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Home Insulation: What You Should Know

by Point2 Editorial Staff
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6 min. read

A poorly insulated home isn’t just uncomfortable to live in — it’ll also cost you more money in energy bills. Unfortunately, even the best insulation can break down and fail as the years go by, and eventually, you may need to consider improving the insulation in your home.

Often, you’ll be faced with a choice: Do you insulate the inside or outside of your home? In this guide, we’ll take a look at which is the best option for you. But first, let’s go over the basics:

How Does Home Insulation Work?

Without adequate insulation, your home will suffer constant temperature fluctuations. In many cases, it’ll be too hot in summer and too cold in winter. As a result, you’ll need to use an HVAC system to maintain a comfortable room temperature. However, this costs money, especially if it’s constantly battling rapidly fluctuating temperatures.

Proper insulation helps maintain a comfortable room temperature throughout the year, reducing the workload for HVAC systems. In turn, your energy bills will be much lower, as will the impact on the environment.

Thermal Envelope

Insulating material creates a barrier that slows down the rate of heat transfer, preventing both the escape of heat from the home and the overheating of the building when outdoor temperatures are higher.

This is achieved by creating a “thermal envelope.” The thermal envelope consists of a layer of insulation that essentially wraps the home from the attic, through the external walls, and down to the ground floor or basement.

Of course, the thermal envelope will have gaps where there are windows and doors, but with adequate planning, these should be adequately sealed in. For example, double-glazed windows and draft excluders will prevent “thermal bridging” — weaknesses in the thermal envelope that enable heat to escape or cold air to enter the home.

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Problems With Poor Insulation

The obvious problem with poor insulation is the increased energy bills you’ll have to pay to heat and cool your home to a comfortable temperature. However, several other issues can plague a poorly insulated home.

Health Issues

It’s not just about the temperature. A home with poor insulation often suffers from dampness issues, resulting in mold and mildew. A damp house can lead to severe health issues, exacerbating existing illnesses such as asthma and lowering the body’s ability to defend against other infections.

Damage to Your Home

Left unchecked, poor insulation can also play havoc with the fabric of your home itself. Issues with dampness can destroy surfaces such as walls and ceilings, while uninsulated pipework can burst in cold weather. The resulting water damage can cost you thousands to repair. In severe cases, the structural elements of your home can be compromised, with supporting woodwork rotting and becoming unstable.

Choosing the Right Insulation: Interior vs. Exterior

Now you know how important insulation is for your home, it’s time to decide which type to use. This differs depending on various factors, so with that in mind, let’s break it down a bit.

When to Use Interior Insulation

applying interior home insulation

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You Live in a Condo or Apartment

When you own a condo, you technically only own what’s contained within the interior walls of your unit. As such, the Condo Association or HOA typically won’t allow you to make changes to the exterior walls of your unit.

Interior insulation works in your favor in a condo, as any shared walls (between two owners) will benefit from noise reduction and improved fire-proofing.

You Have Sufficient Space in Your Home

It’s important to note that by adding insulation to the inside of your home, you’ll be reducing the area of each room by several inches per wall. This isn’t a big issue for larger homes, especially those with open floor plans, but it can soon be a problem in smaller rooms.

Your Exterior Walls Are Unsound

If you live in a house where your exterior walls are unsound or can’t be repaired easily, or even if you just don’t want to alter their design, applying insulation on the inside might be best. External insulation relies on scaffolding and drilling into the walls, so it’s best to get advice from a contractor on whether it’s applicable in your case.

You Live in a Historic Building

If you live in a historic building or a historic part of town, applying exterior insulation might cause damage to the façade, and there’s a good chance you won’t get the permits needed to perform the job. Even if a permit is granted, you might have to match the already existing design, which will be very costly. In such cases, insulating the interior is your only alternative.

It’s important to note that many historic homes were designed to be breathable. By adding modern products that are designed to be airtight, you can cause severe damage to the house. Do your research and always use adequate materials.

You’re Also Redecorating the Interior

Installing interior insulation can be very disruptive. During the process, you’ll often have to remove door and window frames, baseboards, and even electrical fittings. As a result, any areas you’ve insulated will need to be fully decorated. So, if you’re planning to redecorate, now is a great time to install interior insulation.

When to Use Exterior Insulation

aplying exterior home insulation

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You Live in a Detached House

Since your house doesn’t share any exterior walls with other buildings, you’re more likely to lose heat. By insulating the outside walls, you can avoid this issue.

You Live Somewhere Noisy

Although soundproofing can be applied inside and out, it generally works best on exterior walls. It’s also good to remember that sound travels through walls, so creating a good soundproof barrier with interior insulation will be challenging.

With exterior insulation, you can considerably increase the thickness of the layers without worrying about losing space. Consider this type of insulation if you live close to highways, airports, and flight paths, or even just neighborhoods that get a lot of traffic.

You Have Issues With Dampness

Exterior insulation is great at reducing mold and mildew issues, making it much harder for moisture to penetrate the walls and get into your home. This enables any damp areas inside to dry out fully while improving thermal comfort and preventing future outbreaks.

You Live in a Cold Area

Both interior and exterior insulation will improve the energy efficiency of your home; however, if you live somewhere with cold winters, insulating the outside has more uses. It will not only protect the outer walls but also reduce the risk of condensation when windows are open for airing your home.

You’re Building the House from Scratch

Obtaining permits for exterior insulation can be difficult and even impossible sometimes, so if you’re building your home, now is the best time to add it. It’s also easier to install exterior insulation on basements at this stage, as you won’t have to worry about excavating and exposing the foundation later on.

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