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I'm from Wisconsin and we have a program called Focus on Energy which implements the ENERGY STAR program for improving energy efficiency of older homes. I'm not sure what you have in your region, but I specifically recommend starting with an expert company that can do a blower door test on your home and use an infrared camera to detect where you have air leakage and heat loss.
The number one cause of heat loss is air leakage. So insulation alone will not solve that problem. Leaky ring joists in the basement where the walls, floor, and foundation meet are one culprit... there is generally lots of inward air leakage here. And in the attic, there are a bunch of sources of air leakage, where warm air wants to rise and escape up and out. (So by the way, ice dams on the roof are not solved by adding more attic ventilation; rather they are solved by first doing air sealing, and second verifying or improving insulation.)
If you intend to DIY this, you can still hire a consultant to do the pre-testing and post-testing, and you might even be eligible for some financial incentives. If you hire a professional company to do it, the cost can be reduced by those incentives.
If you won't hire a pro, then here's a few rules of thumb:
1) Remove fiberglass insulation from ring joists, and either use spray foam or rigid foam to insuate the ring joist, use spray foam to seal the rigid foam in place, minimum 2" thick and you can always fit the fiberglass insulation back in place again when complete.
2) Spray foam over top of wall plates in the attic.
3) Put a gasked on your attic hatch. If you have an attic ladder, buy a specific air sealing enclosure to prevent air leakage through it.
4) Find out if your recessed can lights are IC (Insulation Contact) rated or not. They will be labeled if they are. Build a sealed box around them allowing air space for heat build-up, and consider converting to LED lights so that there is less heat generated. If not IC rated, use cault to seal them to the drywall or plaster, and to close up the holes in the lights themselves.
That's a primer on things... there is more to be done, but these can help!
I would recommend starting with making sure all the existing windows and securely closed and locked. I find windows partly open because they have been painted that way. Take some time to make sure each window closes properly add weather stripping as needed.
Add wather stripping to all doors
check that all the heating ducts are connected securely
The best thing you could do for your home to keep the warm in and the cold out is to 1st. check your insulation in your attic if your not properly insulated the heat will escape. Another is making sure your windows are secured and latched. and proper weather seal is on your doors so draft cannot come in.
Foam insulation is very effective in the development of a super tight building enevelope. It will stop air leakage and enable more total control of the interior living space. This present potential problems in that our living and breathing in the living space generates moisture.
Traditional building construction practices are precisely the opposite and utilizes the concept of venting in the attic and in the crawl space whereby the area above and below the living envelope allows for the eveporation of moisture.
In designing a super tight envelope that is totally sealed there should be careful thought and concern for moisture in the enclosed area. Because foam is so effective at sealing drafts, the space should be thoughtfully designed as a whole house system, with exhaust vents for all areas of the house that generate moisture, and consideration should be given to installing an Energy Recovery Vent (ERV) to normalize the humidity between exterior and interior, to avoid the potential of developing a sick hoiuse syndrome.
Open cell is advisable in attic applications where you want moisture to freely move through when a roof leak developes, to avoid major structural damage over time. Close cell is most advisable in the peremeter of the crawl space or basement area where concern is for a more dense insulation product with more structure. (I have seen it done but advise against, applying foam on the bottom side of flooring since doing so seals all of the mechanical systems into the muck and makes maintainence profoundly troublesome and wretched for the future).
Bob Windom, Windom Construction Co. Inc. Atlanta
As previous answers point to adding proper insulation in the attic, it is also recommended that using a leak barrier under the roof shingles from the eave of the roof back until you reach 24 inches above an interior wall. In other words, the leak barrier, a rubber like membrane that adheres to the roof deck, will cover the overhang and at least 24 inches above the interior wall of the house around the perimeter. This membrane helps prevent water from melting ice dams from entering the home and overhang (soffit). Its rubber like properties help seal around the nails that are driven through it that hold the shingles on. If your roof does not currently have a leak barrier, the existing shingles will have to be removed and replaced where the leak barrier is to be installed. A couple of recommended leak barrier products from GAF are WeatherWatch and StormGuard.
Here is a good website to reference for foam insulation:
Types of Liquid Foam Insulation
Today, most foam materials use foaming agents that don't use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are harmful to the earth's ozone layer.
There are two types of foam-in-place insulation: closed-cell and open-cell. Both are typically made with polyurethane. With closed-cell foam, the high-density cells are closed and filled with a gas that helps the foam expand to fill the spaces around it. Closed-cell foam is the most effective, with an insulation value of around R-6.2 per inch of thickness.
Open-cell foam cells are not as dense and are filled with air, which gives the insulation a spongy texture. Open-cell foam insulation value is around R-3.7 per inch of thickness.
The type of insulation you should choose depends on how you will use it and on your budget. While closed-cell foam has a greater R-value and provides stronger resistance against moisture and air leakage, the material is also much denser and is more expensive to install. Open-cell foam is lighter and less expensive but should not be used below ground level where it could absorb water. Consult a professional insulation installer to decide what type of insulation is best for you.
Available liquid foam insulation materials include:
Some less common types include Icynene foam and Tripolymer foam. Icynene foam can be either sprayed or injected, which makes it the most versatile. It also has good resistance to both air and water intrusion. Tripolymer foam—a water-soluble foam—is injected into wall cavities. It has excellent resistance to fire and air intrusion.
Liquid foam insulation -- combined with a foaming agent -- can be applied using small spray containers or in larger quantities as a pressure-sprayed (foamed-in-place) product. Both types expand and harden as the mixture cures. They also conform to the shape of the cavity, filling and sealing it thoroughly.
Slow-curing liquid foams are also available. These foams are designed to flow over obstructions before expanding and curing, and they are often used for empty wall cavities in existing buildings. There are also liquid foam materials that can be poured from a container.
Installation of most types of liquid foam insulation requires special equipment and certification and should be done by experienced installers. Following installation, an approved thermal barrier equal in fire resistance to half-inch gypsum board must cover all foam materials. Also, some building codes don't recognize sprayed foam insulation as a vapor barrier, so installation might require an additional vapor retarder.
Liquid foam insulation products and installation usually cost more than traditional batt insulation. However, liquid foam insulation has higher R-values and forms an air barrier, which can eliminate some of the other costs and tasks associated with weatherizing a home, such as caulking, applying housewrap and vapor barrier, and taping joints. When building a new home, this type of insulation can also help reduce construction time and the number of specialized contractors, which saves money.
Adding insulationis only one piece of the puzzle. The object is to keep the attic space roughly the same temperature as the ambient outside air. This is accomplished via insulating the building envelope to keep your heat IN the building, AND proper ventilation of the attic space to move air around and through the attic. Adding insulation can help with the former, while making surte tha you have proper ventilation is also key. In many cases, the design of the roof or the environment the home is in isn't conducive to these static techniques and ice will form anyway. In those cases, we've had 100% success with properly installing ice melt systems along those sections of roof and gutter to allow water to work its way down through the gutters and downspouts and not build up behind an ice dam. See in the pic the area with the cables, and to the right the area without (which we've since added!) Good luck!
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