Ready to Do More? Go Hardcore

While many new homes are already well insulated, older ones are probably due for a repackaging. According to the Dept. of Energy, your home's insulation hot spots are:

- The attic, including the attic door, or hatch cover.

- Under floors, above unheated spaces, around walls in a heated basement or unventilated crawl space, and on the edges of slabs-on-grade.

- Exterior walls, when constructing a new house or remodeling or re-siding your old one.

Before you decide to go about doing it yourself, get a quote from a local contractor to see if that makes sense, or cents. The cost of the insulation material alone might be roughly the same as having someone do the entire job for you.

When retrofitting an older home, tearing up your walls to wrap your home in some standard batt insulation (fiberglass rolls) may not be an option. Expanding foam insulation or cellulose, which can be literally pumped into your walls, may be the best bet. While it costs 5-10% more than regular batt insulation, the expanding stuff can be installed neatly (by a contractor) within a few hours. As commenter Mike J. recommended to Lloyd, "A contractor simply drills a 1" hole, usually with a hole saw, so the plug can be replaced and re-plastered in, then lowers a tube through the hole down to the bottom of the wall and slowly injects the foam through the tube from a canister the size of a bbq propane tank. You ... have a well-insulated house in 2-6 hours. The disadvantage is that with install it costs about 5-10% more than batting, and really does need to be installed by contractor or someone who has a precise understanding of the behavior of the product. It cannot be applied directly to old uncovered interior electrical wiring, (if the wires are stapled or just clamped to a stud in the wall. It needs to be modern wiring in conduit tubing or a heavy PVC jacket) as the added insulation may cause the old wires to overheat and present a fire hazard." If you're planning on some serious insulating, make sure to check out Don Vandervort's HomeTips.