The Mystery of the Skyrocketing Energy Bills
Ah, Southwest Michigan! Home to beautiful lakes, a blend of four seasons, and… depending on the structure…high energy bills? If you’ve recently or steadily over time noticed a sharp increase in your monthly bills and found yourself thinking, “My energy bills have gone up a lot. Could it be due to poor insulation in the attic or roof?” – You’re not alone. As an experienced local residential remodeling contractor, I’ve heard this from countless homeowners over the years. Let’s dive into this insulation and thermal mystery together.
Insulation – Your Home’s Invisible Superhero
Insulation might not be something you think about daily, but it’s silently working to keep your home comfortable. Think of it like a cozy winter jacket for your house. Insulation is a component of your home’s thermal envelope and although it is very important we will discuss other items that need to be paired with it for optimal performance and comfort. Even a well-insulated home can suffer at times due to cold temperatures or blowing winds, so how do we know what insulation levels we need and what products to pair with them? Experience. We are doing projects daily where we are updating, air-sealing, properly insulating, and venting to get these structures comfortable and energy bills in check. Let’s discuss the components we referenced above and how to understand their coordinated efforts.
R-Value: The Unsung Hero of Insulation
The effectiveness of insulation is measured in R-values. The higher the R-value, the better it resists heat flow. Recently in Portage, MI we completed a siding project to update a production home that had very basic insulation and air sealing. The homeowner was concerned about the fiberboard exterior vs updating by resheeting the exterior walls using new OSB before the new vinyl siding was installed. With the stud cavities being the size they were the exteriors walls could obviously only have so much insulation added or changed to update. However… with technology comes advancements in capabilities. Here comes the spray foam insulation and all the benefits it brings including air sealing these stud bays to eliminate air infiltration one of the biggest killers to home efficiency. Why is the spray foam a better option in our climate and how does it react to cold winters and hot summers? Let’s dig in.
Michigan’s Climate: A Test for Any Home
Our state’s charm lies in its seasonal variety – from snowy winters to sun-drenched summers. This diversity causes a need to have homes well sealed and not just with insulation but around windows and doors using flashing tape and properly installed house wrapping over wall surfaces. Insulation isn’t just about keeping warm in winter; it’s about staying cool in summer too. This is again achieved with air sealing, proper levels of insulation, and properly venting the home to ensure a well-balanced thermal envelope.
Clues Your Home is Whispering (or Screaming) About Insulation
Everyone or almost everyone has that one cold room or maybe multiple, why is one area of your home always colder than others? This could be due in part to the mechanical HVAC system or it could be a lack of insulation and air sealing. Sealing around old doors or windows, baseboard trims, and even behind the switches and outlet covers!
Uneven temperatures: If moving between rooms feels like hopping between different climates, you might have an insulation issue.
Ice dams on roofs: I once helped a family off of Bronson Boulevard puzzled by large icicles and ice dams on their roof – a clear sign of heat escaping due to poor insulation… but they had recently had new insulation installed so what gives?! Well unfortunately the individual who installed the insulation was not a licensed contractor and he was also not very experienced with insulation installations. Wow. This was a debacle as he eliminated all roof venting for this home by filling the soffit cavities causing the heat from the home to be trapped inside and major ice damns. This was a mess to fix as we had also recently installed new aluminum soffits which had to be removed in areas to access the excess insulation to be removed and allow for the air to flow thru the roof system.
High energy bills: If you’re dialing up the thermostat yet still facing high bills, your insulation might be the silent culprit.
Be Your Home’s Detective
Curious to see how your insulation is holding up? A visual check can reveal a lot. If you are not able to access your attic, contact a professional and allow them access to measure your insulation levels and monitor the current situation. Are there signs of moisture, or missing insulation?
Another benefit to our company evaluation and any experienced insulation contractor are the use of thermal cameras. These tools are a game changer (if you are interested in purchasing a thermal camera for home use check out the FLIR website – https://www.flir.com/browse/industrial/handheld-thermal-cameras/).
Some of the aspects to the case of the missing insulation are difficult to access like behind walls, or crawl spaces but others as we said are simply a visual inspection of an attic or open cavity. For reference in this thermal image of a homes exterior in the winter you can see the heat pouring out of this home and with it higher energy bills and less comfort inside. How do we fix this? If you haven’t gotten there yet it is by sealing the homes exterior and properly insulating walls and attic spaces, and what products are best to use to do this? Let’s talk foam. #ClosedCellFoam
Benefits of Upgrading or Replacing Insulation with Spray Foam
By airsealing the exterior envelope of the home and ensuring that air infiltration is eliminated as best as possible you can rest assured that you’ve put the best efforts into your homes energy efficiency. With the benefits of comfort in cool winters or hot summers coupled with lowering your energy bills you can see the benefits of spray foam insulation and air sealing almost instantly.
Turning Up the Heat (or Cool) the Right Way
Addressing poor insulation can be a game-changer for comfort, savings, and sustainability. As Southwest Michigan residents, we can embrace our climate by ensuring our homes are prepared for it. If you are looking for an evaluation of your homes exterior or options to update and benefit from venting or new insulation, contact Character Exteriors for more information.
Read more: Installing Andersen 400 Series Windows
- Why is my home drafty even after I’ve sealed windows and doors? Even if windows and doors are sealed, poor attic or wall insulation can lead to drafts. Or improperly sealed frames around windows and doors can also lead to air infiltration.
- How often should I check my insulation? Every couple of years as blown in cellulose insulation will settle over time, or if you notice consistent temperature irregularities in your home.
- What’s the best insulation for attics in Southwest Michigan? Fiberglass and cellulose are commonly recommended, but individual home needs might vary based on venting and configuration of the structure.
- Can I mix different types of insulation? In some cases, yes. But it’s essential to consult with a professional to ensure you are being building code compliant and efficient with the project.
I hope this guide sheds light on the silent energy guzzler: poor insulation. Need a hand? As your local residential remodeling contractor, I’m here to help Southwest Michigan homeowners feel at home – in every sense of the word. Cheers to comfortable living!