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Must read before you have your attic insulated

2021-03-12 |     Kevin C

Being Considered a cold climate, utility bills are relatively high for winters. However the total net annual utility charges (Gas and hydro bill too high/ too expensive) can vary by a lot depending on the nominal energy efficiency of the household.

As predicted by The Department of Energy, residential natural gas prices and hydro rates will increase again in this winter. Heating Oil prices are also sharply increasing and are not expected to stabilize.

One of the main spaces and attributes emphasized by the inspection of residential Energy auditors is the attic and its Thermal insulation value. Usually the thermal insulation value can vary from R-10 to R-60 (some application still use R50 due to height limitations)

Not only the improvement and upgrade of insulation (also called attic insulation top up) will significantly help with reducing the utility bills (both gas and/or hydro), this item is one of the most incentivised in the Home Energy Rebate programs. Currently, Up to 85% of your investment in an attic insulation can be immediately rebated by the energy rebate program. An attic insulation upgrade and improvement typically reduces your home’s heat loss factor by up to 35%!

The thermal Efficiency of a household (or any relatively enclosed area) is a measure of its ability to maintain a difference of temperature between inside and outside it. As a result, homes with R60 insulation thermal resistance level, are likely to use the heating equipment 50-67% less.

Heat loss is defined to be : a measure of the total transfer of heat through the fabric of a building from inside to the outside, either from conduction, convection, radiation, or any combination of these. Insulation, in general, is to address conduction, and air sealing is to address convection.

R60 insulation: the new standard: R-60 stands for 60 levels of thermal resistance, it is by far the highest standard adapted by the Ontario building code. It is currently the measure and minimum requirement for the residential energy insulation rebate factors. In other simpler words, if Thermal resistance of attic insulation is improved to pass R-60, we may have a chance to get a rebate for the insulation improvement project!

Attic and ventilation: proper ventilation inside the attic is vital, here are a few very important points about air circulation in the attic:
- Inadequate ventilation within the attic can cause growth of mold in the insulation and eventually growth of mold and mildew on the wooden structure and trusses of the roof itself.
- In summers, air circulation within the attic helps with cooling load.
- In winners, proper air circulation is mandatory to keep attic cool and dry. This helps to keep pests and rodents out of the attic area.
- When increasing insulation, older houses especially will need an improvement and supplements to their attic ventilation.
- You can improve your attic ventilation by: adding baffle rafters to the sauffitts. Using motorized or self revolving turbines, using and proper utilisation of attic ventilators.

Cost factors:
We have experienced a lot, and a lot of horror stories of: pricing inadequacy, budgeting surprises or under-delivered work. The following factors are the main contributors to attic insulation price: (price per square foot or in total)

● Type and material of your insulation (both existing and new material used)
● Square footage of your attic(s)
● Contractor or insulation team’s installer’s fee
● Attic Ventilation factors

Material types: there are a few different types of insulators, in which all of them could be used for an attic, however Fiberglass and cellulose loosefill are most common, standard and practical remedies.

Fiberglass / glass fiber insulation
R-value per inch: 2.7–3.1
Made of: Recycled glass or sand that's melted and spun into fibers
- Lighter in weight than cellulose and mineral wool
- Usually a thicker layer needs to be put in order to compensate for future settling
- Fire proof
- Moisture controlling factor
- Less welcoming to pest and rodents than the rest
- Loosefill (neater, more precise installation process)

Cellulose
R-value per inch: 3.2–3.8
Made of: Fibers from recycled post-consumer paper / wood chips that are treated for insect and fire resistance
- The most common blown-in material used
- it can rot and grow mold if exposed to moisture
- Heavy weight and moisture absorbent
- Welcoming to pest and rodents as material has organic source/scent

Mineral wool
R-value per inch: 3.0–3.3
Made of: Fibers from rock or recycled slag from blast furnaces
- Offers natural fire resistance
- costs more than other loose-fill materials.
- Usually comes in form of batts
- Not ideal for attic as bats need to be passed through the attic hatch and that's not easy due to space limitation

FAQs:

- Do I get a rebate if I improve my attic insulation?
Ans: attic insulation upgrade is among the most incentivised items across multiple programs and rebate platforms. The amount and qualifications of rebate eligibility are dependent on factors such as: original depth, type and condition of insulation, rebate history, age of house, type of primary heating source and Gas and Hydro providers.

- Do I need to remove my old insulation when doing attic insulation?
Ans: this depends on the condition and type of the old original insulation. In case of mold, mildew, moldy insulation or any other kind of contamination, the existing insulation needs to be removed. However, most of the time, especially if proper airflow within the attic is maintained using ventilators or baffle rafters, and as a result the insulation is intact and undamaged, you can keep the old insulation and only upgrade it to a new one.

- Which one is better for insulating the attic? cellulose or glass fiber?
Ans: they are both among the most vastly used materials for attic insulation, however glass fiber
is lighter in weight, lasts longer and much more resistant to moisture and mold growth.


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