Insulation for a Comfortable Home

Article by: John Watkins, Nashville Home Inspection, February 2013 Tips

Insulation-Post-1Half of the energy used to heat or cool a home can simply leak outside without proper insulation. Properly insulated homes make life more comfortable; lessen the impact of fossil fuels on the environment and saves money on heating and cooling bills. Some types of insulation can even make a home more soundproof.

Yet an adequately insulated house not only has enough insulation – it has the right type of insulation that has been installed correctly.

The resistance or R-Value of insulation is a measure of the insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it – the higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation.

The proper R-Value for home insulation is generally based on the geographical location of the home. In colder temperatures, the R-Value of insulation needs to be higher to block heat loss under very cold conditions.

Insulation-Post-2Excessively high energy bills are one way to determine whether adequate insulation is present. A less painful method is a visual inspection in the attic or the area above the ceiling joists. If it appears that insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, the area probably needs more insulation. If joists are covered by insulation, adding more is probably unnecessary. In addition, insulation should be uniformly distributed. A clearance of 3” around recessed lighting fixtures is needed and about 2” for flues. Attics and other areas require ventilation airflow at certain points and you never want to block this off with retrofitted insulation.

In recent years, attention has focused on the composition of such types of insulation, with some insulation containing asbestos and urea-formaldehyde. As a result, some homeowners are investigating more eco-friendly products including cotton, wool, straw, cellulose (paper) and even a soy bean spray.

Cotton insulation is made of 85% recycled cotton and 15% plastic fibers that have been treated with the fire-retardant borate. One company uses recycled blue jean manufacturing trim waste to produce their blue jean batts. Cotton insulation is nontoxic, and can be handled without gloves.

When used as insulation, sheep’s wool naturally resists pests, fire and mold. Its thermal resistance or R-Value of wool batts is higher than some cellulose, glass wool and mineral wool insulation types.

Insulation-Post-3Straw bale insulation is making a comeback from its popularity a century ago. The R-Value may be lower than is necessary in very cold climates but the straw boards are effective at sound-absorption.

The benefits of soy have long been touted in the food chain. Now soy has made the jump and is being adapted for use in a spray-foam insulation. The spray expands up to 100 times to fill in small spaces. The foam is light-weight and easy to direct, and is very resistant to mold and mildew.

AirKrete is another environmentally responsible, non-toxic insulation made from air, water and cement. It too can be foamed into open or closed cavities in walls, roofs and ceilings. When it is placed, it has a consistency similar to shaving cream, but hardens within days to form a barrier with a high R-Value.

Source: John Watkins, Nashville Home Inspection, February 2013 e-blast distribution | Blog, In The News, distribution provided by Kenneth Bargers and Bargers Solutions, member of Pilkerton Realtors, residential real estate services located in Nashville, Tennessee


Author: Kenneth Bargers

REALTOR®, Tennis Player, Titans, Vols & Preds Fan, Nashvillian... let's connect on Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter. -- contact Kenneth at

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