Anyone who has seen a house mid-construction has probably noticed what appears to be colorful padding placed between the home’s studs and the sheetrock that makes up its interior walls. Few people, however, understand exactly what makes insulation so necessary.
Heat travels in a clearly defined pattern, always moving from warmer areas to cooler spaces. In the winter, the heat within your home can escape outside or into rooms that are not sufficiently heated (such as an attic). Alternatively, during the summer, the outside heat tries to make its way into the interior of your home.
Based on this pattern, it’s easy to see why heating and cooling systems are vital in keeping your home at a comfortable temperature. Insulation can also serve to regulate heat flow between the interior of the home and the ambient air outside.
The Evolution of Insulation
Like most modern products, insulation has gone through several phases since it was first invented. The insulation commonly used in the 1930s was largely made of fiberglass. Not long after, various blends of newspaper, cardboard, sawdust, and cotton were popularized. Some of these mixtures helped to lead the way toward the development of asbestos fibers.
Today, numerous kinds of vastly improved and safer insulation options are available to homeowners. The latest technology is spray foam, which expands to fill creases that previous iterations could not adequately seal, and air spray, which is a type of plastic application.
Common Problems with Older Homes
Age is a subjective term, but generally, a home built more than 50 years ago is considered to be old. Furthermore, as houses age, they expand and contract in relation to weather. This natural effect raises the likelihood that increasing amounts of warm air will escape or enter your home.
As a result, older homes are more difficult to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. Sometimes, a new HVAC system is necessary. However, supplementary insulation in an older home is also a useful strategy to improve energy costs and comfort.
Insulating an Older Home
Obviously, people who need to insulate a pre-existing home face a greater challenge than they might with a new build. No one is interested in tearing down the walls of their house!
Rest assured that there are far fewer invasive steps that a person can take in order to increase the efficiency of an older home. These include:
- Blowing spray foam into the walls through tiny holes in the exterior
- Adding foam board insulation in the basement or to the exterior foundation
- Installing batt insulation to the underside of the roof and/or the attic floor
Since R-values, vapor barriers, correct directional placement, and even state codes can be essential to successfully insulate an older home, you should consult an expert to assess your needs and provide advice before you begin.