Curious About Attic Insulation in Wichita? Here Are the Answers to Your Questions
Are you tired of paying high monthly energy bills that are bad in the summer and downright eye-watering in the winter? Suppose your windows and door jambs are in good shape, and your HVAC system is operating smoothly, but your energy costs still seem unnecessarily high. In that case, it is time to take a good, hard look at the next probable culprit—your attic insulation (or lack thereof).
Your attic may be more like a dusty, unfinished gap between your roof and your top floor than an actual, livable part of your home. Even if no one goes up there much, it will still need heat loss protection. Perhaps your home used to have sufficient attic insulation, which has deteriorated over time, or it was never properly installed to begin with. Professional attic insulation installation services will make your home more comfortable and save you a significant amount of money on your utility bills.
Wondering why having attic insulation in Wichita is so important, or what an R-value is? We have the answers to some commonly asked questions from Wichita homeowners, along with useful information from our experienced attic insulation team at Mr. Handyman of the Wichita Metro Area. We are a locally owned and operated Wichita handyman business that takes pride in always delivering excellent quality standard workmanship and customer service.
Why Does My Home Need Attic Insulation in Wichita, KS?
It may seem counterintuitive at first that your attic space even needs to be insulated. If no one ever goes up there except once or twice per year to get the holiday decorations or abandon storage boxes, why does it matter if it is insulated or not?
While the actual space itself may not be very important in the lives of your family, the right protective material plays a big role in keeping your entire house comfortable and energy efficient. While installations in other parts of your house prevent heat loss, attic installations should prevent air movement and regulate indoor temperatures by keeping your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Here are three ways having high-quality attic insulation in Wichita, KS will enhance livability of your home:
Lower Energy Costs
Most Wichita homeowners are not excited to pay their monthly utility bills, but suppose your attic insulation is inadequate or has deteriorated over the years. In that case, you are undoubtedly paying a lot more in energy costs than you would need to with sufficient insulation. Your heating and air conditioning costs are probably the biggest expenses on your energy bill, which is normal—your HVAC system uses lots of energy to keep your home at the temperature you have set on your thermostat. But those already-high charges can spin out of control if you have air leaks in your attic, even if your energy usage patterns haven't changed.
Adequate attic insulation is critical because it protects your Wichita home against extreme temperature fluctuations caused by heat gain or heat loss. That means your HVAC system doesn't need to operate as frequently or as long to control the temperature in your Wichita home, and that saves you a significant amount of money on annual energy costs, including heating and cooling costs. It also reduces the strain on energy resources, which is why the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency jointly run the Energy Star program to promote environmentally friendly energy efficiency. They certify consumer products that meet certain standards of efficiency.
Less Wear and Tear on Your HVAC
Because attic insulation decreases the frequency and length of time that your HVAC system has to operate, it greatly reduces wear and tear on your system. Your HVAC contains many moving parts that naturally degrade over time as they are used.
The longer you can keep your heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems operating optimally, the less money you’ll have to spend on repairs, replacement parts and even whole system replacements. Reducing the operation of the system will extend its lifespan so you can avoid repairs and replacement for longer.
If you live near a busy street, have to deal with nearby construction, or have noisy neighbors, you are probably interested in ways to prevent outside noise from coming into your home and disturbing your peace and quiet. As an added bonus, adequate attic insulation in Wichita, KS will help reduce outdoor noise inside your house. However, if your main goal is soundproofing, you will likely need to start with wall insulation.
Different types of insulation provide different benefits when it comes to soundproofing. Some materials are better at providing sound absorption, which helps keep sounds within a room. This can come in handy if you have a teenager who is learning to play the drums. Other types of insulation do a good job of sound blocking, which is the kind you’ll want if you live in a loud, busy area.
What is the Difference Between Cold and Warm Attic Insulation in Wichita, KS?
When you hear talk of cold or warm insulation in attics, it actually has little to do with the material type and everything to do with where it is placed. A cold installation means the material installation occurs on attic floors. It prevents air movement and heat transfer between your attic and the floor below it. This benefits the rest of your Wichita home but leaves the attic cold. That can save you some money on your heating bills because there is less space for your heater or AC to cover. Suppose you have an unfinished attic space that is only used for storage or not used at all. In that case, cold installation is a cost-effective choice for insulation because less material is needed to cover the floor than the rafters.
As you have probably guessed, the warm installation covers the ceiling of your attic, which is the underside of the roof. If you have a finished attic that includes living space—or you plan to convert it into livable space in the future—you need a warm installation that will let your HVAC’s heat flow warm up the attic and prevent it from leaking out of the house.
However, insulation isn’t just for cold climates—it’s beneficial for warm climates as well. Though you may not think of Wichita as particularly warm, the summers can get fairly hot. Not only is it important to keep the warm air inside in the winter, but also the cool air inside in the summer. Insulating your attic’s ceiling adds one extra layer of protection from both the cold winter weather and the hot summer sun.
Pro Tip: Insulation May Not Be Suitable for Your Roof
There is a potential problem with insulation in some older Wichita homes that homeowners should know about. Older roofs, and roofs with wooden shingles, are designed to get wet and dry out naturally. They include gaps or vents that allow the moisture to collect and then dry out without causing issues for the roof. If those gaps are covered with material like fiberglass, the moisture will be trapped with no way to dry out, and it can seep into the roof’s wood. When timber reaches a moi
sture content of 20% or higher, it can suffer from wood rot, a form of decay that causes the wood to soften and crumble. Wood rot threatens the structural stability of your house, and in severe cases, it could cause ceiling joists or roof decks to collapse.
Your handyman will be able to assess your home and make a recommendation on whether installation is a safe choice for your roof. Regardless of the age or material of your roof, it likely has soffit vents that allow excess heat and humidity to be vented out of the attic space. Those air intake vents must be left uncovered by insulation to avoid moisture damage like wood rot. Otherwise, you may find yourself in need of exterior trim repair.
However, roof insulation is still an option for most homes as long as you use the right material and place it in the right spot. If you’re concerned about moisture accumulation and a lack of ventilation, insulating your attic flooring to start is always a good first step. If you find you could use more, consult an expert on the possibility of roof insulation for your home.
What Does R-Value Mean for Wichita Attic Insulation?
It’s difficult to talk about attic insulation in Wichita, KS, or any insulation for that matter, without talking about R-values. Understanding R-value is essential to understanding insulation requirements and ensuring you are installing adequate insulation for the Wichita area.
R-value is a measure of the effective heat resistance of the material, or the thermal performance. The approximate R-value is expressed per inch of thickness. Many important factors have an influence on R-value, such as the type, density, and thickness of the insulating material.
Insulation with a higher R-value offers better climate control and energy efficiency, as well as a higher price point, but it is not necessary to choose the option with the highest possible R-value, because what you need for your Wichita home is dependent on the climate here. In Kansas, the minimum recommended R-value for attics is R38. Don’t get too caught up in purchasing the product with the highest R-value. Insulation with any R-value can be used—this will just influence the number of inches you need to obtain your desired level of insulation.
For example, to achieve proper insulation levels for an attic at R38 with a product that has an R-value of R8, you’ll need 4.75 inches of product (4.75 x 8 = 38).
What Types of Attic Insulation Are Available in Wichita?
If you aren't sure what type of insulation would work best for your home, our service professionals can offer some advice based on the unique needs of your building. When talking about insulation, there are two factors that are often discussed: the material itself, as well as the installation method.
Common types of materials used for attic insulation in Wichita, KS include:
- Spray foam, and
- Mineral wool
Installation methods include:
- Loose-fill insulation, also known as blow-in or blown-in insulation
- Batt insulation
- Spray insulation
Not all insulation materials and installation methods are right for attics. Some are best suited to wall cavities in basement walls, exterior walls and interior walls, as well as floor joists.
Fiberglass Batt Insulation
Fiberglass batt insulation is what comes into most people's heads when they think of insulating material—the classic "fluffy" pink stuff that looks like cotton candy. It is also called blanket insulation, and while it may look soft and comfy, it consists of tiny hair-thin shards of fiberglass that can cause injury if you come into contact with them. Batts are rolls, or "blankets," and fiberglass can also come in a loose-fill version that requires a vapor seal. But because it can get into every nook and cranny, it offers superior protection over the batt version.
Though cellulose tends to rival fiberglass batt insulation today, fiberglass is still a great choice for attic insulation in Wichita, KS. Attic insulation costs vary considerably, but fiberglass tends to come at a slightly lower price point than cellulose and provides just as much thermal resistance as cellulose when installed properly. Though batts are a good option for DIY projects, they tend to fit better between joists in wall and floor cavities rather than smaller nooks and crannies. The moment you compress batt insulation, it loses some of its effectiveness. For smaller, hard-to-reach areas, blow-in insulation is a better option.
For the most part, this loose-fill insulation is made of recycled wood pulp products—newspaper and cardboard. Because it involves reusing recycled material, it is the most environmentally friendly option. It is generally a little more expensive than fiberglass and offers a better R-value than most typical fiberglass installations. However, it does have some downsides. It can absorb moisture, which reduces its efficiency over time, eventually settling into a more compact form, reducing its R-value.
As long as your attic receives adequate ventilation and you don’t have any plumbing mishaps, the propensity of cellulose to absorb water shouldn’t be an issue.
Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam insulation is applied with a sprayer and is made of polyurethane foam. It expands into every corner to form an airtight seal with an extremely high R-value and is a high performance product that is increasingly popular with homeowners and home builders alike. Some advantages are it reduces moisture incursion and eliminates air leakage and doesn't require a vapor barrier. The only real downside is that it is the most expensive option.
There are a couple different categories of spray foam insulation: open-cell foam and closed-cell foam. Though open-cell dries hard, it has a slightly spongy texture due to the ‘open cells’ within it. These open air pockets give this material a lower R-value than closed-cell types, but still a very robust R-value when compared to cellulose and fiberglass. It is also less resistant to water. On the other hand, closed-cell foam has an extremely high R-value and is completely waterproof. This makes it a great option for exterior insulation.
While it is pretty similar to fiberglass in structure, mineral wool consists of natural materials instead of glass. There are two varieties of mineral wool: slag wool, made from metal fibers that are a byproduct of iron ore waste, and rock wool, made out of natural stone fibers. It is naturally resistant to moisture and doesn't burn unless it is exposed to temperatures that exceed 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, so it has the bonus of acting as a fire barrier. It also offers superior soundproofing qualities.
Mineral wool is less frequently used in Wichita homes compared to fiberglass and cellulose, but if the above options aren’t quite meeting your needs, this is definitely an option worth considering.
How Often Should You Replace Attic Insulation in Wichita?
As a general rule of thumb, you should look at replacing your attic insulation every 15 to 20 years. However, factors may cause it to need replacement or retrofitting before that time. Those factors include the material type, the R-value of original material, and unexpected damage.
Here are a few signs that indicate you need to think about retrofitting or replacing:
- Rodent infestations: In most cases, retrofitting your attic insulation in Wichita, KS is recommended over total removal and reinstallation. However, if you have a major rodent infestation, you’ll need to call pest control to remove the rodents and eliminate the pathways they used to get into your attic, and then hire an insulation installer to remove the damaged insulation entirely. Urine and feces left behind can end up in your ventilation system and cause health problems if not removed and cleaned entirely. Rodent control teams may be able to tell you what type of rodent was inhabiting your home, and how high the chances of disease are, but it’s best to err on the side of caution.
- Increased charges on your energy bill: There are a number of reasons your energy bill might spike, one of which is deteriorating insulation. If you can’t pinpoint the reason why, hire an energy assessment professional to do some detective work.
- Fluctuating temperature or hot and cold zones in your house: Inconsistencies in temperature and drafts may indicate that you require air sealing. Adding spray foam to areas that are allowing inside and outside air to be exchanged uncontrollably can help prevent this.
- Insulation has moved or appears to be compressed: Periodic inspections of your attic insulation can help you identify problems early on and top up your insulation as needed.
- Insulation is wet or showing signs of moisture damage: Depending on the extent of the moisture damage, you may need to replace your insulation entirely. Not only does moisture reduce R-value, but if allowed to stay wet, you could end up with organic growth that you’d rather not have to deal with in your home.
How Much Attic Insulation Do I Need to Buy?
Returning to R-value, the best way to determine how much insulation you need is to first identify your desired R-value for your space. Energy Star has recommended home insulation R-values not just for attics, but for other areas within your home as well. These recommendations vary according to the zone you live in. Wichita is located in Zone 4.
The volume of material your home requires will also vary based on factors such as:
- Wichita’s climate
- The age of your house—if it is more than ten years old, you will likely need more than you would with a newer building
- The size of your attic and overall building
- The type of material you have chosen
Mr. Handyman can offer you helpful advice on how much you will need to purchase to ensure your home is comfortable, efficient, and well protected against temperature changes.
We’ll Take Care of Your Wichita Attic Insulation Project
Are you a resident of Wichita or neighboring areas such as Benjamin Hills, Goddard, or Garden Plain? You can trust the team of attic insulation professionals at Mr. Handyman of the Wichita Metro Area to provide an outstanding quality of workmanship and customer service for attic insulation in Wichita, KS.
Pick up the phone and get in contact with us today to schedule a convenient appointment time or chat with our knowledgeable customer service staff and find out more about all the ways we can help with not just attic insulation services, but also home improvements and home repairs in Wichita, KS.