Did you know that 9 out of 10 homes in the U.S. are under-insulated? Poorly-sealed and under-insulated attics are taking money out of American homeowners’ pockets through high utility bills.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program is encouraging homeowners to take control of their high utility bills this heating season through its annual “Rule Your Attic!” campaign.

Adding insulation and sealing air leaks in your attic can help you save up to $200 per year on your home’s annual energy bills and keep you more comfortable. Many local utilities offer rebates for certain air sealing and insulation projects.

In addition to energy savings, other benefits to sealing and insulating include reduced noise from outside, less pollen, dust, and pests entering the home, and better humidity control.

Measure Your Insulation

Take the first step to savings this winter by measuring your attic’s insulation. This infographic from the EPA is an excellent guide to how much insulation your attic should have. If you can see the ceiling joists, you don’t have enough insulation in your attic.

Different climate zones require different R-values for attic insulation based on local weather conditions. This value refers to the thermal resistance of the insulation material. The higher the R-value, the better the insulating performance. Refer to the climate zone map to find your zone and how much insulation you need.

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Inadequate attic insulation is one of the most common issues found in homes. Adding insulation to meet the recommended level for your climate zone can make a dramatic difference in home comfort and efficiency.

Find out how much attic insulation you need to get started.

Seal and Insulate

If you determine your attic needs more insulation, install unfaced rolls or batts over the existing insulation or rent a blower from a home center to blow loose-fill insulation into the space. Learn all about installing fiberglass insulation in your attic for helpful tips and tricks.

While in the attic, check for any leaks in the HVAC ductwork. If air is escaping, turn off the fan and apply foil duct tape over the holes. Then, use a brush to apply duct mastic over the foil tape and joints. This process seals the ducts and prevents conditioned air from escaping into the attic.

Remember the attic access hatch or pull-down stairs, which can be a significant source of air leakage if improperly sealed. Options for sealing attic hatches include:

  • Install weather stripping around the attic hatch or staircase to reduce air leaks.
  • Fasten rigid foam insulation to the back of the attic hatch.
  • Buy a specialized cover box that creates an air seal with the hatch closed.

Simple fixes like replacing worn-out weather stripping on doors or sealing exterior cracks and caulking around windows can make your home more energy efficient. The EPA cautions that homeowners should have the proper safety equipment on hand or contact a qualified contractor if they are uncomfortable taking on these projects themselves.

Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Upgrading your home’s insulation provides an ideal opportunity to make other improvements to its energy efficiency simultaneously.

Here are some upgrades to consider combining with your attic insulation project:

  • Seal air leaks throughout the home with caulk and weatherstripping.
  • Upgrade old windows to high-efficiency models.
  • Install programmable thermostats.
  • Replace an old furnace with a new high-efficiency model.
caulking a window
Image credit: Canva

Combining insulation with other upgrades provides more significant energy savings. Have an energy auditor assess your home to identify the best opportunities tailored to your specific home. Many utilities offer free or discounted home energy audits.

Rebates and Tax Credits

Many utility companies offer rebates to homeowners who complete qualifying insulation or air-sealing projects. Standard requirements include having an energy audit performed and using a licensed contractor. Rebate amounts vary but can be $300 or more.

At the federal level, homeowners may qualify for an energy efficiency tax credit for installing high-efficiency products like insulation. Consult your tax advisor regarding eligibility for the credit and how to claim it.

Safety Tips

When installing insulation, wear protective gear such as gloves, long sleeves, pants, goggles, and a mask or respirator. Fiberglass insulation can irritate your skin and eyes.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

Proper ventilation is essential to prevent moisture buildup. Make sure insulation does not block the soffit and rooftop vents. An insulation contractor can answer any questions you may have.

Hiring a Professional

While DIY insulation projects are feasible for some homeowners, large and complex jobs are often better left to the professionals. Here’s what to know about hiring an insulation contractor:

Get quotes from at least three local companies. Ask about their experience, licenses, and insurance, along with the steps they’ll take to contain dust and adequately ventilate the attic space.

To find qualified local insulation contractors, check industry association directories like the North American Insulation Manufacturer’s Association (NAIMA) and the Insulation Contractors Association of America (ICAA).

So, Is Attic Insulation Worth It?

Properly insulating and sealing your attic can make your home more comfortable and efficient. Most homeowners will offset the up-front cost within a few years of energy savings. Utility rebates and federal tax credits can reduce the payback time additionally. 

If your attic insulation is insufficient for your climate zone, upgrading it is one of the best ways to make your home more efficient and reduce energy waste. Just be sure to take necessary safety precautions and consider hiring a professional for large projects. With the proper preparation, you can rule your attic.

FAQs About Attic Insulation

What kind of insulation is best for attics?

Common types of attic insulation are fiberglass batts or loose-fill cellulose. Fiberglass works for standard rafter spacing, while cellulose can fill irregular spaces. Foam is another option to compare.

Should attic insulation be faced or unfaced?

Unfaced, paperless insulation is the best choice for attics. The paper on face insulation can trap moisture. Unfaced allows humidity to pass through.

Can I get a rebate for adding attic insulation?

Many utilities offer air sealing and attic insulation rebates of $300 or more. Requirements often include an energy audit and using a licensed contractor. Check your utility company’s website.

What R-value do I need for my attic insulation?

The recommended attic insulation R-value varies by climate zone. Check a zone map to find yours, then match it to the corresponding R-value your attic insulation should meet.

How do I add insulation to my attic hatch or door?

To increase insulation for your attic hatch or door, consider these methods: apply weatherstripping, use rigid foam, employ cover boxes, or replace it with an insulated model, effectively sealing air leaks.

Should I add a vapor barrier when installing attic insulation?

Vapor barriers are not ideal for most attic climates. Unfaced insulation allows interior humidity to evaporate through the ceiling. Proper attic ventilation is vital.

Is spray foam worth the extra attic cost?

Spray foam costs more but has a higher R-value per inch and air seals. The cost may be worth it if you have space constraints. Compare insulation types first.

How do I know if my attic has proper ventilation?

Target 1 sq. ft. of ventilation (soffit and roof vents) per 300 sq. ft. of attic floor space. Even intake and exhaust airflow prevent moisture issues.

Is it cheaper to blow in insulation or use batts?

Blown-in loose fill is often cheaper than batts since it doesn’t require custom cutting and fitting. However, compare quotes for both materials and labor.

Should attic insulation touch the roof deck?

Maintain a 1”–2″ air gap between attic insulation and the roof deck for ventilation. Baffles maintain this space above insulation. Direct contact with the roof can cause moisture issues.

What R-value insulation do I need for zone 5?

For climate zone 5, target these attic insulation R-values:

  • R-38 for flat ceilings
  • R-20-21 for sloped areas like knee walls
  • R-25 for cathedral ceilings

How often should attic insulation be replaced?

Attic insulation only needs replacement if it’s in poor condition. Replacement is better than topping it off if it’s moldy, infested, damp, or deteriorating. Proper ventilation is essential.

Can you put rigid foam over existing batt insulation in an attic?

Yes, adding rigid foam over existing fiberglass batts boosts the overall R-value. Ensure proper sealing of seams to prevent condensation issues. Adequate ventilation is vital.

What insulation has the highest R-value?

Foam insulations like closed-cell spray foam have the highest R-values per inch, around R-5.5 to R-6.5. Fiberglass batt R-values are typically about R-3 per inch. More thickness equals a higher total R-value.

Editorial Contributors
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Elisabeth Beauchamp

Senior Staff Writer

Elisabeth Beauchamp is a content producer for Today’s Homeowner’s Lawn and Windows categories. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in Journalism and Linguistics. When Elisabeth isn’t writing about flowers, foliage, and fertilizer, she’s researching landscaping trends and current events in the agricultural space. Elisabeth aims to educate and equip readers with the tools they need to create a home they love.

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Andrew Foligno

Andrew Foligno is an editor for Today’s Homeowner, with over 6 years of experience working in digital marketing. He started his career as a content writer at an agency, covering industries such as HVAC, plumbing, painting, lawn care, and more. Soon, he was promoted to an editor position where he oversaw a team of writers before moving on to other facets of digital marketing. When he isn’t working, Andrew enjoys going to the gym to be active, as well as going to the movies to unwind.

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