How Insulation Protects The Air Quality In Your Home

ByMarc Silberberg


Insulation is a very common topic discussed among homeowners and their families. You notice that your neighbor has hired a contractor and is bringing the typical pink insulation materials into his home, and you begin to wonder if your home needs improvement in its insulation. When going up to your attic to get the summer clothes, a needed suitcase or just to browse among the old items you come upon that pink stuff that looks fluffy and innocent. Did you know that that pink fluffy stuff could be harboring contaminants that affect the air quality in your home?

I hate to be so graphic but nested in that pale feminine fluffy fiberglass can be a variety of pests such as squirrels, raccoons, bats, and various insects who come out of the cold to your attic when the winter arrives. Additionally, if your attic insulation is not in optimal condition your family is at risk of harmful bacteria growing on the insulation as well as toxic pollutants which get into the heating and air conditioning systems.

We know that our air quality should be checked on a regular basis to make sure that there is no dangerous carbon monoxide or allergic chemicals and dust. However, do we give much thought to why these contaminants are staying in our home’s day after day, season after season and year after year? Yes, it’s important and necessary to make sure all our air ducts are clean and that the air is circulating properly but equally important is for us to check the basements and attics of our homes to see that the insulation is in order.

What Exactly Does Insulation Accomplish?

Most people do not connect their home’s air quality with what’s going on in their attic. Your attic insulation plays a major role in the quality of the air in your home and is thought of as a giant air filter. Yes, it is true that we place insulation in our attics to keep out the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer and along with a trusty attic fan we generally feel that the insulation is doing a great job for us.

Attic insulation makes your home more energy-efficient by keeping your HVAC working properly without having to work overtime to keep your home comfortably heated and cooled. What type of insolation you would purchase depends on where you live and the climate in your area. The most popular insulation is made of fiberglass (pink) and sometimes people will additionally blow or spray foam insulation which resists moisture.

The way your attic insulation works is by trapping the unventilated air and each type of insulation has a specific number system called R-value which explains the quality of the insulation. A good type of insulation will have an R-value of between 30-40 for attic and 13-15 for walls to keep the home comfortable. When installing new insulation, you must also check the attic for cracks and leaks since even a small leak can cause major problems if not fixed and will cause moisture to seep inside, shortening the lifespan of your insulation and causing wetness to get into your vents. Insulation will help keep the temperature steady whether in the summer or winter and prevent the need to turn up the heat or air conditioning which can cause irritation of the eyes and skin.

How Long Can Home Insulation Last?

This all depends on the individual home, its age, the moisture buildup, and other crucial criteria. If you recently purchased an older house, you must check the insulation in the attic to make sure it is up to date.

Advantages of Good Insulation

We have already noted that your HVAC system will only work efficiently if there is proper insulation in the home. No matter how often you have your heating and air conditioning maintained if the insulation is not up to date, your family will suffer. You will be amazed at how much less times your kids will scream for more blankets when the attic is insulated properly and additionally the windows should also be checked for drafts because they might need caulking or replacement.

Another bonus of good insulation of the walls is the decrease in the noise level of your home. If the house you recently purchased feels like the whole family is sleeping in one room, it is time to look into spraying insulation into your walls. Yes, it is definitely an added expense that you were not expecting yet no one wants to be woken up in the middle of the night to snoring or blaring music.

Before you put your house on the market you should update your insulation. A potential buyer who is knowledgeable may ask to see your attic and up there they will find out the truth about the condition of your attic. Are there any little critters present or maybe just the residue of their excrements which can turn into harmful chemicals? They will also be able to smell if there is moisture buildup in the attic due to leaks into the roof, soffits, or siding.

The Dangers of Faulty Insulation

How does a homeowner find out that their insulation is faulty? There are quite a few obvious signs in your attic to answer this relatively simple question, the trouble is that many folks hesitate to check their attics. Some of us use our attics for storage and this is beneficial up to a certain point since too much stuff in the attic can be a fire hazard. Personally, I used to keep boxes and boxes of my married children’s old notebooks and papers up there out of sight and out of mind. But then I read some information about the hazards of keeping too much debris in the attic and that the type of paraphernalia that I stored up there was a real potential for fires.

One summer, we decided to tackle the buildup in our attic, and we successfully removed those boxes and only kept such items as suitcases and hanging clothing that we store seasonally. If your attic is unfinished, you may be frightened to go up there for fear of strange creatures, but I strongly suggest you get over this anxiety and go up there as soon as possible before the weather gets too warm. Faulty insulation not only claims some of the heat and cold, it also is hazardous to your health. Here are some threats that can be lurking in your attic.

1) Pests and bugs can find a safe and warm home in your attic so make sure that you do not have any holes in your roof. You will be able to tell if there are presently or were in the past animals by seeing pepper-like insect droppings or wooden beams that have been chewed. You might even spot a lone hive or nest up there along with body parts of dead insects or wings. Wings may indicate a termite problem and then this would be a job for a reliable pest control company.

2) Carbon monoxide gasses are released in the home when there are inadequately vented gas appliances such as your oven, your furnace, and your water heater. To ensure that there are no carbon monoxide leaks make sure your home is adequately insulated. Since carbon monoxide is odorless, it’s vital to have a reliable detector before anyone gets any symptoms such as headaches or respiratory problems.

3) Mold & dust are common household problems that can start up because of faulty insulation. If you cannot find the reasons downstairs in your living space for excessive dust, mold and general air quality issues, the next step would be to check your attic insulation. If there was any kind of leak from rain or snow, then the insulation becomes contaminated encouraging mold to grow on it. The spores that grow from the mold can circulate throughout your home from the attic via your air conditioning ducts or just through the attic door. If you find the air quality problem more prevalent in the room or hallway that has the attic door, this is a clue that the mold and dust could be coming from the attic.

Final Words

Some of us might not associate poor air quality with the insulation of our homes. Insulation does more than just keep the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer, it also safeguards the home from too much noise, stops pollutants and helps prevent insects and rodents from damaging the walls and beams. It is advisable that you or some professional check out your attic on a regular basis to see if the insulation needs to be upgraded. Signs of trouble are seeing the floor of your attic showing in certain places where the insulation should be covering or noticing the insulation soiled is a sign that rodents have infiltrated your attic. Uneven distribution of insulation in your attic whether this is due to upset by strange visitors or just wear and tear, diminishes its effectiveness.

Observing signs in your home that the air quality is compromised, warrants an immediate call to a reliable air quality specialist to come in and check out your home. Don’t forget to remind him to check the attic, hopefully there will be no negative surprises.

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