortable and a more affordable autumn and winter.
How much attic insulation does a home need to combat the cooler temperatures? Insulation contractors use products rated for a specific degree of thermal resistance, or R-value. Each product has a particular numerical value that indicates its R-value; if you put down multiple layers of the material, you can calculate the total R-value by adding up the R-value of each layer. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends different R-value ranges for different parts of the country, as displayed on a zoned chart. If you live in a warm region like Southern Florida, for instance, you might need no more than R30 insulation in your attic -- but if you're in Northern Minnesota, you'd better make sure you have an attic insulation R-value of R49 to R60.
As the fall temperatures drop, the pest population in your attic may rise. Mice, rats, squirrels and even raccoons like nothing more than a soft, warm bed of insulation to nestle their families in, even if they have to shred large portions of that insulation in the process. While these creatures are ruining your insulation, they're also presenting a potential rabies risk to your loved ones -- so take steps to prevent your attic from becoming pest motel.
Even tiny holes in your roofing, walls or other structures can allow some pests to gain access to your insulation. If this is your problem, then the best defense may be more insulation -- in the form of foam insulation sprayed into the gaps to provide a seal. (This strategy also conveys the fringe benefit of making your home that much more energy efficient.) Insulation contractors can perform this task while they're inspecting your attic insulation for signs of damage. You should also schedule a pest control professional to perform a separate inspection and eliminate any vermin in the attic space.
Seasonal Structural Changes
When you consider your home's insulation, don't forget to look at the efficiency of your doors and windows at sealing your home's interior away from the outside world. As the weather starts to get cooler and dryer, wooden doors and window sills may shrink or crack, making the rubber weather stripping along their edges less effective at providing a thermal/vapor barrier. If you can feel warm air escaping or cool air coming in around the doors and windows, now's the time to caulk up the gaps and replace old, worn-out, or insufficient seals.
If you really want to get scientific about finding all the little gaps and cracks that leak indoor air and welcome outdoor air, find a local home improvement company that provides an energy audit. These inspections use advanced diagnostic devices such as digital surface thermometers and infrared monitors to track down the precise sources of your energy leakage.
Enjoy the most economical and comfortable seasonal transition possible this year by taking action to get your insulation in order. Contact your local insulation contractors, like those at Mincin Insulation Service Inc., and other professionals while the weather's still on your side!