Upgrading Insulation: The Payback Is Worth It
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Upgrading Insulation: The Payback Is Worth It


One of the home improvement projects with the highest payback is upgrading insulation. The Portland area has far more heating degree days than cooling, so beefing up what’s in your attic can lower your heating load, translating to reduced energy consumption and lower bills. 

The Department of Energy recommends that homes in our area have 16 inches of insulation in the attic. This translates to an R-value of 38, which means the insulation can resist temperature change for 38 hours.

The most common insulation used in homes is fiberglass batts or blown-in cellulose. If your attic has ample space, laying down batts or blowing in insulation is the easiest and most cost-effective way to increase attic insulation. However, if space is tight, you can use rigid foam board insulation that has a higher R-value per inch than other types. An inch of expanded polystyrene insulation offers 3.8 hours of protection from heat transfer, while more expensive extruded polystyrene has an R-value of 5. Neither of these products use hydrocarbons, which makes them healthy products to use when upgrading insulation.

Blown-in insulation is made from either loose fiberglass or recycled paper called cellulose. After processing the paper, manufacturers spray it with borates, which act as fire, insect and moisture retardants. Installing blown-in insulation is a two-person job, since someone has to feed the blower while another handles the hose.

If you choose batt insulation, check the material first to see what the manufacturer requires for fire protection. Some rolls have paper backing that may need to be covered with noncombustible materials like drywall to prevent them from burning.

Upgrading insulation means you’ll need your heating system less, and given the cost of fuel, the upgrade pays for itself down the road. Another effective way to lower your heating costs is to have your heating system serviced annually.

If you’d like more information about upgrading insulation, contact Roth Heating & Cooling. We’ve provided HVAC services to the Portland area since 1976.

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