Constructing a new house is an exciting time, especially if you have dreamed about having your own home for years. You will likely be planning every little detail of your property—from the layout and design of the structure to the decorative and functional elements that you’ll be incorporating into your indoor and outdoor spaces. While it is natural for you to spend a lot of time on the design and aesthetic aspect of building your new place—as it is the most enjoyable part of the process—you should also pay the same attention to home insulation.
Thinking about insulation may not be as fun as the other facets of home construction, but it is mandated by state and local building codes. It is also essential to keeping your home cool during the summer and warm during wintertime. Also keep in mind that besides offering year-round comfort, a properly insulated home ensures energy efficiency, which, in turn, leads to reduced utility bills and carbon footprint.
Instead of considering home insulation as an afterthought, you should know that insulating during the construction phase is more cost-effective since many of the areas in your home that need to be insulated will have to be finished during the building process. That means you’ll have to take them apart again should you decide to add home insulation later on.
As you plan on the best way to insulate your house, make sure to consider the following:
Where to Insulate
Your new home should be well-insulated from the roof down to its foundation for maximum energy efficiency. To give you an idea about where to insulate, here are specific areas in your house that require insulation the most:
Insulating the attic is arguably the most effective way to save on energy costs, given that 25 to 35 percent of indoor heat escapes through it. The Department of Energy estimates up to 50 percent savings on a typical heating bill when a home’s attic is insulated correctly. You can choose from loose-fill, batt, blown-in, or spray foam insulation when working on your attic.
Insulating your exterior walls does not only conserve energy and reduce your heating and cooling energy bills by 15 percent. When planned and installed carefully, wall insulation can reduce moisture intrusion and provide a sound barrier between your home and the outdoors so that you do not have to be bothered by the sound of traffic or noisy neighbors. For wall insulation, your best bets include batt, blown-in, and spray foam insulation.
Insulating floors that are above unheated spaces is one of the most effective ways to keep your home warm as it reduces heat loss by10 to 20 percent. Underfloor insulation also helps reduce noise between floors and prevents drafts from entering the house. Batt, blown-in, and spray foam insulation are the most common types of insulation for this purpose.
While it is easy to neglect your crawl space because it is hidden beneath your feet, you cannot leave it uninsulated. A well-insulated crawl space prevents drafts and cold spots in the house, protects indoor air quality, and saves energy.
If you will have an unventilated crawl space in your new house, it is recommended to seal and insulate the foundation walls instead of the floor between the main part of the house and the crawl space. This will provide the additional advantage of keeping underground pipes and ducts well within the conditioned space of your house. This means they will neither require additional protection from freezing nor added insulation to make them more energy-efficient.
As with floors, the most common options for insulating crawl spaces include batt and roll, spray foam, and blown-in insulation.
Insulating your basement properly—especially if it is finished—can help lower your heating bill and keep your home dry and comfortable. Since you are building a new house, make sure to insulate the exterior of the basement walls in order to reduce heat loss through the foundation, protect against moisture intrusion, minimize the formation of condensation on basement surfaces, and reduce interior temperature variations. Batt and roll insulation, spray foam insulation, rigid foam insulation, insulating concrete forms, and insulating concrete blocks are usually used in basements in new home construction projects.
How Much Insulation Is Needed?
The amount of insulation you need depends on several factors, such as the climate in the region where your home is located, the type of heating system you will use, and the areas of your home that you intend to insulate. To help you determine how much insulation your home needs, the Department of Energy provides a map and table of recommended R-values based on climatic zones as a guide. Note that R-values refer to the level of thermal performance of the insulation product. The higher the R-value, the better the thermal performance.
As mentioned above, there are quite a few factors to consider when determining the appropriate R-values for your home insulation. Aside from knowing the recommended R-values by climate zone, you can also consult your builder to identify the suitable level of insulation needed for your project. Keep in mind that you do not always need the highest R-value for every area in your house. For instance, if you want to install insulation on a wall primarily for acoustic efficiency, R8 insulation batts will already suffice..
What Kind of Insulation Products Should You Buy?
Insulation products in the market come in different forms, including blankets (batts and rolls), loose-fill, sprayed or foamed-in-place, blown-in, rigid foam or rigid board, and many others. They also come in different materials, including fiberglass, mineral wool, cellulose, and more. To choose the right type of insulation for your new home, make sure to consider the following factors:
- Area to be insulated
- Method of installation
- Cost of installation
Insulating your dream house is a significant decision that impacts the comfort of your family, your energy consumption, and your home’s carbon footprint. As such, it is not something that should be treated lightly. While you will most likely tap professionals to install home insulation for you, it is essential to know the basics so that you can make informed decisions when it comes to choosing insulation products for your home.