Do an Insulation Inspection (167/365)

The more insulation in your walls, the less heat will transfer through your walls. It’s one of those basic facts of home ownership.

Insulation is beneficial in the summer when you want the heat to remain outside, and it’s also beneficial in the winter when you want to keep the heat inside.

Now, if you built your own home, you probably have some idea what kind of insulation you’ll find inside your walls and your attic. However, if you’re the second (or later) owner of your home, you may have no idea what’s inside your walls or your attic.

So, what can you do? How can you check it out?

Do an Insulation Inspection (167/365)

The simplest step you can take is to examine your attic. In many cases, your home’s attic will look something like the picture above, with a significant amount of insulation all over the floor of the attic.

Your attic is where you’re going to want a lot of insulation, particularly during the winter. Heat rises in your home and escapes through the top of your home when the exterior temperature is lower than the interior temperature, so an attic with plenty of insulation will keep that heat inside instead of letting it escape through your roof.

You want to make sure that there is plenty of insulation in there and, if you can identify it, determine the R-value of the insulation present in there. Insulation with a higher R-value will block heat more effectively than insulation with a low R-value. However, you don’t always want the highest possible R-value – it depends heavily on your location. There are a lot of online charts that will give you a rough approximation of what R-value you should have in your area, but your best bet is to ask at your local hardware store.

You’re also going to want to ensure that the entrance to your attic is well-sealed without any gaps. The edges of your attic hatch are a great place to put weather-stripping. You’ll also want to make sure that the inside of the attic door or hatch is well-insulated, too, as heat will flow right through it if it’s not.

While you’re up there, look carefully for any holes, such as ones around duct work, and make sure they’re well sealed.

Now, what about the insulation in your walls? Your best bet here is to call a home insulation expert and get an assessment. However, it’s probably not worth the effort unless you notice significant problems with your home retaining heat in the winter.

Another approach is to look for spots in your home where there is exposed insulation and check it for an R-rating, then check with your local hardware store to make sure that this is the right type of insulation for your area. If you find that it’s inadequate, there are spray-in insulation solutions that work well.

Your best tactic, though, is to check out your attic. That’s where you’ll have the most impact on the insulation of your home with the littlest effort.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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