In any home, hot air flows from a hot area to a cool one. In cooler weather, it means warmer air in a home and attic will work its way out of any areas with weak insulation or gaps. In warm weather, hot air from outside will work its way through gaps or weak insulation. All of this means your heating and cooling bills increase as you’re using more energy to effectively cool or heat your home.
From March to September, the sun is high in the sky and hits Florida’s roofs for a large portion of the day. It’s not uncommon to see attic temperatures climbing to upwards of 140ºF in the summer. This heat gets trapped and can work its way into the home, which forces the air conditioning system to work more.
The only way to prevent this loss or increase in heat is by making sure insulation meets the current R-value guidelines for Miami, which is part of Climate Zone 1 (Broward, Collier, Hendry, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach counties). Florida also has a Climate Zone 2, which covers the counties outside of South Florida.
- Ceiling insulation should be R-30 or better. (R-39 in Climate Zone 2)
- Wall insulation needs to be R-13 or better in both zones.
- Floor insulation also needs to be R-13 or better in both zones.
If your attic insulation falls short, it’s time to consider hiring a professional to improve the insulation in your attic. To do this, you need to understand what an R-value is and get an insulation rating.
What Does an R-Value Mean?
To best understand what an R-value is, you need to look at how heat transfers from one object or area to another. Heat transfers in one of three ways.
- Conduction – Transfer of heat by touching another item, such as the transfer of heat from a burner to the pan sitting on it.
- Convection – Transfer of heat through a liquid or gas, such as the transfer of heat from the bottom of a boiling kettle of water to the top of the kettle where it starts to steam.
- Radiation – Transfer of heat through the air around it, such as the heat of the sun warming the temperature when it’s shining.
The role of insulation is to stop that transfer of heat. Insulation typically stops conduction. The heat from the sun warms the roofing materials like studs and roofing tiles or shingles. The heat that those materials give off increases the temperature of the air inside the attic. To keep the heat transfer from occurring, insulation becomes a barrier that the heat cannot penetrate.
This is where the R-value comes into play. It is a measurement of how well the material in the insulation restricts the heat flow. It’s measured using British Thermal Units (BTUs) per hour. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.
It’s a complex formula that considers the area where the insulation is going, the temperature difference between the outside and inside of that area, the material that makes the wall, and the thickness of the wall. In an attic, the R-value factors the roof shingles, type of insulation, gypsum boards, plywood, and wood beams.
What you want is to get the highest R-value you can afford. Aim for the recommended minimum and go higher if you can. It will help out a lot down the road if codes and requirements change due to environmental changes. You’ll already be set, and you’ve been saving on your energy costs over time.
Explore the Different Types of Insulation
Energy efficiency is important and different types of insulation impact how much insulation is needed. There are five main types of insulation.
- Blown-In Cellulose – This is the most common type of insulation as a small hole is cut in the wall to fill the area with insulation. Its R-value averages around 2.4 per inch.
- Fiberglass Batt/Blanket Insulation – You may recognize this one as it’s the pink rolls of insulation that are commonly used in new constructions. It typically has an R-value of 3.2 per inch.
- Fiberglass Boards – These rigid boards are used in air ducts and usually average around 5.4 per inch.
- Rigid Foam Panels or Boards – On the outside of homes and in basements and crawl spaces, rigid foam sheets are often used for insulation. Typically has an R-value of 8 per inch.
- Spray Foam – This is another commonly used insulation in new constructions. It’s a foam product that’s sprayed into wall cavities before the drywall goes up. Its R-value is around 3.8 per inch for closed-cell spray foam or 7 per inch for open-cell.
In an existing home, blown-in fiberglass insulation is the most common choice as it’s cost-effective and easy to apply. The recommendations are to have at least 14 inches of insulation, so the overall cost will depend on the current depth of your attic insulation.
Insulation Degrades Over Time
Over time, the materials in insulation do degrade. Insects and rodents may tunnel through them causing gaps and holes. If a raccoon manages to get in through a broken ventilation window, a raccoon can do a lot of damage to insulation in very little time.
Sunlight and heat may start to break some of the material down. The material can also start to compress, which lowers the effectiveness and drives up your energy bills. You want to avoid that.
Cellulose loose-fill insulation that’s blown into an attic is often made from old newspapers. That type of material will break down. Blown-in insulation can also be made of polystyrene, fiberglass, and wool, and all of them work effectively, but their longevity differs.
Fiberglass batts have a lifespan of about 20 years. Other types can last upwards of 80 to 100 years. Knowing the type of insulation that was used and how long it’s been since the insulation was added is important. If it’s been ten or more years or you know there are mice in your attics or walls, arrange a consultation with a professional air conditioning technician.
Have a Professional Inspection of Your Attic Insulation
All Year Cooling are specialists in air conditioning installations and repairs. They’re also experts in attic insulation. Arrange a full consultation with our technicians to have your attic insulation inspected and improved, if necessary. While we’re there, we can also inspect your ducts and make sure there are no gaps, cracks, or holes in the duct and surrounding duct insulation.
If the insulation levels are poor or minimal, we’ll let you know and discuss government and state tax incentives and rebate offers that help cover some of the cost of improvements to your insulation. You can save a lot of money with our help
When you partner with a Participating Independent Contractor (PIC) on your ceiling insulation project, you can claim up to 30% of the cost (up to $1,200) on your federal taxes and a rebate of $220 from Florida Power & Light. All Year Cooling is a PIC for FPL and works with you to ensure you get the rebate and IRS tax incentive.
We’ll help you boost efficiency with your home’s cooling system and keep hot air outside, where it should be. Reach All Year Cooling online or by phone to schedule a professional AC and attic insulation consultation.