How well is the insulation functioning?
Pressure mounts when you’re in the home-buying process. There’s the stress of putting in your bid, researching the neighborhood, consuming as much knowledge about a home’s copious intricacies as possible, and more.
One detail you won’t want to overlook when perusing a house you hope to transform into a home is its insulation. One of the first things you want to do when in the home-buying process is to ask the agent what type of insulation is in the home. Furthermore, ask for gas and electric bill history. This will give you a good idea of how well that insulation is functioning. Anyone serious about selling his or her home should have this information readily available. If for some reason this information is not available, it’s something a home inspector can point out.
Fiberglass is an old technology that is not as effective as other options. There are a few signs that indicate insulation will need to be replaced or improved upon. First, if there is fiberglass in the walls or attic, it definitely needs improvement since it’s been proven to breakdown and settles over time. Over time, its ability to maintain insulation diminishes as its R-value decreases by 40% — potentially bilking you of money you could have otherwise saved. When the temperature outside is below 20 degrees, fiberglass loses up to 40% of its effectiveness; the percentage increases to 50 when the temperature drops below zero. Finally, with its lower R-values, fiberglass must be installed perfectly to be effective at normal temperatures.
Cellulose is not the best insulation for an attic, but it is acceptable – just know it will need to be maintained. For cellulose insulation, it’s effectively used only in an attic as long as there’s at least 12 inches of it. Cellulose’s R-value is generally around 3.7 per inch, however it loses effectiveness over time due to settling and shifting. Additionally, as a loose-fill insulation, cellulose tends to find itself throughout a home’s ductwork, walls, and fixtures.
A common insulation misunderstanding is that more is better. Just because you get a peak within the attic and you see a lot of insulation, it doesn’t mean you’re squared away. Adding too much insulation potentially causes a slew of problems. There can be moisture-wicking problems and the formation of drifts that cause weight and structure damage. More is not always better. What’s better is properly installed insulation.
The condition of the roof can also signal insulation troubles. If you notice the roof is shot, shriveled, or burnt from the sun (like it was baking), that’s a sure sign of inadequate insulation or ventilation.
When far along in the home-buying process and it’s time for a home inspection, it helps to find a home inspector who does a home energy audit. A home energy audit provides insight through diagnostic testing of where and how a home is losing energy. This will display how effective the current insulation is and if it’ll need upgrading or additional insulation in some spaces.
Buying a home is about knowing what you’re getting into. You most likely have a budget and need to consider all potential future costs, not just the price of the home. Knowing the insulation situation saves you dollars up front and also in the long term through energy bills.