Checking Insulation

Given today’s heating costs and the likelihood of future energy cost increases, your home might benefit from additional insulation, especially if you own an older home.

Checklist for Attics:

  1. If the attic hatch is located above a heated space, check to see if the hatch 1) is at least as heavily insulated as the attic; 2) is weather stripped; and 3) closes tightly.
  2. In the attic, check to see if openings for items such as pipes, ductwork, and chimneys are sealed.
  3. Check to see if there is a vapor barrier under the attic insulation. If there does not appear to be a vapor barrier, you might consider painting the interior ceilings with vapor barrier paint which reduces the amount of water vapor that can pass through the ceiling. High moisture can reduce the effectiveness of insulation and promote structural damage.
  4. Ensure that attic vents are not blocked by anything.
  5. Seal any gaps with an expanding foam caulk or some other permanent sealant. Be sure to seal any electrical boxes in the ceiling with flexible caulk (from the living room side or attic side) and cover the entire attic floor with at least the current recommended amount of insulation.

Checklist for Walls:

  1. Select an exterior wall and turn off the circuit breaker or unscrew the fuse for any outlets in the wall. Be sure to test the outlets to make certain that they are not hot.
  2. Once you are sure your outlets are dead, remove an outlet cover plate and gently probe into the wall with a thin, long stick. If you encounter a slight resistance, you have some insulation there. Ideally, the wall cavity will be totally filled with insulation. Note: this method won’t tell you if the entire wall is insulated, or if the insulation has settled.

Checklist for Floors:

  1. Determine whether there is insulation under the living area flooring. The insulation at the top of the foundation wall and first floor perimeter should have an R-value of 19 or greater. If the basement is heated, the foundation walls should be insulated to at least R-19.

Checklist for Pipes & Ductwork:

  1. Ensure that your hot water pipes and ductwork are insulated.

Source Material: US Dept. of Energy