Jan L. Green PC

Spray Foam insulation

Baby It’s Cold Outside – What Kind of Blanket is In your Home?

Originally, I thought to name this post – “Baby it’s Cold Outside” but figured I better be PC!  So what kind of Blanket is in your home? What do I mean by blanket?  Insulation of course!  

Our ancestors were pretty smart when it came to creating structures to keep the heat and cold out of their dwellings.  History lessons tell us that the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all had ways to make their buildings better by adding thick walls and thick tapestries to keep the cold drafts to a minimum.    Even the Vikings put mud in their building cracks to keep the wind at bay in the cold northern regions.  Some would orient a structure toward the south and west to add heat to their structures, while others steered away from those hot exposures.

When asbestos insulation was created about 4000 BC,  the effects of asbestos on a person’s health weren’t widely realized.  It has been used in a variety of ways and has a lengthy history Asbestos was used historically to insulate pipes, walls, and ceilings.  In later years, slaves working with asbestos were known to contract a disease of the lungs.  But it wasn’t until 1989 that regulations were put in place regarding asbestos.  A ban in other countries occurred in 2003 for it’s use.  For these reasons, Federal and state regulations now exist when demolishing a home that contain asbestos products. 

Another common type of insulation is cellulose.  Cellulose insulation was invented around the 1920’s and is comprised of shredded newspaper and cardboard treated with a fire retardant.  It’s one of the least expensive types of insulation still used today.  It can be sprayed in, blown in, and used in wall cavities between framing members to make a structure more air tight.   There are variations of blown in cellulose, ie recycling denim jeans into insulation. 

Fiberglass Insulation was invented by Owens Corning in the 1930’s, but not every home was installed with insulation at that time.  And not everyone had insulation before the 1960’s.  Building codes introduced insulation as a requirement in about 1965.  That was a great step forward for uniformity in homes since prior to that time it was not an every day practice to add insulation to homes, depending on where you lived.

In the 1950’s rock wool was used in homes and sometimes laced with asbestos.  It’s still used in some areas, and of course no longer includes asbestos.  It was first patented in 1875! 

Spray foam insulation was invented in the 1980’s although it deserves mention back to the late 1930’s in the military.   Today it’s gained in popularity to the point that some production builders have been including it during the last few years.  It is more expensive to apply and there is still some “off-gassing” taking place, emitting chemicals into the space for a period of time.   Installers must wear suits with breathing capability to avoid the fumes.  

But no matter what kind of insulation is used, the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of insulation installation is making sure the insulation touches the surface, otherwise it isn’t working.  In the attic space, it’s easy to tell if insulation is not touching a surface, and not working, using an infrared camera from the the floor below.   Color differences will appear to reflect differences in insulation touching the floor of an attic. 

So the next time a cable company, HVAC company, or any other company climbs into your attic, make sure the insulation is returned to it’s original placement.   And during ANY inspection, make sure the attic is included in the inspection.  Measure how deep the insulation is in your attic and check to see if it’s enough to to insulate your home correctly! 

This is another Green Tip in a series designed to benefit homeowners!

If you or someone you know is interested in buying or selling a home in the Phoenix metro area, make sure that agent is knowledgeable and trained to benefit you in that transaction.