Sealing and Insulation
Sealing and Insulation
Air sealing is among the best ways to minimize energy costs. It also improves the indoor air quality in your home, ensures better soundproofing, and increases the longevity of your heating and cooling systems. Join the Conejo Valley team as we explore the basics of home air sealing and why you should combine it with insulation.
What is Air Sealing
Air sealing is identifying and sealing gaps in a building envelope to reduce or eliminate air leakage.
Air leakage occurs when air enters or leaves through a building’s openings, ranging from nearly invisible cracks to large holes. During winter, indoor heated air escapes outside while cool air penetrates your home. The vice-versa holds during summer. Ultimately, it becomes challenging to maintain a stable indoor temperature, a state that compromises your home comfort. Moisture can penetrate ceilings and walls through the gaps, leading to a mold problem that puts the building’s occupants at health risk besides costing a bunch of money to resolve.
Home air sealing comes in here.
But the question is, can you air seal a home yourself? Sure, you can try, but it is generally discouraged. You see, air sealing is a highly technical and a time-consuming task. Poorly done air sealing increases the risk of overtightening and unbalanced airflow. As such, generating the most effective results requires the intervention of an experienced technician with vast knowledge of air movement in homes.
What can you expect from professional home air sealing? The expert, most likely an insulation contractor, first conducts an energy audit using various tools and techniques such as thermal detectors, blower door test, infrared imaging, or building pressurization test. Once they pinpoint the problem areas, they can use different methods, including foam spray insulation, weather stripping, and caulking, to seal your house.
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Why You Should Seal and Insulate Your Home
Whereas you can air seal your home without insulation, you only complete half the job, meaning you reap 50% of the benefits.
Air sealing and insulation work together to deliver the best results. While air sealing serves as a windbreaker to stop excess airflow, we can liken insulation to the down lining in a winter coat as it locks in cool air in summer and warm air in winter. Whole-house air sealing alone can slash total air infiltration by 25%.
Air sealing + home insulation combo is the most effective way to improve energy savings and cut energy costs in your home. According to the EPA, home air sealing combined with insulation in attic, crawl spaces, and basement rim joists can deliver an average of 15% savings on heating and cooling costs or 11% on total energy costs. Considering that the average home spends $2,000 in energy bills per year, the annual savings could be $200.
RESIDENTIAL & COMMERCIAL INSULATION
Types of Insulation
Home insulation comes in a variety of forms. No two types of insulation are equal, with their effectiveness depending on the insulation’s suitability to your application and climate and how well the job is done. Here are top factors to consider when choosing the right insulation type for your home:
- The part being insulated: Different insulation types are more suitable for particular parts of a home than others.
- Your location’s R-value: R-value denotes insulation’s effectiveness to prevent heat loss. Recommended R-values vary with geographical locations and climates.
- Flammability: If your area is prone to fire hazards, make sure to install fire-resistant insulation.
- Your budget: If the scope of your project is large, the cost difference between different insulation types can be substantial. But remember that insulation pays for itself over time with energy cost savings.
With that in mind, let us delve into the various forms of home insulation:
» Spray Foam Insulation
Also known as foamed-in-place insulation, spray foam is a polyurethane-based liquid foam injected, or foamed-in or sprayed to target spaces where it expands and hardens into effective insulation and sealing material.
Foam spray insulation is costlier than other insulation options but has a higher R-value, offering twice as much insulation power as batt insulation. It can create an effective weather-resistant seal around your house, cutting back heat losses and saving you money on weatherizing options such as caulking.
There are two forms of foam spray insulation: closed-cell and open-cell.
Open-cell foam has cells deliberately left open to make a softer and more flexible insulation material. Contrarily, closed-cell foam consists of cells pressed together to prevent air and moisture penetration. Open-cell foam is much cheaper than closed-cell foam, but it has lower insulating power, making it unfit for regions with extreme weather temperatures. In comparison with closed-cell foam, open-cell foam is not water-resistant and lacks structural value.
What makes open-cell foam a popular option for insulating and air sealing homes is its enormous expansion, meaning it can seal the tightest of gaps throughout your home. It also boasts superior soundproofing properties.
Closed-cell foam insulation offers a typical R-value of R-6.0-6.5, almost double the heat resistance power of open-cell foam insulation. Due to its high density and strength, closed-cell foam is the only insulation that enhances a building’s structural integrity. The compressed cells do not allow water and vapor to penetrate or pass through the material.
» Batt or Roll Insulation
Batt/roll insulation is among the most popular options for attic, ceiling, and drywall insulation. It is typically made from glass fiber, rock wool, and slag wool. Fiberglass is the most common batt insulation material.
Batts are installed in pieces, while rolls are unwound and applied in long strips. The standardized sizes allow the batts and rolls to fit between regular joists, studs, and beams, offering a commendable barrier against air leakage and conduction heat losses. What’s more, they are relatively affordable, DIY-friendlier, and easy to transport.
It is crucial to ensure the rolls and batts snugly fit between the joists. Note that readjusting the pre-cut prices may cause compression, thus compromising the insulation’s performance.
The standard sizes of batts may not match every home’s design. It becomes trickier if your house has complicated architectural designs, which may require the intervention of an insulation pro. Besides, it can be awkward to fit the pieces around electrical wires. All in all, installing batts the right way requires the patience of Biblical Job.
Insulation batts can be faced or unfaced. Unfaced insulation batts provide insulation only. Faced insulation has a Kraft paper lining that keeps away moisture and vapor.
Batt insulation provides a low R-value, ranging between R-2.9 and R-3.8 per inch. Depending on where you live, you might need to install several layers to achieve your desired R-value.
» Loose-Fill Insulation
Also known as blown-in insulation, loose-fill insulation is another common type of insulation supplied in bags of cellulose, mineral wool, or fiberglass fibers.
Blown-in insulation is environmentally friendly and reusable. You can vacuum existing cellulose or fiberglass by readjusting the blower to suck in (rather than spit out) the material and relocate it as needed.
Loose-fill fiberglass insulation is manufactured from recycled glass fibers whose primary raw materials are silica sand, soda ash, and limestone. Its heat resistance rating (R-value) ranges between R-2.2 and R-2.7 per inch.
Cellulose loose-fill insulation comprises shredded, recycled paper products, primarily discarded newsprint treated. Manufacturers often treat it with fire-retardant (mainly boric acid) to prevent the ignition and spread of fire. It offers an average R-value of R-3.5 per inch.
As implied earlier, installing blown-in insulation involves blowing the materials into the building cavities using an insulation blower machine. During this operation, the machine feeds acts as a reverse vacuum. Completing this project requires at least two individuals. One person feeds the material into the blower while the other guides the tubing around the target spaces.
Loose-fill insulation does an excellent job of filling spaces and gaps not optimally sealed by batts and rolls. However, it is unsuitable for draughty areas as constant airflow can shift the material around, leading to poor performance. Note that cellulose blown-in insulation is pretty vulnerable to mold, so have your home sealed well and resolve any water issues before insulating.
» Rigid Foam Boards
Foam boards consist of thick sheets of closed-cell foam that are much stronger than batts or blanket rolls. They are available in different materials and thicknesses, with most options providing exceptional heat resistance. As a result, you can apply the boards virtually anywhere in your home. However, they can deteriorate with extended exposure to UV rays.
Foam boards insulation comes in three types:
- Polyisocyanurate (polyiso): It is available with a radiant barrier and offers R-6.5 -6.8 per inch. Polyiso-based foam is the costliest of the three options; however, it performs poorly in colder temperatures.
- Extruded polystyrene (XPS): It is a blue/pink, water-resistant foam with an average R-value of R-5.0 per inch.
- Expanded polystyrene (EPS): With an average R-value of R-3.8 per inch, EPS has similar properties as XPS but has the lowest R-value, structural strength, and cost of the three choices.
Advantages of rigid foam insulation include:
- High resistance to conductive heat flow per unit thickness
- Available in eco-friendly options like straw, wood, and cork
- The large, solid sheets make the insulation DIY-friendlier
- You can improve their overall appearance with plasterboards
» Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)
SIPs are prefabricated panels comprising two outer OSBs (oriented strand boards) with a foam insulation layer between them. Offering 12%-14% energy savings, these composite panels come in various shapes and sizes with a typical thickness of 4-8 inches. R-values range from R-2.7 and R-6.0, depending on the type and thickness of the insulation layer. Available are boric acid-treated panels that deter insects and pests. Some options incorporate fire-rated materials like gypsum boards to slow down fire spread and give building occupants enough time to evacuate safely. ISP insulation is exceptionally airtight. You must therefore install a controlled fresh-air ventilation system to meet building codes and safety standards. Rodents and insects can penetrate ISP panels. Below are a few remedies to the issue:
- Treat the panels with insecticide
- Spray the ground with insecticide before and after initial construction
- Keep indoor humidity levels below 50%
- Trim overhanging tree limbs
- Keep outdoor plants at least two feet away from the walls
Benefits of Home Air Sealing and Insulation
- Increased comfort: Insulation coupled with sealing cracks and openings minimize drafts and cold spots, improving your home’s comfort.
- Reduced energy wastage and heating costs: With proper home insulation and air sealing, your HVAC equipment does not have to overwork to maintain your thermostat’s desired temperatures. Your cooling and heating systems spend less energy to keep your home comfortable, meaning you pay lower energy bills.
- Improved indoor air quality: Home air sealing and insulation control airflow and vapor, minimizing airborne contaminants penetrating your home and lurking in your duct system.
- Less moisture problems: Air leaks elevate indoor humidity levels, causing mold growth and negatively impacting your house’s structural integrity. Sealing and insulation close the gaps to reduce humidity and condensation.
- Increased home value: Being effective energy-efficiency initiatives, home insulation and air sealing can make an incredible difference in your home’s appeal to potential buyers.
What is the Average Cost of Sealing Your Home?
Air sealing home costs range between $600 and $2,300, with most homeowners spending around $1,450. Out of this range, $100-$1000 accounts for labor, while the rest covers the cost of materials.
» Home Air Sealing Price by Method
There are several techniques to air seal a home. Below are the associated costs:
|Air Sealing Method
|$1.15-$3.50/ linear foot
» Air Sealing Cost by Home Section
Air sealing can set you back $200-$4,000, depending on the leakage’s location. On average, sealing attic air leaks ranges between $800 and $3,500, while duct sealing costs around $300. Basement sealing is the most expensive, costing between $800 and $4,000. The average cost to seal the walls (exterior or interior) ranges between $200 and $1,500.
Make Your Home Cozier and Save on Energy Bills with Conejo Valley Home Services
Do you need help energy-auditing or insulating your Conejo Valley home against air leakages and external weather elements? Conejo Valley Home Services can help. We are a reliable, licensed, bonded insulation company specializing in blown-in cellulose and fiberglass batt & blown-in insulation for residential and commercial settings.
We serve the Conejo Valley and nearby communities at competitive and transparent pricing. Our highly experienced and respectful experts will guide you through every step and install high-performance insulation that maximizes comfort and energy savings. Call Our Insulation Expert today at 805-499-0448 to learn more or receive a free estimate for your next residential or commercial insulation project.