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Table 19-1. Insulation ratings. R-number 11 13
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Insulation type Batts/blankets
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Fiberglass Rock wool
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12 11 17 13 11 18 91 2 101 2 6 91 2
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Fiberglass Rock wool Cellulose Vermiculite
Rigid board
Polystyrene (extruded) Polystyrene (bead board) Urethane Fiberglass
top of it), it will no longer be as thick as when it was installed. Consequently, its effective Rnumber will be reduced. To determine the current R-number of the insulation in your home, you should measure its thickness. The insulation recommended for your house can be determined from the map in FIG. 19-1. You might be surprised to learn how much insulation is recommended. The R-numbers, however, are based on current and projected fuel costs. If your house is already insulated, once you determine the amount of existing insulation, you can add the difference. Remember, the R-numbers are additive. In some homes, it might not be economically justifiable to increase the insulation to the recommended value. In determining whether your house is adequately insulated, you should check the exterior walls and the ceilings and floors that face unheated areas, such as the attic and crawl space. (See FIG. 19-2.) In unfinished areas where the insulation is exposed (often in the floor of an attic or ceiling of a crawl space), the thickness can easily be measured. If the attic floor is covered, you can pry up one board and look for
insulation. Determining the amount of insulation in a finished exterior wall is more difficult. However, you can make a quick determination whether the wall is inadequately insulated or has no insulation by feeling the inside surface during the heating season. If the wall feels cold to the touch, insulation is needed. Sometimes you can determine the amount of insulation by removing the cover to a light switch and peering into the wall space, using a flashlight. Caution should be observed, since the switch is electrically hot. Because of the small amount of open space between the wall and switch box, this method is usually not effective. Also, it is possible that the electrician who installed the wiring might have pulled the insulation away from the switch and outlet boxes to facilitate installation. In this case, you might think that there is no insulation in the wall. The only way to determine positively how much insulation there is in a finished exterior wall is to make a small hole in the wall (in a nonobvious location such as a closet) and measure it. The hole can then be patched. While you are determining the amount of insulation, you should also determine Insulation 253
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whether there is a vapor barrier associated with the insulation. A vapor barrier is a thin sheet material such as polyethylene film, aluminum foil, or an asphalt-impregnated kraft paper through which water vapor cannot readily pass. 254 Energy considerations
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Fig. 19-1. Recommended R-numbers for insulation in ceilings, floors, and walls. U.S. Department of Energy
Many insulation materials are produced with a vapor barrier applied on one side. If the insulation does not have a vapor barrier, a separate one can be installed. The purpose of a vapor barrier is to prevent moisture problems in exte-
3 2 5 1 1 5 7
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1. Ceilings below an unheated area. 2. "Knee" walls of a finished attic level room. 3. Floor of a crawl attic. 4. The sloping portion of the roof in a finished attic. Leave an airspace between insulation and roof. 5. Exterior walls. 6. Floors above cold crawl spaces. Floors above a porch or an unheated garage. 7. Walls of a heated basement. Fig. 19-2. Where to insulate. rior walls and ceilings, and floors that face unheated areas, due to condensation of water vapor (normal in a house) that passes through those surfaces. To be effective, the vapor barrier must be facing the heated room rather than the cool, unheated area. (See FIG. 19-3.) In addition to the need for insulation of the building shell (exterior walls, ceilings, and floors), all hot-water pipes and heating and cooling ducts that pass through unheated portions of the house (such as a crawl space, garage, or unfinished attic) must be insulated. Most houses usually have no more than 1 or 2 inches of insulation wrapped around ducts in unheated areas. Because of increasing fuel costs, this is considered minimal for most areas, and additional insulation can usually be justified. Check the condition of the insula-
tion. Are there any loose, torn, or missing sections Also, if there are any exposed duct joints, check them to see if they are sealed tightly. When the ducts are used exclusively for air conditioning or serve a dual function (such as heating and air-conditioning), the outside of the insulation should be covered with a vapor barrier to prevent condensation. A vapor barrier, however, is not needed on ducts used only for heating. If there is a vapor barrier on the ducts, check its condition. Look for torn and missing sections. All vapor-barrier joints must be tightly sealed. If the domestic hot water is produced in a tank-type water heater located in an unheated area, the tank should be covered with an insulation jacket. These jackets can be purchased in most building-supply or hardware stores. Although tank-type water heaters are normally insulated by the manufacturer, by installing an outer insulation jacket, you will further reduce heat loss and thereby minimize the energy needed to maintain the desired water temperature. The temperature of the hot water should not exceed 140 F. (See chapter 16.) Temperatures in excess of 140 F are not only wasteful of energy but will also shorten the life of the water heater.
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