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Insulation: Everything You Need to Know

Insulation is a crucial aspect of a home’s heating and cooling systems. 

Whether you’re planning to install a heating or cooling system, it’s best to examine the condition of your home insulation and make improvements first. 

A home with excellent insulation maximizes the efficiency of its heating and cooling system, as insulation ensures that energy is not lost in the home unnecessarily. 

Skipping this step is a costly mistake you can’t afford to make if you don’t want to spend unnecessarily on covering the energy needs of your home due to a badly insulated house.

Insulation helps keep the house warm during the winter and cold during the summer, hence saving energy. 

The Energy Saving Trust reports that a three-bedroom semi-detached house can save up to £300 on energy bills through adequate installation.

This guide walks you through all you need to know about insulation and shows you the different measures that can help you improve your home thermal efficiency.

What Is Home Insulation?

Home insulation is a way of reducing energy loss in the house. It prevents the house from getting too cold in the winter and getting too warm in the summer. 

Other than this, insulation is a great way to minimize noise pollution. Insulating a house reduces the need for adding additional heating and cooling. 

Again, insulation helps save money, and how much the improvement can save depends on the type of insulation and the house’s size. 

Also, the house’s age contributes to the amount of money insulation can save in a home. It’s interesting to know that insulation requires no planning permission. 

Also, insulation is a great investment since it’ll pay back. 

Modern houses built in the UK are built to excellent insulation standards, while old houses require a lot of improvements regarding insulation. 

Different options are available when it comes to improving a home’s energy efficiency. 

An old house is prone to losing heat in all directions and requires integral insulation to keep the heat in it.

Parts of the building that need insulation include the wall, the roof, doors, and windows. The wall should come first since a typical UK home loses 30% to 40% of its heat through the wall. 

The windows and doors come next with 20%. Another important area of the house to insulate is the floor. 

What Are Insulators Made of?

Insulators are of different materials and qualities, and which is best for your house depends on the part of the house to be insulated. 

Some insulators are made of wool with tiny pockets of air while some are made of fabrics, such as cotton and hemp, meaning that strong curtains can function as a home’s insulator.

Also, some insulators are wood-based, such as wooden doors, which help keep the house warm. Another common insulator is spray foam solutions, which are more suitable for roof tiles.

Types of Insulation 

As mentioned earlier, different options are available when considering the parts of the house to insulate. Here’re the common parts of the house that need insulation:

Wall insulation

Wall insulation should come first before considering other parts of the house. Also, two options are available for wall insulation, and which one is best for your wall depends on your wall type:

a) Cavity wall insulation: is done by filling the gaps between the inner and outer leaf of the wall. Holes are drilled into the wall and insulators are inserted. The holes are later refilled with cement.

b) Solid wall insulation: here, there is no cavity to insulate. The only option available is to go for either internal or external insulation. While internal insulation means insulating inner rooms, external insulation covers the façade of the house.

Roof insulation

a) Warm loft: involves installing the insulation material immediately under the roof. Though this is an excellent choice for high efficiency, it’s expensive.

b) Cold loft: the insulation material is installed immediately above the ceiling.

Window and door insulation

When insulating the window, the common option is to double-glaze the windows and doors. Double glazing here means, using two layers of glasses spaced millimeters apart instead of one. 

This helps reduce heat loss and gain and also minimizes noise pollution.

Floor insulation

Since this is usually not a cheap investment, you must be sure if you really need it before venturing into it, and this depends on your floor type. 

Modern houses might not require floor insulation as they have some insulators installed already. However, older buildings need this improvement more. 

One common option available for floor insulation is placing good rugs everywhere in the home. This enhances a great feeling when walking.

What Is Next?

Once you have made your home energy efficient by insulating it, the next thing you’ll want to consider is to go for a renewable source of electricity. 

A green energy system helps reduce how much you spend on your heating and cooling systems, cutting back energy bills. 

While you pay less to run this system and save money with it, it also helps reduce your household’s carbon footprint.

Green energy systems are eligible for government incentives, such as the Smart Export Guarantee and the Green Home Grants. 

Renewable systems you can consider include solar water heating, heat pumps, and solar panels. 

Where to insulate

Again, older homes have more concerns for insulation than modern homes. 

Older homes don’t have proper insulation installed, and installing this helps keep them warm or cold as appropriate, saving money on energy bills. 

It’s a great decision to know where to insulate before venturing into the project. Knowing where to insulate comes with checking the level of existing insulation of the property. 

Checking for existing insulators in the house calls for hiring a qualified home energy auditor who performs an energy assessment on the property. 

This assessment also lets you know which areas of your home need air sealing. 

Note that proper air sealing should come before insulation.

However, you can assess your home yourself without calling an energy auditor. The following are the points to examine your property to know where to insulate:

  • Where your home is located
  • What parts of the home are insulated already
  • The thickness/depth and the R-value of the existing insulation

You might not need to pass through this if your property is new. You can get the information from your builder. 

Also, it should be noted that the R-value of an insulator is not a measure of its thickness. 

Inspecting the Home for Existing Insulation

Check the walls, attic, and floors adjacent to an unheated space, such as a basement or garage. You can clearly notice the structural elements in these areas. 

This lets you know what type of insulation you have installed and measure the thickness and depth.

You can also inspect the wall for insulation through the power outlet. To do this, switch off the power outlet and remove its cover.

Using a flashlight, look into the wall through the small holes in the outlet. This lets you see if any insulation is installed and what type it is. 

If possible, pulling out a small amount of the insulation lets you know which type it is.

Note that finding insulation in your wall doesn’t mean other areas of the house are insulated. Hence, you still have to check for existing insulation in other areas of the building. 

You can check for insulation in unfinished works, such as unfinished walls, crawlspace, and basement ceilings. Unventilated crawlspace might means insulation in the perimeter wall. 

Most new houses have insulation outside the foundation wall. This makes it difficult to access the existing insulation and the builder can say if exterior insulation was installed.

Having checked for the type and thickness of your insulation, the next step is to know the R-value of the insulation you have installed on your property. 

You can check the U.S. Department of Energy’s Insulation sheet for metrics on calculating the R-value of your home’s insulation.

Determining Recommended R-Values

Once you find out the R-values of your property’s insulation, either from your inspection or your builder, your next step of action is to use the 

Home Energy Saver tool to calculate how much insulation you need for certain areas of the home.

Estimating Costs and Payback

Other than providing R-values, the Home Energy Saver calculator is also an excellent tool for calculating rates of return on insulation.

How much does home insulation cost?

Depending on which area to insulate, the cost of insulation varies and is usually not cheap. 

However, it should be noted that insulation is an excellent improvement to consider for a home, especially old buildings. 

A research carried out on 1,200 homebuyers showed that good insulation is the second factor that homebuyers look for when buying a house, while the orientation of the sun comes first. 

Homes with excellent insulation and high energy efficiency attract higher prices when put up for sale. 

The cost of insulation also depends on the size of the house. The cost of insulating an average three-bedroom house ranges from £2,500 to £4,500 for ceiling and floor insulation.

Do I need insulation?

Again, whether you need insulation for your home depends on the existing insulation in the home. 

While most modern homes are standard with insulation, older buildings require investing in insulators. 

As such, if you don’t have insulation already, investing in this improvement is an excellent move you won’t regret. 

Insulation helps reduce your energy bills by keeping your property warm and cool when appropriate.

What are R-Values?

The R-value of an insulator is the efficiency of the material in resisting heat flow. In other words, the R-value of a product is a measure of its thermal resistance. 

This value depends on the density, thickness, and nature of the materials used for the product. 

The higher the R-value of a material, the higher the efficiency of the material in resisting heat flow, hence an excellent insulator. 

This also means that the product is priced higher on the market. 

However, for two products of the same R-value to function equally, they must be installed according to the supplier’s specifications.

Other Factors to Consider

Besides R-values, some factors also contribute to the efficiency of an insulator. These include that the environment is dust-free and the product is eco-friendly. 

As such, the thermal efficiency of your home will depend not only on your insulation’s R-value but also on the nature of the environment it’s located. 

Insulation Grants

The UK government established the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) to fund certain home improvements, including home insulation. 

The grant is established to help low-income households in the UK. 

However, it’s important to mention that the grant is only available in Wales, Scotland, and England, but not in Northern Ireland. 

Households that want to go energy efficient in Northern Ireland should contact NIDirect Government services. 

Eligible households for this grant can apply and install insulation for their homes by hiring a Registered Insulation Installer.

This grant is provided by utility companies, such as British Gas, EDF, and Npower. Other improvements under this grant include boilers. 

Since the support is a grant and not a loan, eligible homeowners can take the grant to make their property efficient without paying it back. 

The grant can cover up to 100% of the total cost of insulating a home.

Can I get it?

The grant is available for homeowners who receive certain Government benefits. 

If you receive any of the benefits, you’re qualified to apply for the grant to insulate your home and improve your energy efficiency.

What Kind Of Insulation Does The Grant Cover?

The grant covers virtually all types of home insulation. Whether you install loft, internal wall, or cavity insulation, you’re pre-qualified to apply for the grant. 

Who is eligible for an Insulation Grant?

In as much as you receive certain benefits and own a property in England, Wales, and Scotland, you’re eligible to apply for the grant. 

However, if you’re a renter in any of these countries, you must have permission from your landlord to apply for the ECO grant.

Benefits that qualify you for Insulation Grant include:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Severe disablement allowance 
  • Universal credit 
  • Jobseeker’s allowance (Income-based)
  • Pension Credit (Guarantee)
  • Employment and support allowance (income-related)
  • War Pension Mobility Supplement
  • Personal independence payment
  • Income Support
  • Mobility supplement
  • Industrial injuries disablement benefit