Home Insulation, R-Values, and Inexpensive Ways To Increase R-Values

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Probably the easiest and most cost-effective way of saving on heating (and AC) costs is through the addition of insulation. To know where insulation is needed, refer to the map and chart shown at the bottom of this page. And keep in mind that batts of fiberglass typically results in an R-Value of 3.14 per inch or about R-19 for a six inch thick batt. So a 4" (3.5" actual) wall will have an R-value of about 11 to 13, which is inadequate in most all climates.

In our home, the problem was even worse as we have 4" walls that had some very old, compacted and broken up, rock wool insulation, and no wind/vapor barrier. So I increased the thickness of my walls by removing the drywall and old insulation, adding furring strips, and installing 6" batts of new insulation along with a vapor barrier. I have previously documented this whole process by writing an article for a site and you can see all the details of converting your 4" walls to energy-saving 6" walls here. Believe me, it is like night and day comparing how our home (in the half with thicker walls) to what it used to be like! So far, I have done 50% of our home but am currently working on our south living room wall - I will post video of that project when I have it ready. The cost on our south living room wall will be about $200 (no new windows), but I expect to recover that within a year or two. I have completed most of this new project and have posted on this at the Energy Blog, along with a link to the video!

Insulating Above Basement Walls

Another sometimes overlooked place of heat loss is the space above a basement wall that is below your floor. Since there is only 1.5 inches of wood between you and the outdoors, you only have an R-value of 2 and heat will quickly move through this "weak spot", resulting in icy cold floors too! In the photo shown to the right, I am stuffing a batt into a space above a wall. I had to cut away part of the basement ceiling, but I was able to nail and glue the ceiling tile back up, patch up with some joint compound, and make the ceiling look as good as new. This is such an easy fix - just cut batts of 6" thick insulation and stuff them in! Cost is about $50, probably recovered in a season.

insulation batt

CLIMATE MAP

R-Value Chart
Map and Chart Used With Permission From US Department of Energy

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