These days, everyone is concerned about increasing their home's energy efficiency. As energy costs rise, it is becoming increasingly important to reduce consumption wherever possible. As far as energy usage is concerned, your heating and air system is one of the largest offenders. The harder the unit has to work to maintain a temperature, the more electricity it guzzles. The best way to increase your air conditioner's efficiency is to increase the level of attic insulation in your home. With a few simple tips, you can choose insulation that's good for your home and will not break the bank.
Insulation efficiency is measured by its “R-value.” As with many efficiency scales, the higher the R-value, the better the quality. For attics, the minimum efficiency requirement for any new home is R-30. However, this requirement is a reliably recent change. So, if you live in an older home, your R-value may be significantly lower. If your current insulation is below R-30, a simple upgrade can take an awful burden off your air conditioner, particularly if the ductwork is in the attic.
Having ductwork above the home is almost always better to having it in the crawl space, because the ductwork is protected from flooding and is much more heavily insulated. However, attic insulation is not enough to keep consistent temperatures inside the ductwork. Each duct needs to be fully insulated and properly sealed in order to be airtight. Over time, the wrapping can come undone, and the ducts will lose their insulation. If this occurs, it will dramatically increase the demand on your HVAC system. Re-insulate the ductwork as soon as you can, using the highest R-value that you can effectively wrap around the ducts. If you can not see all of your ductwork, call an HVAC contractor and request a pressure test to determine if the sealing has started to weaken.
Do the Math
Attic insulation comes in several forms: “blown in” loose fill, batts, rolls, and sprayable foam. Batts and rolls are generally hung while loose fills and foams generally sit on the floor. If you choose a floor product, you will need to make sure that your home's ceiling can accommodate the added weight of any additional insulation. Loose fill will settle, increasing its load on the ceiling over time. If you plan to increase the level of coverage for your home, you need to be absolutely certain that you have accounted for the level of settling that will occur. Talk to a contractor about settling rates and weight distribution to ensure you've accounted for all the variables. While any product will dramatically increase the efficiency of your home, loose fill has the added benefit of being blown in, completely covering parts of your ductwork and further increasing your system's efficiency.
If you take the time to measure everything properly and weigh the needs of your home, you will start saving money the moment you invest in proper attic insulation.