How much Insulation do I need for Michigan Winters?
In the insulation and home energy business, we often hear this question: how much insulation do I need? Living in an environment like Michigan, where January temperatures average in the teens, that goes double for the state: How much insulation do I need for Michigan winters?
The short answer is, more is better. In general, the more insulation you have the more heat will stay in your home during our long cold winters, and the more money you and your family will save on energy bills.
This however, is only half of the story. Having the correct type of insulation in the correct place is just as important as having more. For example, if your walls are well insulated but your attic contains too little or the insulation up there is damaged, you can be potentially losing out on thousands of dollars.
So let’s take a look at some different factors that can affect how much insulation you need, as well as offer some recommendations
Types of Insulation
As you likely know, there are multiple types of insulation. The most common are batt insulation (the pink stuff that looks like cotton candy), cellulose insulation (that looks like shredded and fluffy cardboard) and spray foam insulation (that looks just how it sounds, and is generally yellow or blue).
To put it simply, spray foam is the best. Inch for inch. It offers the best insulating properties available on the market today. Almost all newly built homes include spray foam insulation in the walls, and sometimes on the roof deck, because it works the best. It also provides some additional rigidity to the structure of your home.
There can be drawbacks, though. Creating depth with this type of insulation can be difficult, like in attics. That’s when we use cellulose insulation. This type of insulation is not particularly suited to walls, because it can settle, leaving a gap at the top that is uninsulated. But when laid horizontally, like in an attic, settling is much less of an issue, and it can be sprayed in as deeply as is called for.
As for fiberglass batt insulation, it’s better than nothing, but only provides the insulation it claims under perfect conditions.
Location of Insulation
Where your insulation is located is also a factor. Perhaps you have an adequate amount of insulation in your walls, but a less than ideal amount in your attic. One area of concern that is not always understood is floor insulation.
We know that heat rises, but up to 20 percent of your heat can leave through a crawlspace via the floor. It’s intensely important that your floor is insulated as well, as this can be an area that’s overlooked.
Same with slab on grade insulation. This is insulation that insulates your foundation and home from the chilling effects of being connected to the ground, another often overlooked area. This type of insulation is rather advanced, but important for an overall energy barrier for your home, especially in cold climates like Michigan.
Recommendations For Mid Michigan Homes
So, how much insulation do we need in Michigan? Well, there are a number of heating and cooling zones defined by the Department of Energy. Most of the state is in zone 5, and more northern areas are in zone 6. For our purposes, R-value is a measure of how well an insulation material holds in heat.
In zone 5, for the attic your insulation should have an r value of 38-60. In the attic this means cellulose insulation should be 16-18 inches deep.
Walls should have an r value of R 13-21, which depending on the size of your wall cavities can be accomplished through spray foam as well as the addition of insulation sheathing on the outside of the home and under the siding.
For floors, the recommendation is R 25-30. This is often best accomplished through spray foam.
Call for a Free Home Energy Audit
If you’d like to know if you have enough insulation in your home, call us today and we will perform an absolutely free home energy audit. We will determine where your home could use more insulation and where it may be performing properly.
These no-obligation consultations can tell you scientifically if you have gaps in your home’s defense against the heat and cold, and we can tell you exactly if you have enough insulation for Michigan. We perform these audits within approximately 100 miles of Lansing.
Give us a call to schedule a free home energy audit, and get on the road to saving money on your home heating & cooling bills.