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Insulation installation and selection article

Jul 12, 2013

Make insulation your first energy upgrade

The key to your home’s efficiency begins with insulation.

“If you upgrade your furnace, it will only perform well if the heat stays in the house,” says Gilles Lesage, operations manager at Total Home Solutions.

“That’s why insulation is one of the most important aspects of a home’s energy efficiency upgrades.”

Choosing insulation

Here are some things to consider when choosing your insulation:

  • The area you plan to insulate: this will determine which insulation you need. For example, spray foam is ideal for small areas but may not be ideal for your attic since more cost-effective materials are available.
  • Ease of installation: before you purchase your insulation, talk to a professional to ensure you have the right fit for the area you are insulating.
  • Ability to slow air leakage: Understanding insulation ratings (R-ratings) will help you determine which insulation to choose.

Understanding insulation ratings


When installing insulation always follow the     manufacturer's installation instructions and wear the proper protective     gear such as gloves, safety glasses, respirator, etc.

R-values are a way of labeling the
effectiveness of insulating materials. The R-value of a given insulation material is an indication of how well it resists the transfer of heat. The higher the R-value, the more it will reduce heat loss or gain. For example an R-40 rating would typically be used for attics, R-20 for exterior walls, etc.

“One of the most important things to remember is that insulation is meant to perform at its full thickness,” said Gilles. “It is the tiny air pockets within the insulation that slow down heat transfer. Compressing six-inch think R-20 insulation into a three and a half-inch wall cavity will not produce R-20 results anymore. It may be less than R-12 since the air pockets have been compressed out of the insulation.”

Installing insulation

The first step before adding more insulation to your home should be air sealing all penetrations that go through the attic such as plumbing pipes, electrical wire penetrations, pot light areas, etc. A proper air/vapor barrier is also needed to help the insulation do its job properly, and to avoid warm air from the house passing through to a cold spot within a wall or attic.

“Complete coverage is key,” says Gilles.

“It may be difficult in some areas of the home to provide a good air barrier in a retrofit project, and that’s where different types of insulation and sealing materials may be worth exploring.

Example: If you’re looking to upgrade the exterior wall of your home, exterior insulation is a great option.

“Exterior insulation is not invasive in the interior of the home and can be a very effective way to add R7 to R10 to your existing exterior walls,” says Gilles.

“Another part of the house that is underestimated is the basement foundation walls,” adds Gilles. “Concrete foundation walls are a large heat loss area during the winter. On bare foundation walls, an insulation upgrade should also be considered a priority.”


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