Sometimes boring topics like insulation are really important. I’ve never written about it, and it’s odd that I’m doing so now. Most of my time goes to fighting every day for the election outcomes I want to see for myself, my family and my planet. But this week, the roofers got around to ripping off our roof for replacement, so this is when our attic insulation is best done. I’m going to try to do more short posts like this for quick info.
Five Things I’ve Learned About Insulation
- There are current rebates in WA state for attic insulation. Look up the utility that provides your electricity or heating fuel. We have Seattle City Light, and they provide up to $500 for wall, window or attic insulation if your primary heat source is electric. Puget Sound Energy has similar programs, too.
- If you have any kind of attic or crawlspace between your ceilings and the roof, the only way to insulate is to put stuff in your attic. Insulating the roof better does no good because there has to be ventilation up there. So it’ll be ceiling + insulation, then airflow, then the roof, which just has to be waterproof and windproof. However, if you’re trying to keep a house cool in summer, having a white reflective roofing material (like PVC) could be good.
- Insulation is measured in R-values, which is the capacity of the material to resist heat flow. In practical terms, a material’s R-value can change depending on the weather (some work better when it’s cold, others when it’s hot out). If you squish or compress the material, that also changes its effectiveness.
- Seattle is in climate zone 4, so R-38 to R-60 is the target for attic insulation. (Thanks IBP for this great info!)
- Many materials can be used for insulation, including fiberglass, cellulose (shredded paper or plant material), old shredded denim, soybean foam, and even sheep’s wool! Recycled, renewable, and non-toxic materials are preferable from a sustainability and health standpoint. (source: HowStuffWorks)
Why Go Low-Tech
Bill Gates and other love to talk about high-tech solutions to the problem that we’re using Earth’s resources much faster than they can be replenished. And we’re heating the Earth to dangerous levels at the same time. Maybe some fusion energy breakthrough will save us, but maybe not. Solar panels are super cool, and I totally want some. But I’ve also realized that something as simple as putting on sweaters — one on myself and one on my house — reduces the need for energy quite a bit and will then reduce the amount of energy we need to produce with solar panels or anything else. And it’s way cheaper!
In this previous post, I noted some improvements in energy efficiency after swapping out a few appliances. But we have continued to struggle to live up to the level of our most efficient neighbors. (I know this because Seattle City Light sends me little comparisons every so often – useful & sad when you’re below average!) I am hoping that insulation is the missing piece of the puzzle. Stay tuned for the results of our latest adventure in eco-living!