Insulate your home
Warm up to the savings
Insulation makes your home comfortable year-round and reduces both your heating and cooling costs. Insulation traps air and acts as a barrier to help keep warm air where you want it.
Insulation is rated based on its heat loss resistance. A higher R-value number indicates a more effective level of insulation. Learn about the four types of insulation.
Does your home need extra insulation?
If your home is more than 15 years old, it is likely under-insulated compared to today’s standards. Check with your local building department for the recommended R-value of insulation for your area.
Setting your priorities
Consider the ease of doing the job, the cost of materials, and the improved comfort level when deciding how to spend your energy dollars and effort.
Tip: Upgrade insulation in any order, as long as air sealing is done first.
Energy Efficiency for air sealing of specific rooms
Though it has a relatively low heat loss of 10 to 15 per cent, the attic is the first place to consider. It is generally the easiest and least expensive area to insulate. Add more insulation if your attic has less than 10 inches of insulation.
An unfinished basement has a high heat loss of 20 to 25 per cent. Adding exterior or interior insulation is major opportunity to improve your home’s thermal efficiency.
Caution: If you enclose the furnace or water heater in your basement, you must allow for a combustion air supply to the equipment. Contact a TSSA-registered contractor to confirm your requirements.
Adding insulation to walls is worthwhile if done while renovating the interior walls or re-siding. You can reduce heat loss by 10 to 20 per cent.
Tip: Add both air and vapour barriers to protect insulation from moisture damage. Read more in Chapter 6 of the Wise Energy Guide.
Four types of insulation
Insulation has different R-values and applications depending on the material.
1. Batt insulation
- This type is most familiar to homeowners, used to fill wall cavities.
- Main features are low cost and ease of installation.
- R-value: R-3.0 to R-3.7 depending on the brand.
- Sized to fit snuggly between standard-spaced wall studs, it easily cuts with a utility knife.
- You must also install a vapour barrier on the warm (interior) side of the wall before hanging drywall.
- Caution: Don’t cram too much into the wall cavity since compressing the material actually reduces the R-3 insulating value.
2. Rigid Boards
- Used beneath exterior siding, behind drywall and below sub-floors.
- Costs roughly three times as much as batt insulation.
- R-value: Up to R-6 per inch.
- When the seams are properly taped, it also doubles as an air barrier – a key factor in reducing heat loss.
- Easy to use: lightweight material that doesn't itch and it can easily be cut to shape obstacles.
- Caution: ingredients in board insulation can be toxic when burned, so the building code requires you to cover these materials with drywall when installed in a living space (in other words, you can't leave board insulation exposed in an unfinished basement).
3. Blown insulation
- Loose fill insulation made of fibreglass, mineral wool, or cellulose, usually used in attics.
- Relatively cheap and effective.
- Usually installed by a professional.
- R-value - R-3 to R3.5 per inch of material.
- Injecting loose-fill products into the exterior walls is a great option to retrofit under-insulated older homes.
- Caution for insulating walls: you need to drill two holes per wall cavity, either inside or outside, to spray the insulation. Wall repair and repainting adds to the time and expense.
4. Spray foam insulation
- Most expensive option, but high R-value and air barrier properties make up the difference in reduced energy bills.
- The current top-of-the-line products, closed-cell polyurethane foam, boast an energy rating of up to R-6 per inch.
- Usually installed by trained professionals, but there are do-it-yourself options on the market.