Heat travels. In the winter, heat flows out. In the summer, heats flow in. A properly insulated home cuts down on that heat flow, so you don’t use as much energy to heat your home in the winter and cool it in the summer. Using less energy — or using energy more efficiently — could mean money in your pocket.
The first thing to look for when you buy insulation is the R-value. "R" means resistance to heat flow.
Here’s what to know:
- The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.
- Almost all insulation products have to tell you their R-value — including duct wrap. Pipe and duct insulation are the only exceptions.
So, if you’re looking at insulation with an R-value of 38 from Company A and an R-value of 38 from Company B, you’ll know the two products offer the same level of insulation. That’s true even for different kinds of insulation — say, if one is blanket insulation, which comes in batts and rolls, and the other is loose-fill insulation, which comes as loose fibers or fiber pellets and requires special equipment to blow it into a space.
The FTC enforces the R-value Rule, which ensures that you get accurate, honest information about the R-value of your insulation before you buy it, have it installed, or buy a new home.
Under the Rule:
- Manufacturers must label their packages of insulation
- Installers and retailers must provide fact sheets
- New home sellers must include this information in sales contracts. If you’re having trouble getting information about the R-value from a seller or installer, consider buying from someone else.
Several factors affect the R-value your home needs:
- Where you live. The amount of insulation you need will depend on the climate. You’ll need more insulation if you live in a cold climate like the Northeast than if you live in a warm climate like Southern California.
- How your home is built, and where the insulation will be. Is it a single-level or multi-level structure? Do you have cathedral ceilings? Is there a basement, or is your home built on a slab? Each of these factors helps determine the level of insulation your home needs. It’s more efficient to use insulation with higher R-values in the attic and in rooms with cathedral ceilings than in wood frame walls, basements, or crawl spaces with walls.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has answers about what R-value you might need based on your zip code and information you enter about your home. Your local home improvement store also may have information to help you determine your insulation needs.
A good way to see where energy is being wasted in your home is to do a home energy audit, or assessment, which involves looking at your heating system, insulation, windows, doors, and other parts of your home to see where you might be losing energy.
You can get a professional assessment or do it yourself. Your utility company might offer free or low-cost energy assessments, or refer you to someone who does. You also can check with your state or local government energy or weatherization office for recommendations. Read Heating and Cooling Your Home for Less to learn more.
Report problems to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.