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Insulation & Air Sealing

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It is conventional wisdom that a house must have an adequate amount of insulation if it is to be energy efficient and comfortable.

That said, insulation alone is not the answer. More and more attention is being paid to a complimentary improvement called “air sealing”.

Simply stated, air sealing is the use of insulating foam and other methods to block the entrance or escape of air from your home.

We’re talking here about big leaks. While the small cracks around windows and door are intuitively troublesome, far more worrying are the massive leaks of air through structural components such as plumbing and flue chases, recessed lights, electrical penetrations, whole house fans and attic hatches. These ‘big’ leaks are hard for most homeowners to diagnose and fix and can be up to 20 times more wasteful than all of the minor and obvious leaks throughout a house.

SmartHouse believes (and the US Department of Energy agrees) that the installation of insulation alone is a marginal improvement and that air sealing should be incorporated in nearly every house.

The following process is recommended:

  1. Perform testing of the house to measure and find air leakage. Thjs testing includes a blower door test, thermal imaging and a combustion safety test.
  2. Install air sealing measures to prevent the unwanted entrance or exit of air.
  3. THEN, install insulation in the proper quantity.
  4. Repeat testing to verify effectiveness and safety.

Here are a few tips:

  • Air sealing cannot be performed without blower door testing or combustion safety testing. These steps are necessary to assure that the house always maintains enough air exchange for its occupants. If a contractor says they can seal your house without testing, you should run the other way.
  • Insulation needs to be installed properly to be effective. Even small gaps can result in dramatically reduce effectiveness. If you covered 98% of your attic correctly, but left 2% exposed, your insulation’s performance would be reduced to 58%.
  • More insulation is not always better. There is a point of diminishing return beyond which your investment may not be worthwhile.
 
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