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American Exteriors On When To Increase Insulation

It’s a well known fact that between 40% – 70% of the energy used in the average American home is used for heating and cooling purposes. Why is this so? Often, this is due to the amount of energy required to maintain the comfort level of the home. However, on homes with insufficient ceiling and wall insulation, it could require up to 40% more energy than an insulated home since much of the heat is lost to heat transfer.

Why is the proper level of insulation so important? Heat is transferred through the home by three different methods: conduction, convection and radiation.


– the transfer of heat between two items. A good example of this would be heat from your home passing though exterior walls and being lost to colder outside temperatures.


– the way heat is transferred from one location to another as the lighter warm “air” displaces the colder “air”. In a cold house, the warmed air passes through the vents and rises, displacing the colder air and pushing that colder air down. If there is no insulation in the ceiling, a larger percentage of that warmed air will continue to rise, right through the roof, than circulating and warming the house as it was intended to.


– refers to a warmer mass passing off heat to a cooler one. Or just a warmed house giving off too much of a percentage of its energy to the outside climate.

The function of insulation is to minimize the heating effects of radiation and convection and also to minimize conduction. Simply put, proper levels of insulation in the ceiling and walls will maintain the interior climate circulating throughout the home without allowing the exterior temperatures to affect the home.

Ceiling insulation is the most important leakage barrier in the home since up to 45% of heat loss can result during the winter months from an improperly insulated home.
In the summertime, poorly insulated ceilings can result in increased cooling costs and provide little protection from the heat which also contributes to an uncomfortable home. In the winter, the warm air which is used to heat the home rises through the ceiling and continues right through the roof instead of heating the home.


There are many types of ceiling insulation and it is important to know what type of insulation you have in order to determine what your needs are.

Checking your insulation:

  • Visually compare the insulation in your ceiling/attic against the visual references in the following chart. Use the same chart to determine your insulation R Value, notate below
  •  Using the measuring tape provided in your American Exteriors Energy Audit Kit, determine the average thickness of your ceiling insulation, notate below.
  •  Calculate the R-Value of your insulation by multiplying the material R-Value by the thickness of your ceiling insulation.

Material Material
R-Value Thickness R-Value
(= material value * thickness)

• Determining your needs
The following chart shows how many additional inches of insulation are needed to increase the homes R Value. An R level of 60 is the recommended insulation level.


As you determine your insulation needs, it is always recommended to check with a professional before beginning any home improvement project.