Some insulation can lose performance over time, sustain damage or simply no longer meet updated building codes. It's an issue that can be costly, because if your home's insulation isn't doing its job, you could be wasting money and resources.
You don't have to be a trained professional to know you have a problem. Here are several signs that your insulation is lacking:
1. Energy bills - High energy bills are the biggest red flag, especially relative to the size, age or condition of the home. If you have a run-away energy bill, your insulation may need to be upgraded. This can be the case, even in a newer home.
2. Drafts - Do you need to put on a sweater even with the heat on, or does your air conditioner run incessantly without making enough of a difference? That's a sign of a deficiency in your building envelope.
3. Inconsistent temperatures - Is it warm in one room, but cold in another? Are your walls or interior closets cold to the touch? It's possible that while your whole home may not need attention, certain rooms may need to be addressed.
4. Condition of insulating materials - Consider the age of your insulation. Would it stand up to today's building codes? Is it in good shape or is it crumbly? If your insulation has degraded or isn't performing, it's time for an upgrade. But be careful, as certain types of older insulation, such as Vermiculite insulation, may contain asbestos. If you're unsure, do not disturb it and hire a professional to conduct testing and/or removal. This should not be a do-it-yourself job.
5. You detect pests and/or moisture - Insulation - and your building envelope can be compromised by the presence of pests. Moisture is an even bigger obstacle to optimal thermal performance, as some types of insulation can sag or collapse when damp, leaving voids and causing air to flow in and out of the building envelope.
While some solutions may be more complicated, requiring the opening of the existing wall cavities, others can be addressed more easily. The best way to improve thermal performance and increase energy efficiency is to upgrade attic insulation. Laying insulation over existing material to achieve a minimum depth of 16 inches, or an R-value of R50, is a simple DIY project that can generate immediate results. To fully assess your home and explore remediation solutions, consider hiring a professional home energy auditor to evaluate your home's energy performance. Even in a new home, the results may be surprising.